Gordon Igesund has his back up against it. He has a hefty mandate to live up to, and he has to help 11 notoriously undisciplined players to find a style of play that works. By ANT SIMS.
Exciting is hardly a word that we’ve come to associate with Bafana Bafana, but Gordon Igesund insists that this is the brand of football South Africans can expect with him at the helm.
Igesund was appointed coach after Pitso Mosimane was fired last month, following a string of poor performances. Igesund has previously been known for a very aggressive style of play, but the coach reckons his tactics have simply been misinterpreted and insists that he plays to the strength of the players at his disposal.
"Unfortunately people have said over the years that 'Gordon plays skop-and-donner football' and, according to them, that's how I won the league championships, but to be fair, I have always played to the strength of my players," Igesund said in an interview with Football411.
Bafana Bafana have struggled to capitalise on their chances in the past and frequently struggle in the final third. Igesund, who has claimed four PSL titles with four different teams, believes the key to success will be for him to change the approach which players have become accustomed to in the last few years.
"We need to play a little differently from the past years. We must identify a style of play for South African football," he said.
Igesund, whose first challenge will come on 7 September in Sao Paolo, when they play Brazil in an international friendly, says certain ways of playing simply do not work with the national team, citing the approaches of previous coaches.
"We got into a situation, using [Carlos Alberto] Parreira as an example, and he wanted to play the Brazilian style of football without wingers and using the full-backs to attack. But we haven't got those type of players. We don't have the players Brazil have got, so we've got to play to our strengths; we have to go wide.”
The 56-year old has already identified keeping possession as a strength and believes this is something which the team has to use to their advantage. He reiterates that once a beneficial style of play has been developed, the team should build on it.
"I think our strength is keeping possession, so any type of system you use, you've got to keep possession. We need to get wide and attack, not sit back and play counter-attack football. We have to identify our style and stick to it. We can't keep changing."
Igesund has been served with a tough mandate and expectation rests heavily on him. The South African Football Association (SAFA) expects the team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and reach the semi-finals of the 2013 African Nations Cup. Bafana haven't qualified for the last two African Nations Cup tournaments, and last made it out of the group stages in 2002. The last time they made the semi-finals of the competition was more than a decade ago, in 2000. Igesund insists that he is confident of overturning the misfortunes of the team.
"I'm well aware of the challenges that lie ahead, but I'm confident we can achieve a lot with the people I will work with in the Bafana team," he said. "Bafana need to start winning games; we need to start qualifying for competitions.”
It’s a tough challenge ahead, for both the coach and the players. Igesund will have to get a group of players, notorious for being lazy and ill-disciplined, to come together and focus on the tasks at hand as a team. On top of that, he’ll have to find a style of play which can use the players’ strengths, at the same time exploiting weaknesses in the (tough) opposition.
Igesund will need to change more than just a style of play; he’ll need to change the mindset of the team and instil discipline – instil it in a group of men that, up to now, have far too often lived up to their team name by being boys. DM
Photo: Gordon Igesund smiles during a media briefing after he was announced as the new head coach of the South African national soccer team in Johannesburg, June 30, 2012. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko