|Dream team: Gordon Igesund|
Gordon Igesund’s big announcement did not disappoint. Sunday’s naming of South Africa’s squad of 23 for the African Cup of Nations left us shaken and stirred.
For Moeneeb Joseph, the Orlando Pirates goalkeeper who featured in Igesund’s first Bafana squad in Brazil barely four months ago, a gaping chasm appeared between January 19 and February 10.
But for his Buccaneering replacement Senzo Meyiwa, AFCON 2013 will be a reality, though Itumeleng Khune remains in charge of the gloves.
For two of the nation’s biggest names – Teko Modise of Mamelodi Sundowns and Sea Robber Andile Jali – Igesund could find no opening. Sifiso Myeni, Siyanda Xulu, Daine Klate and Riccardo Nunes, all new recruits to Bafana, were left disappointed too.
But Platinum Stars’ 26-year-old attacking midfielder Thuso Phala appeared from nowhere after guiding his unfashionable Crocodiles to the PSL’s Q2 bonus and May Mahlangu, Sweden’s player of the season, got his foot in the door too.
And there was even a place for Katlego “Killer" Mphela – no relation to adidas’s Katlego football launched for this tournament – despite an injury which has reduced him to four appearances and two goals for Mamelodi Sundowns this season.
Just before I went on eNews on Sunday to discuss a squad which sent a tsunami across the social networks, I got hold of Gordon to talk about his “dream team”.
After a morning which saw my #ingordwetrust hash tag dominant, Igesund was still riding the wave. And most importantly, he appears to have no doubts about 23-man squad which kicks off against lowly Cape Verde at The National Stadium (aka FNB Stadium and Soccer City) 19 days’ time.
He laughed: “This is a fantastic team, I have complete confidence in these lads. For the fans, it’s easy to say I should pick this player of that player. But to those who keep asking why Joe Soap isn’t in the team, I can only say 10 different coaches would give you 10 different squads.
“Look, only time will tell if I’ve made the right decisions… but we’ve been in camp, we’ve seen the players. There have been some sleepless nights, some very marginal decisions. But now I have no doubts in my mind.”
Amid calls for a six-week amnesty on club fanaticism, it’s worth pointing out PSL leaders Kaizer Chiefs have a record SEVEN players in the squad – alongside the same number of foreign-based stars. Orlando Pirates are second with four and Mamelodi Sundowns, after the disastrous reign of Johan Neeskens, offer just two of their highly-paid stars. Igesund of course, will be fighting for his future.
Failure to qualify on home soil from a group which features the Cape Verdians, Morocco and Angola could spell the end for a reign which began with a 1-0 defeat against Brazil in Sao Paulo on September 7.
But we can only take the word of the man himself as Modise and Jali fade in to the sunset with big names injuries like Benni McCarthy, Morgan Gould and Tower Mathoho: “I believe I have selected the cream of the crop in South African football at this point in time.”
To the cynics who refuse to join the chorus of approval, pointing to South Africa's early exit from the World Cup in 2010, I say this: Mexico, Uruguay and France were a lot tougher than Cape Verde, Angola and Morocco. And even then, Bafana were the width of a post from qualification. It's time to back the nation. In Gordon We Trust.