Johannesburg – Like a thunderstorm would undo all the hard work on a car that’s just been through a valet, the Bafana Bafana job has ruined many coaches’ great reputations.
As Gordon Igesund and his loyalists try to convince us he’s blameless in Bafana bombing out of the African Nations Championship at the first hurdle, history sadly says otherwise, just as the team’s poor record over the past decade left an indelible mark on his predecessors’ CVs.
Igesund failed to lead Bafana to this year’s World Cup, one of the conditions he had agreed to when he took up the job.
But while he could get away with the excuse that the damage had already been done when he took over – albeit South Africa failed solely because they lost to Ethiopia in a match in which he was in charge – it is difficult to absolve him of blame for the embarrassment that was the Chan.
It is a huge dent on his impressive CV, which includes four domestic league titles with as many clubs.
But now he has to walk around with the stench of a coach who failed to lead an almost full-strength Bafana into the knockout phase of a C-grade competition, losing out to the teenagers of Nigeria.
Igesund, however, could take solace from some of his predecessors, who also landed in the Bafana post similarly punted as messiahs.
Carlos Alberto Parreira may be found on the Brazil bench as technical director these days but, to many, his picture serves as a stark reminder of the only man to coach a World Cup host that failed to make it out of the group stages.
Nothing will erase that stain from his CV.
Even if another World Cup host bombs out at the first hurdle, Parreira will be remembered as the first in the 84-year history of the tournament – all thanks to Bafana.
Ted Dumitru is another coach who had his record spoilt by Bafana when, at the 2006 African Nations Cup, his men returned three defeats in three matches, without scoring a single goal.
Dumitru had up to that point been a highly credible coach, one whose words would make you listen. Like Igesund, he has four domestic league titles to boot.
Alas, today many cringe at the mere mention of his name, saying his credibility was eroded by that chaotic Nations Cup campaign in Egypt.
Stuart Baxter’s tenure with Bafana also triggered doubts when he first signed with Kaizer Chiefs in 2012 as to his true competence.
After all, he had failed to qualify the nation for the 2006 World Cup. But leading Chiefs to the championship in only his first season went some way to repairing the damage.
That is what Pitso Mosimane needs to do with Mamelodi Sundowns – win the title or something – or he will forever be haunted by his Bafana record, which includes a failed bid to qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup.
Of course all these coaches are not necessarily bad; it is the team that’s simply not good enough – a point many of us repeatedly made before the sports minister woke up this week.
That, however, does not mean there shouldn’t be consequences for failure, which brings me back to our latest supposed messiah – Igesund.
By his own admission, he signed the contract knowing Bafana had many challenges ranging from poor development structures, almost non-existent junior teams and a notoriously demanding public that overestimates its team’s capability.
However, he saw himself as capable of leading them to the Nations Cup semi-finals and the World Cup. He fell short on the two mandates and we forgave him.
But this latest Chan failure is inexcusable, even as Igesund’s band of praise singers try to advance shallow arguments, including the absence of Orlando Pirates players from the squad.
Have they forgotten that South Africa made it into the quarter-finals of the Chan in 2011 with players largely drawn from the lower leagues?
Igesund’s contract runs out in June and even if I try too hard, I don’t find reasons to cite for its renewal when some of his predecessors were fired for draws.
His claim that “we have made giant strides” since he took over is, at best, laughable.
At worst it is a further insult to a nation that has seen the Chan for what it is – a second-grade competition that, notwithstanding Bafana’s shortcomings, should never have ended in such embarrassment. He would be extremely fortunate to see the end of his contract.