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Johannesburg - Considering the objectives set before him, new national soccer coach Gordon Igesund will be on the back foot from the start.
The South African Football Association (Safa), after appointing Igesund on Saturday, said it expected him to guide Bafana Bafana through the 2014 World Cup qualifiers for a place at the global showpiece in Brazil.
He was also mandated to reach the semifinals of the 2013 African Cup of Nations (Afcon).
In the first two matches of South Africa's 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, they drew 1-1 against Ethiopia at home and settled for the same result against Botswana in Gaborone.
Those performances have left the national team on two points, in third position in Group A, with only the winner of the group advancing to the next round of qualifiers.
“The new head coach has been offered a performance-based contract over a period of two years,” said Safa president Kirsten Nematandani, “with a mandate to at least reach the semifinal of the 2013 Afcon tournament, which we are hosting as a country, as well as qualifying for the 2014 Fifa World Cup tournament in Brazil”.
Former coach Pitso Mosimane was sacked last month after Bafana strung together seven straight matches without a win.
During Mosimane’s tenure, the South Africans bungled their 2012 Afcon campaign, failing to qualify for the tournament after team management “misinterpreted” the rules.
Nematandani, however, stood by Safa's decision to keep Mosimane on board for as long as they did.
“At the end of the day, we had to give the coach we had (Mosimane) a chance, and unfortunately it didn't work out,” he said.
Safa has yet to name Igesund's assistants, but Steve Komphela, the interim coach after Mosimane was sacked, has been touted as one of the favourites.
Komphela, contracted earlier this year as an assistant to Mosimane, was short-listed for the head coach's job, but Igesund pipped him to the post.
“This is another process that we are now going to engage in,” Nematandani said.
“The coach will then, together with the technical committee, come up with the specs - what kind of an assistant does he need.
“We normally allow the coach to make suggestions. The technical committee will work very closely with him, with regards to who he will be working with.”
Igesund was handed a two-year contract with which will see the side through to the end of the next World Cup.
“Football is run according to cycles - a four-year cycle that will end in 2014 - hence the two year-contract, which is performance-based,” Nematandani said.
The Safa boss made a special plea to the country to support the new coach.
“We have told the coach the importance and responsibility that is ahead of him,” Nematandani said.
“He is handling a national asset, and as a result, a lot will be expected of him.
“He made that commitment to us, that he is ready.”
Igesund, 55, thanked Safa for the faith they had shown in his appointment.
“I feel very honoured and privileged to be in charge of an asset like the national football team,” Igesund said.
“All I can say to you all is that I'm going to do my very best to make us all proud.”
Bafana play their next game, an international friendly against Brazil, away from home on September 7. - Sapa