|In Gord we trust: Igesund|
We all knew silky-tongued Steve Komphela could talk the talk. Sadly, we now know he doesn’t quite walk the walk.
The Free State Stars miracle-worker had every opportunity to revolutionise the Bafana Bafana squad bequeathed him by the unlamented Pitso Mosimane after the disappointing 1-1 draw against Ethiopia at the Bafokeng Sports Palace nine days ago.
Instead, he barely tinkered with his starting line-up as the caretaker could only muster another desperately disappointing 1-1 draw against Botswana in the tiny University Stadium in Gaborone last Saturday.
I watched what I could of the match while preparing to go on air at SuperSport’s EuroZone garden in Randburg, and believe me Steve, you don’t want to know what Bradley Carnell, John Barnes, Ruud Krol and Thomas Mlambo had to say when I relayed the score to them. On hearing the final result, the old warhorse Terry Paine simply shrugged: “A draw with Botswana? It’s a disgrace.”
In Neal & Pray last Tuesday, like many other pundits, I offered alternatives to Komphela, a man I like and admire. Up front, I suggested Santos top-scorer Eleazar Rodgers or the recently-bereaved Thulani Serero, now strutting his stuff with Ajax Amsterdam. Instead, Komphela stuck with the alleged killer Katlego Mphela – fair enough, he struck against Ethiopia – and PSL top-scorer Siyabonga Nomvethe from Moroka Swallows, utterly ineffective a week before.
At the back, he refused to budge on the selection of non-playing Tottenham centre-half Bongani Khumalo while Bloemfontein Celtic’s impressive Mulomowandau “Tower” Mathoho was left with the cushion on the bench once more.
And in midfield, there was the mystery man from Golden Arrows, Thanduyise Khuboni, still starting ahead of Sweden’s player of the season May Mahlangu and Orlando Pirates dynamo Andile Jali.
Sure, Komphela dropped wounded Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Reneilwe 'Yeye' Letsholonyane for Buccaneer title-winner Oupa Manyisa and, just like Pitso against Ethiopia, he put on Sundowns match-changer Teko Modise for the struggling Amakhosi favourite Siphiwe Tshabalala after 68 minutes. Oh, and Tokelo Rantie took the 34-year-old Nomvethe’s place on the hour.
But essentially this was simply a rehash of Pitso’s mistakes. The team remained leaderless (I suggested bringing in Benni McCarthy, if only to issue threats from the bench) and toothless (only Morgan Gould’s head really threatened the Zebras).
And for those reasons, former Kroonstad schoolmaster Komphela, you can no longer expect to get the Bafana job permanently, no matter what happens in the friendly against Gabon at Mbombela on Friday. What exactly happened to the brave, new Bafana? Does the deadweight Brazilian Jario Leal still tell you who to pick? As I said on eNew yesterday morning, please tell me that ain’t so, Steve.
We had the normal Komphela platitudes afterwards: “We're not pleased,” “We are not happy,” and “The nation deserves better.”
But with Ethiopia beating the Central African Republic 2-0 to go top of the group, there can be no more mistakes. South Africa haven’t won a football game since November last year. Of the five names on the SAFA short-list, we know Gordon Igesund, the 55-year-old who has won the PSL title with FOUR different clubs, can change that after all that he has achieved over two decades in domestic football.
Having lost faith in Komphela, I can hardly turn to Neil Tovey, the 1996 Afcon-winning captain now managing Thanda Royal Zulu in the second division. Gavin Hunt could do the trick and said last week “I couldn’t turn down the Bafana job”, but he would surely fall out with SAFA’s bungling power mongers within a matter of seconds.
Shakes Mashaba, statistically the best international coach on the short-list after his run of 19 matches, 12 wins, five draws and two losses came to an acrimonious end in 2004, has suddenly emerged as the people’s choice after a rash of calls to Robert Marawa’s Metro Radio show last Thursday.
And yes, he has all that it takes, despite failing to qualify for the London Olympics this year with the Under23 squad.
But now is the time for decisive action from SAFA. As their vice-president Danny Jordaan, the force behind the 2010 World Cup, said this morning: “We have dropped four points. It’s disappointing. If we lose the next game at home to the Central African Republic next year, we can say goodbye to Brazil.”
So say hello to Gordon Igesund. Moroka Swallows fans know it makes sense after his miraculous turnaround at Dobsonville last season. If anyone can get Steve Pienaar and his over-paid squad to fly, it’s Igesund.
This first appeared as my Neal & Pray column in www.thenewage.com on June 12. Since then, Igesund has topped a kickoff.com poll asking who should lead Bafana permanently: of the 3000 votes cast, there were 1,920 for Igesund (63.6%) with SuperSport's Gavin Hunt second on 334, caretaker Steve Komphela and Under 23 boss Shakes Mashaba tied on 328 in third. Thanda Royal Zulu's Neil Tovey, the 1996 AFCON-winning captain was a distant 5th with 3.5%.
Neal Collins is a South African football analyst who spent 25 years on Fleet Street. You can catch him on eNews every Monday morning a 8.15am and on SuperSport3’s EuroZone on Saturdays at 4pm. You can also follow him on www.twitter.com/nealcol orwww.nealcollins.co.uk. I'm on eTV Sunrise at 7.30am tomorrow, eNews at 8.15am talking Euro2012.