African experience 'vital'
Gordon Igesund (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - The more seriously we take competition on the African continent, the greater the likelihood of success, says Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund.
“Over the years, the Champions League hasn’t been taken that seriously before,” Igesund said in Cape Town where his squad had assembled ahead of the African Nations Championship (Chan) this week.
“I have gone on record as saying it is hugely important that Pirates went all the way to a final. National team players are able to gain experience, playing in these places. You go to certain countries and the conditions are very difficult."
Back in 1995, Orlando Pirates went on to lift the CAF Champions League trophy, which was followed by Bafana Bafana winning the African Cup of Nations a year later.
But, until 2013, PSL (Premier Soccer League) club successes in Africa had been relatively few and far between with Pirates breaking the trend and going all the way to the Champions League final late last year.
While unable to select any Pirates players for his Chan squad - while the Buccaneers’ were forced to play catch-up with the rest of the league - Igesund believed the more experience South African players got in Africa, the better.
Not only do players become more familiar with African opposition, but travelling and playing away from home was also character building.
“Sometimes I feel that in this country, the players are too spoilt because we really have world class facilities here.
"There is money in our league and players are well paid, so we are a very big league compared with some of the others in Africa.”
The four-time league title-winning coach felt it was time the PSL’s prestige as one of Africa’s best leagues, if not the best, was translated to glory on the field.
“You can see that Pirates went all the way. They took it very seriously and Chiefs are going to take it seriously this time around."
Igesund said he did not think it would be very long before one of the South African teams won the Champions League.
“We understand now the importance of it. The rewards are good and the prestige is huge. To be able to say we are the best team in Africa is hugely important.
“We keep saying we have the best league in Africa, now we need to go and prove we are the best - we need to go and win a tournament like Chan.
“I don’t want to put my players under pressure, but we are hosting the tournament and we have got to go out there and put on a good performance and try and win it.”