Cape Town – If Gordon Igesund gets the now hotly speculated heave-ho as Bafana Bafana coach on Saturday, the two-match Australasian tour is unlikely to have been the key burying tool.
But it will also arguably go down as an eleventh-hour venture that didn’t quite offer up enough to provide him with a rescuing spade from the quicksand.
Igesund took a raw squad to Australia and New Zealand and will bring them back with a respectable enough record of a 1-1 draw with the former – easily the more pleasing outcome – and goalless outcome against the clearly weaker All Whites.
It’s not every day that the much-maligned national side returns from any trip to overseas climes with pride relatively intact, so that’s no bad addition to their collective suitcase on the OR Tambo luggage belt this time.
No doubt if Igesund is relieved of his position – and there was fierce speculation on Friday that world-wise Carlos Queiroz is being teed up for another crack after last occupying the seat a dozen or so years ago – he will defiantly claim that he had been onto something with a youthful new breed.
Maybe, maybe not: there seemed a swelling chance that by the end of the weekend it wouldn’t matter.
It has been a strange few days because in many ways both the incumbent boss and his unfancied charges actually picked up some brownie points in terms of public sympathy, after a host of more established players invited widespread prima-donna labels and the like by turning up their noses at the end-of-season trek.
Fans, scribes, former Bafana stalwarts and the seldom measured Minister of Sport, Fikile Mbabula, united in their condemnation and it gave the hastily cobbled-together “replacement” squad a dollop of heroism and unscripted extra backing even before they kicked a ball in anger on tour.
The sad reality, though, was that failure to win in Auckland – against No 111 on the planet, behind such countries as Canada and Latvia – and despite fairly obvious dominance didn’t amount to any tangible booster-shot in Igesund’s desperate quest to stay in office.
South African impotence in front of goal and frequent lack of composure at critical stages of the build-up play remains a bogey that stretches back to the days when Benni McCarthy first began to lose his svelte shape.
Throughout the game, between two teams high on keenness but reeking of naivety, Igesund himself, who is usually among the more flamboyant and finger-twisting of pitch-side characters, looked unusually muted and bereft of enthusiasm on the few occasions the TV cameras zoomed in on him.
If we were looking for hints that he knows his fate from the SAFA executive committee already, history may come to reveal that we got them.
The bottom line on imminent judgement day, I suspect, will be agreement by the suits that Bafana continue to wallow unacceptably among the relative rats and mice on our own continent, and that events in the faraway Land of the Long White Cloud did desperately little to suggest we may soon take AFCONs by fresh storm and waltz into World Cups.
If this turns into one of the epitaphs to his tenure, Igesund, 57, won’t go down as one of the worst national coaches in what has been a consistently turbulent era for Bafana.
There’ll be some good memories, like the spunky 1-0 late loss to Brazil in Sao Paulo back in September 2012 and the particularly feel-good home triumph over World Cup holders Spain in November last year.
Mind you, Spain were unfathomably lacklustre on that occasion, only confirming the impression that friendlies on the jam-packed annual football roster have less and less weight these days ... and South Africa also got that horrible “correction” from the Brazilians not too long ago when undone 5-0 at FNB Stadium.
Under Igesund, Bafana have continued to go somewhere slowly, if they’re even thought to be going anywhere fertile at all.
At the end of the day, the latest venture by what can be termed an “Emerging SA” squad may have inadvertently seen Igesund simply assist a successor with his short- to medium-term sorting of wheat from chaff.
Still, as with all appointments to this volatile post, the overpowering tendency if another new figure is nearly upon us is to lament: “Good luck, because whoever you are you’re really going to need it.”
Gordon Igesund may discover there can be a less thankless life ...
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