One of the most successful coaches in domestic history, Gordon Igesund, has landed the plum job of coaching the South African national soccer team. We wish him well in his new adventure, particularly because his first match will be away to Brazil in September. What a baptism of fire!
A lot of soccer pundits argue that Igesund has no experience of coaching at international level and is thus bound to fail, particularly in view of the tough short-term target of his new job – reaching the quarter-finals of the Africa Nations Cup on home soil in January, and then to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.
But the players and officials who have worked closely with him have no doubt that he has the skills to turn around the fortunes of the under-performing national soccer team.
Bafana Bafana have been a huge embarrassment to the nation. Let’s hope Igesund can quickly weave the same magic wand that lifted Moroka Swallows from the quagmire of the Absa Premiership to nearly winning the league championship, pipped only by Orlando Pirates.
Igesund will have gained inspiration from the fact that it was in 1996, and on home soil, that Bafana made the nation proud by winning the Nations Cup, and that two years later, we qualified for the 1998 World Cup in France.
From then on it has been all downhill for Bafana. From being No 1 in Africa to the current No 15, and from being in the top 20 in the world to No 68 now. Were those successes soon after our acceptance into international fold a fluke? Or was it the magic of then coach Clive Barker, assisted by top local coaches, that put us on top of Africa?
Igesund is capable of taking us back to where we belong – among the best and proud nations of the world – just like Spain, who have achieved back-to-back Europeans Championships and won the World Cup here in 2010.
But he can succeed only if the nation supports him and fills every seat at Bafana matches. Igesund also needs his players to rise to the occasion and play to win, and never be satisfied with a draw, like that infamous game against Sierra Leone.