SOWETO, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 18, Bafana Bafana players and Gordon Igesund during the South African national soccer team training session at Orlando Stadium on January 18, 2013 in Soweto, South Africa Photo by Lefty Shivambu / Gallo Images

Cape Town – Bafana’s Bafana’s media people have been trying to keep their players out of the spotlight this week, but they won’t be able to protect them on Saturday night when they will be firmly under the microscope as the Africa Cup of Nations gets underway.

Some of my media colleagues up north can’t stand the sight of Gordon Igesund anymore. It’s not that the coach isn’t a pleasant man to talk to or that he suddenly has lost his good looks, but because he’s been thrust in front of them almost every day.

I’m not sure whose idea it was to keep the players out of the public eye ahead of their Africa Cup of Nations opener against Cape Verde. But it might come back to bite them in the proverbial backside.

The Bafana players seem to be in a pressure-cooker environment at the moment – with no release valve. And those sorts of things can make you tense as a sportsman and not allow you to express yourself when you get a chance to take the field.

There seems to be a lot of anxiety around the camp, not least because of their performances of late. It also doesn’t help that Gordon has suddenly changed his style at press conferences. Most of Gordon’s press conferences have been unbelievably positive, and you could swear that he was on some happy pills. Obviously, this was to create a little positivity around the team leading into Afcon.

Unfortunately, the players couldn’t back that up in the warm-up matches against a young Norway outfit and Algeria. And now the coach has resorted to a few one-liners, which suggests that he is also feeling the pressure.

Most of their training sessions have also been closed, for obvious reasons, as Gordon has tried to keep his cards close to his chest. But it would have been ideal for the players to speak to someone else and see a few different faces, other than having to contend with his roommate snoring.

This would also have slowly eased them into a tournament that they are hosting, giving them an idea of what is at stake.

This Bafana team already have so many shortcomings that making the players paranoid is not going to help their confidence on the field or help the coverage off the field.

It would have been reassuring for the people to hear Bernard Parker say “I’m used to scoring at the National Stadium” or Siyabonga Sangweni that “we are going to die out there for the nation”.

President Jacob Zuma showing off his football skill and (lack of) football knowledge is not going to make players realise that they can play above themselves and do something special. He simply doesn’t have that Madiba magic.

Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula can make a good speech, but Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh’s gold medals are also not going to do the trick, as they are individual athletes who don’t have to rely on teammates to win anything.

I would have stuck a Neil Tovey or any other hero of the victorious class of ’96 in the dressing room before kickoff to tell the players what it meant to lift that trophy.

The glare of that 1996 spotlight still shines bright today. And if Bafana don’t adapt to the glare of the bright light on Saturday, their Afcon could be yet another brief one. – Cape Times


@PhilMasinga (The former hitman states the obvious after Bafana’s warm-up matches): Bafana Bafana gave it their best but its clear that they still need to work on their finishing.


@ChippaUTD The PSL club have been quite busy in the transfer market during the January window.

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