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Johannesburg - Gordon Igesund announced his first Bafana Bafana squad with typically verbose and confident bluster on Thursday, naming a group of players that speak very much of a man determined to stamp his own imprint on the international scene.
Those who know Igesund know that the 56-year-old Durbanite is rarely lost for words, his expansive commentary backed up by action in a trophy-filled domestic coaching career.
The fascinating next step is to see whether the new Bafana coach can translate such success to the global game, and his start could not be against much more of a global brand, as Bafana travel to Sao Paulo to take on Brazil next Friday.
The first impression is that Igesund has gently ripped up the blueprint of his predecessor, Pitso Mosimane, with almost half his squad for this game against Brazil, and the September 11 friendly with Mozambique in Nelspruit, differing from that named by Mosimane for the ill-fated 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Ethiopia and Botswana earlier this year.
Out are names like Teko Modise, Andile Jali, Oupa Manyisa, Thanduyise Khuboni and Siboniso Gaxa, and Igesund’s hand has also been somewhat forced by injuries to the likes of Morgan Gould and Katlego Mphela.
As he sat in his cream jacket at Safa House on Thursday, a series of new names came forth from the coach’s mouth, with the likes of Peterborough United fullback Kgosi Ntlhe, Free State Stars midfielder Katlego Mashego, Oldham Athletic midfielder Dean Furman and Maccabi Haifa striker Dino Ndlovu all earning first-time call-ups.
“Every single player in the world at some time had to be given a chance. Katlego Mashego must be given a chance, Dino Ndlovu must be given a chance. Wayne Rooney had to be given a chance,” said Igesund on Thursday.
The Bafana coach said he has been spending the weeks since his appointment talking to club coaches both at home and overseas. “I have spoken to coaches and told them that for a player to be selected for his national team, he has to be performing for his club. If a player is not doing what he can at club level, why must we assume he can do it for his national team?”
It is presumably on this mantra that Igesund has rewarded Lerato Chabangu, the Swallows forward earning a well-deserved return to the squad. Goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs has also been recalled, withdrawing his retirement from international football. Igesund said he did not beg for Josephs to make himself available after the second-choice shot-stopper called an end to his international career in May.
“He said he would like to compete for a place in the national team, and I’m very happy about that,” Igesund said. “Moeneeb has since written a letter to Safa withdrawing his retirement. I never asked him to come back, I just wanted to know why he retired.”
Brazil, with home-town advantage and on the day of their independence, might be just about as horrendous a fixture a coach could wish for in his opening game. But with the advantage of all pre-game optimism on his side, Igesund was full of hope.
“We will play the game the way it should be played. I will try to play an attacking brand of football. I believe we have players as good as any in the world. We need to start believing in ourselves. I believe we have a very strong team … I know we are playing the five-times world champions, but we should not be intimidated,” he said.
Gould was widely expected to be named as Igesund’s new captain, but his injury appears to have left the Bafana coach sticking with the current incumbent, Steven Pienaar.
“At the moment, I’m very happy to say Steven Pienaar will be leading our team out there. We’ll see in the future. There’s no need to change yet, I need to work with the players first.”
BAFANA BAFANA SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Wayne Sandilands, Moeneeb Josephs, Itumeleng Khune.
Defenders: Siyabonga Sangweni, Bevan Fransman, Bongani Khumalo, Eric Mathoho, Anele Ngcongca, Punch Masenamela, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Kgosietsile Ntlhe.
Midfielders: Steven Pienaar (capt), Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Bernard Parker, Thulani Serero, May Mahlangu, Katlego Mashego, Thabo Matlaba, Dean Furman, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Lerato Chabangu.
Strikers: Siyabonga Nomvethe, Dino Ndlovu, Thamsanqa Gabuza.