JOHANNESBURG – South African football was plunged into turmoil in the wake of match-fixing allegations involving high-ranking SA Football Association (Safa) officials, a month before the country was due to host the African Cup of Nations (Afcon) in 2013.
Safa suspended its president, Kirsten Nematandani, and four senior administrators in December after the release of a Fifa report surrounding warm-up games before the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa.
The timing could not have been worse, as Bafana Bafana had been tasked with reaching the semi-finals at the Afcon tournament, otherwise new coach Gordon Igesund could be shown the door.
Bafana were in a rebuilding phase for much of the year, with three different coaches taking control of the national side.
Nematandani said shortly before he was suspended that he was pleased with the progress of the Bafana squad.
“Definitely the end of 2011 was the lowest point for Bafana and so 2012 was a rebuilding exercise,” Nematandani said.
“We are focussed on the immediate task of performing with excellence at the forthcoming Afcon 2013 tournament.
“We have a duty as a host nation to do well for our supporters and Mzansi people.”
Bafana came off a dismal 2011 season when they failed to qualify for the 2012 Afcon competition, and set about their qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
In the first qualifying match, in June, they hosted Ethiopia at Royal Bafokeng Stadium, but settled for a disappointing 1-1 draw.
The result, and a string of poor performances, resulted in coach Pitso Mosimane being axed two days later.
Steve Komphela was given the job on an interim basis, and while he was in the running for the full-time post, Igesund was appointed as the new man for the job on June 30.
While Komphela was in charge, Bafana drew 1-1 against Botswana
in Gaborone in their second World Cup qualifier, and by the time Igesund was appointed, they had got their qualifying campaign off to a rocky start.
Igesund was given the ultimatum to take the team to the 2014
showpiece and make it through to the last four at the Afcon tournament.
Igesund, the only coach to have won South Africa's Premiership title with four different clubs, approached the job systematically, and with confidence, which he aimed to instill in his players, insisting that everyone in his squad would need to wear the Bafana
jersey with pride. In six games in charge, Igesund guided the side to slender 1-0 defeats against Brazil and Poland, and a 2-1 victory over Kenya, in three away matches.
In home games, they beat Mozambique 2-0 and Malawi 3-1, while they lost 1-0 to defending Afcon Champions Zambia.
Nematandani was pleased with Igesund's brief time at the helm.
“The coming on board of coach Gordon Igesund seems to have brought back the excitement which has been missing.
“We are hoping for a good Afcon 2013 tournament because all indicators show that we are moving in the right direction.” – Sapa