Cape Town – Emotion is unavoidable in sport. The two go together like peanut butter and jam, waffles and ice cream or braaivleis and beer.
And on Thursday, for the first time in a long time, we saw a Bafana Bafana coach getting emotional about his job. For the first time in a long time, we saw a national coach exude passion with each passing answer at a press conference.
There weren’t any defensive, sarcastic answers, which were the norm during the previous regimes. It was shooting from the hip kind of stuff. It was passionate. It was Gordon Igesund.
Igesund’s first squad announcement made a huge impression on a lot of folks on Thursday, as that sort of enthusiasm has been missing in the Bafana set-up for quite some time.
In his last few matches as national coach, Pitso Mosimane was about as excitable as a bedpan. That certainly rubbed off on the players on the field, as their performances in their last two World Cup qualifiers were about as energetic as garden chairs.
On Thursday, Igesund brought the sort of spunk that might just re-energise Bafana. He also spoke with authority and confidence that only years in the game and silver grey hair can allow you to do.
Igesund is also known as a great motivator, and on Thursday, that came to the fore when he laid down a challenge to the country’s footballers, which almost got me plundering through the rubbish in the garage to look for my old boots.
However, we all sort of knew the four-times league winner would bring a different vibe to the Bafana set-up. But, we were all quite curious of the squad he would select for next week’s friendly internationals against Brazil and Mozambique.
Over the years we have seen the same old faces in the squads, with players being selected on reputation and for which club they play, and not form.
But on Thursday, Igesund came out and picked a team that he thinks can do a job, players who have been in the headlines over the last few months. He made it clear that only players performing for their clubs will get a chance, and that’s certainly how it should be.
My favourite quote of the press conference was: “I think there are too many players that go unnoticed because they don’t play for this team or that team.”
Igesund was talking about Thamsanqa Gabuza, the Golden Arrows striker, who was selected ahead of the likes of Benni McCarthy and Eleazar Rodgers – both have hardly set the world alight in the first few matches this season.
Last season’s Swallows manager also picked some players operating elsewhere in the world, because he knows he needs to throw his net much wider than some of the Bafana coaches of the last decade.
But the only way these players are going to perform is as a team, and that is going to be Igesund’s greatest challenge.
And he will have to get Bafana to gel as soon as possible next weekend because, on paper, this Brazil team should knock South Africa out of the park 100 times out of a 100.
But if the national team can bring the level of passion and emotion as their coach brought to Thursday’s team announcement, then they could just make us feel good about Bafana Bafana again.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
@bennimccarthy17 (the Orlando Pirates striker apologises after his red card in the MTN8 semi-final against SuperSport United): What a nightmare game, my actions killed the team. I’m really sorry to my team and our fans for getting sent off and costing us the game.
WHO TO FOLLOW
@kvandelaak: Ajax Cape Town’s Dutch import is a regular on Twitter. Give him a shout ahead of Ajax’s match against Platinum Stars tonight.