Gordon Igesund met the captain of Highlands Park, Tapuwa Kapini, for the first time at the PSL’s offices in Parktown just before he held his first training session with the club late yesterday.
“Good morning coach,” Kapini said, greeting Igesund in the podium in a somewhat awkward introduction. That’s just how quick the transition the Lions of the North have had since being clobbered 4-1 by SuperSport United on Sunday. The following day the management decided to sack Allan Freese. Yesterday they unveiled Igesund as the new coach, three days before he leads Highlands against Chippa United in the Telkom Knockout at Makhulong Stadium on Friday. That fast-pace was a welcomed change to Igesund who was almost the coach of Zambia.
“I went for an interview and they said that they would let us know in two weeks' time,” Igesund said. “In two weeks' time they phoned me and said that I was their choice and I was going to be their coach. They even asked me to take myself out of the market. In principle we agreed. But they told me that in Zambia the association doesn’t pay the salary of the national team coach, it’s done by the government. They had the elections so I was waiting for things to settle down. I gave myself a bit of a break. In the interim there were one or two situations for me but I turned them down just waiting for Zambia. Getting closer to the game (against Nigeria) the correspondent was that yes we want you but we are waiting on the approval from the government. It went on and on until I said that if you don’t make a decision before this week and this game then you can count me out. The President of the country (Edgar Lungu) decided not to sign the contract and that he wants a local coach.”
Igesund will now work with Collins Mbesuma at club level and not at Chipolopolo. The former Bafana coach inherits a club with a number of seasoned campaigners like Kapini, Mbesuma, Rudi Isaacs, Franklin Cale, Eddie Ngalo and Thanduyise Khuboni which fits well to his plan.
The foundation of the four league titles he won was experience. Winning the championship with Highlands might not be on the cards, with the mandate to keep the rookies in the Premier Division, but Igesund entertains the thought of winning something. “I have always been the type of coach who wants to win and believes that he can win things. It’s not just a belief and a dream, I have actually been there and done it. I’ve managed a team like Santos, who were very unfashionable but they won the championship just like Manning Rangers. Sometimes it’s not a dream. It’s possible if you can get the right mentality, belief and understanding. I am not talking out of my head, I have done it. But I am not saying that we are going to win the championship. I think Highlands will be a team challenging in the years to come. It'll take three to four years to come to get where we want to.”
Igesund, who signed a one-year contract with an option to renew, will keep the technical team Freese left behind. Igesund makes an emotional return to the last club he played for in 1979 before going abroad. His first match in charge will be in the cup he won two seasons ago in his last coaching job at SuperSport United.