Igesund job poisoned chalice
Cape Town - So, the self-important suits at the South
African Football Association have, ahem, meticulously and firmly laid down the
ground rules for Gordon Igesund’s tenure as 17th
coach of Bafana
The very statistic given above should be enough to suggest
that stability, patience and diligent digging of new foundations would be
wholly in order for the new man with the poisoned chalice.
But no, with customary arrogance and sweeping, grandiose
proclamation, the SAFA bosses have laid bare that Igesund must deliver
semi-final status at least in the 2013 African Cup of Nations, plus
qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
It is just a little like Richard Pybus, the much-travelled cricket
coach who recently quit the Cape Cobras and assumed Bangladesh’s reins, being
instructed to propel the eternally labouring Tigers to the final of the 2015
World Cup in Australia and shift from, say, their current ninth to fourth or
fifth – hey presto! -- in the Test rankings by 2014.
Only he probably wasn’t dished out such orders because the
Bangladesh Cricket Board, with a bit of luck, would have married a pinch of
realism with their advance wishes for Pybus’s era.
Of course such a comparison is dubious, but perhaps this
isn’t the worst juncture to remind everyone, and not least the senior occupants
of SAFA House, that in many respects our national soccer side are roughly
equivalent to Bangladesh ... minnows on the global stage.
Sad, but inescapable.
The football-playing planet, of course, is significantly larger,
so Bafana can at least protest that many nations lie below them. But at 68th
on the current rankings, it must also be noted that a whole heap – including
such “luminaries” as Panama, Armenia and Uzbekistan – also lie on superior
There is something insufferably blinkered and autocratic
about SAFA so quickly cranking up the bar for Igesund, effectively presenting
him with a stink-bomb for his first day at the office rather than a welcoming,
cajoling bar of Swiss chocolate.
With upheaval, chaos and farce so often synonymous with
Bafana head coaches, immediate, tournament-specific demands on the man smack of
a clumsiness, haughtiness and lack of diplomacy that have been a hallmark of
our administrators for more years than we care to imagination since the return
Would it have been too much to ask of Igesund that he first
set to work on halting what has been a disturbing fresh slide by Bafana since
their creditable enough showing as host nation at the 2010 World Cup?
Surely you have to stop a rot before you can even begin to
think of restoring past glories with the snap of two fingers?
Home advantage will count for something at the looming
Afcon, so it is not entirely out of the question that Igesund will, indeed, somehow
manage to guide Bafana to the last four ... though I, for one, will not be
staking so much as my carport or letter box on it.
Getting to Brazil, however, is a bridge greatly further, and
it is probably safe to assume that the more measured of Bafana’s long-suffering
supporters -- given the already adverse qualification circumstances under which
Igesund assumes his responsibility -- would settle instead for a more creeping
movement, at least initially, back into the top 45 or 50 on the rankings.
Slowly, slowly catchy monkey, and all that. Instead SAFA
have basically given the new coach a net on the end of a stick and instructed
him to bring the dastardly primate back by sunset, or else.
It is a sobering thought, after all, that South Africa are
already playing catch-up in their preliminary qualifying group for Brazil 2014,
lying third as they do in Group A beneath Ethiopia and Central African Republic
in what may a little humiliatingly develop into a low-calibre group of death.
Even if they do end up topping this particular pile of
mediocrity, they must then play off against one of the other nine African group
winners to book their ticket to the golden sands of Brazil.
Considering that they are deemed only 14th best
in Africa right now, making it through will amount to a great leap forward of really
A further reality check: Bafana ceded top African bragging
rights not long after securing Afcon ’96 honours on home soil in early February
of that year, since when they have never come seriously close to such premier
continental real estate again – that’s 16 years of almost unrelenting
Why suddenly are we going to march imperiously to a World
Cup tournament? On what basis was the assumption made that Bafana are a whisker
away from bossing or near-bossing the continent once more? Which players,
exactly, are providing the fruit for this expected orchard of conquest?
SAFA’s this-is-what-you-have-to-do list to Gordon Igesund is
crude, ill-conceived and strategically dumb.
It is dangerously close to simply setting him up to fail,
and then haplessly putting out yet another appeal: “Right, who wants to be No
18 at the bridge of our ship of fools?”
Their policy is exceeded in short-sightedness only by expecting
any other way from them.
Have they forgotten that baby steps tend to work? (Babies,
bless them, generally end up walking and then running.)
Igesund has been prepped only to fall on his face, it seems.
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