Gor­don go­ing grey as clubs with­draw their play­ers

Spare a thought for Bafana Bafana coach Gor­don Ige­sund, who surely didn’t bar­gain for his lot, says S’BUSISO MSE­LEKU

Weekend Witness - - Talking Sport -

SPARE a thought for Bafana Bafana coach Gor­don Ige­sund if you see him hav­ing grown more grey hairs, since tak­ing up the hot seat, than in any other pe­riod of his life.

I am sure he knew that coach­ing the national soc­cer team was no child’s play, but I doubt he bar­gained for what he is faced with to­day.

Should you ask him when he last had a full-strength squad for any game, he is sure to scratch his rapidly grey­ing head. And chances are that his an­swer will be pre­ceded by an “eh ...?”.

For ex­am­ple, for Wed­nes­day night’s Nel­son Man­dela Chal­lenge, he had to do with­out eight play­ers who were on the orig­i­nal list he re- leased for the game.

This, af­ter Or­lando Pi­rates re­quested that their six play­ers he had se­lected be re­leased from national duty as the Buc­ca­neers faced a daunt­ing task against Egyp­tian gi­ants Za­malek in the CAF Cham­pi­ons League.

And then, Bel­gian club Rac­ing Genk re­fused to re­lease Anele Ng­con­gca, claim­ing he was in­jured.

It does not end there. He will have to do with­out the over­seas bri­gade of Dean Fur­man and Tokelo Rantie for the Nel­son Man­dela Sports and Cul­tural Day match, which is against Burk­ina Faso to­day, as the match “does not fall on a Fifa cal­en­dar date”.

Not so long ago, the coach had to re­place 15 play­ers on his ini­tial list for the Cosafa Chal­lenge Cup tour­na­ment played in Zam­bia.

A nice fix the coach finds him­self in.

The flip side is that he is ex­pected to de­liver mir­a­cles, no mat­ter what team he fields on the day.

Usu­ally, national team coaches are the envy of club coaches be­cause of the pool the national coaches have to choose from. But I doubt any lo­cal coach wishes to be Ige­sund at the mo­ment. Well, ex­cept for the lu­cra­tive pack­age that comes with be­ing the coun­try’s top coach.

I guess that Ige­sund did not an­tic­i­pate that, among other things, he would have to be a suave politi­cian in his new job. You should have heard the speech he gave when he ac­cepted Pi­rates’ re­quest, he sounded like a true, well-pol­ished politi­cian.

To be hon­est, he was caught be­tween a rock and a hard place, and chose to play a pa­triot. But he did not an­tic­i­pate that he was dis­turb­ing a hor­net’s nest, as Kaizer Chiefs coach Stu­art Bax­ter — whose team will face the same Pi­rates in an MTN8 semi-fi­nal on Wed­nes­day — made a growl that was heard from Brix­ton to Bri­tain.

His gripe was that his charges who are in the national team to face Nige­ria and the Burk­in­abe, would be ex­hausted come the “derby”.

Poor Ige­sund! You can’t win them all now, can you?

And don’t for­get that there is still that small mat­ter of the 2014 Soc­cer World Cup qual­i­fier against Botswana next month. The whole na­tion ex­pects Ige­sund to win that match and we also hope that group lead­ers Ethiopia fal­ter against the Cen­tral African Repub­lic so that South Africa can pro­ceed to the fi­nal round of qual­i­fiers. What bet­ter op­por­tu­nity could there have been for Ige­sund to have all his play­ers avail­able to test them against the two 2013 Africa Cup of Na­tions fi­nal­ists?

Will Ige­sund ever have a full squad for an in­ter­na­tional event? Your guess is as good as mine. S’Busiso Mse­leku is re­garded as one of Africa’s lead­ing sports jour­nal­ists and an au­thor­ity on soc­cer. He has re­ceived some of the big­gest awards in a ca­reer span­ning well over 20 years. He is the City Press sports edi­tor.

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