Tuesday, 15 January 2013

In Gord we trust: Igesund, one of our finest players, approaches the toughest test of his coaching career

In Gordon we trust: Igesund enjoying  another cup of coffee

IT is a little-known fact that Gordon Igesund, currently sitting in the hottest seat in football, was one of the best players of his generation in South Africa.
Walter Rautmann, the Austrian who coached AmaZulu with some success twenty years ago, recalls: “Gordon and I worked together as coaches at several clubs, I love the guy. Great coach. But as a player? He was the best I ever had.”
It was Walter who helped move Igesund, then 25, from African Wanderers to his native Austria in 1981. After banging them in for Durban City, Durban United, Highlands Park, Umlazi Bush Bucks, AmaZulu and Wanderers, Gordon moved first to Grazer Athletik-Sport Klub and then to the big time with Vienna’s FC Admira Wacker M√∂dling.
It was there, playing in the UEFA Cup, that the man with the Norwegian ancestors scored 25 goals in 76 games. Not bad for an unknown South African during the Apartheid years.
Rautmann remembers it well. His call was not solicited, nobody asked him to provide backing for the under-pressure South African coach on the eve of what promises to be a torrid African Cup on Nations.
But Walter, known variously as “King of the Zulus” and “Mr Fitness” in a long coaching career in this country, wanted to reassure us all: “Gordon knows what he is doing.  I know this man, we have worked together. He can win this thing”
Amid the searing critique of his Bafana side after the 1-0 loss against Norway in Cape Town last week – a defeat which cost this pundit his hair in a televised shearing on eTV Sunrise after a public promise – the reception surrounding the 0-0 draw against Algeria in Orlando on Saturday was equally scathing.
But Gordon remains on track. He knows his stuff. Take away his ability as a player and examine his background as a coach. He won the South African title with a record FOUR different clubs, has won silverware with FIVE.
And of course, just last season, he revived a relegation-bound Moroka Swallows and took them to within a Benni McCarthy goal of denying Orlando Pirates their second successive treble. Without him this season, they are back among the strugglers.
Now is NOT the time to examine Gordon’s credentials. To call for his scalp as we head towards Soccer City and the opening game against Cape Verde Islands on Saturday at 6pm.
I had lunch with Gordon at the team hotel in Monte Casino last week. He liked the shaven head forced on me by his side’s defeat and remains remarkably upbeat despite the huge pressure being heaped on him and his squad for their lack of pre-tournament goals.
His upbeat comments after the Norway and Algeria friendlies have earned ridicule in some quarters, but he dashed out to the car park after lunch and assured me: “Look Neal, I haven’t even let them see my best side yet. That is yet to come.
“We will score goals. I’ve got the four best strikers available in Tokelo Rantie, the PSL top scorers Bernard Parker and Lehlohonolo Majoro and of course, Katlego Mphela. I’ve got Thulani Serero at 85 percent right now, but he will be 100 by Saturday.
“We’re playing well, man. We’re hard to beat. I still believe we can do this.”
Having limited Algeria, Africa’s second-best side, to a single shot on goal, he will hear no critique of his centre-back pairing of Buccaneer Siya Sangweni and the articulate Bongani Khumalo either.
Khumalo is plagued by detractors who suggest his well-modulated English somehow stops him from being a gritty defender. But Gordon knows full well: “So many of the fans out there are ruled by which club they support. But come the kick-off, they’ll all get behind us. I know they will. I know I have done all I can do.”
He has. On Saturday we will find out if "all I can do" is good enough. Will be play two strikers? Preferably Rantie and Majoro with Mphela as an impact sub? Will he play Serero and May Mahlangu in an attempt to provide forward momentum in a midfield hamstrung by ponderous defensive psychology?
We will soon see. But for now, IN GORDON WE TRUST. Until Saturday. And beyond...

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Gordon’s coaching career
1995                   African Wanderers
1996–2000           Manning Rangers
2000–2001           Orlando Pirates
2001–2002           Santos Cape Town
2002–2006           Ajax Cape Town
2006–2008           Mamelodi Sundowns
2008–2009           Maritzburg United
2009–2010           Free State Stars
2010–2012           Moroka Swallows
2012–                  South Africa
Gordon’s titles 

2 comments:

  1. Got my ticket. Gonna embark on a 350km trip to soccercity tommorrow and I believe victory is due!

    ReplyDelete