|GOOD GORD! Igesund as Rambo from the Star back page today|
GORDON IGESUND told the assembled journalists in Yaounde yesterday: “The facilities have been good. Training has been great. We have no complaints.”
A few hours afterwards he laughs: “Not quite true of course. But that’s what I want the Central African Republic to hear!”
It’s typical Gordon. South African football’s head coach is a tough bloke, right back to his days as a no-nonsense striker in Durban in the 1980s, where defenders feared to tread on his toes. Bulletproof like Rambo, as the Johannesburg Star illustrated today on their back page.
Day one of Bafana Bafana’s trip to Cameroon – allegedly neutral territory but in truth the lad of Issa Hayatou and his Francophone football clique at CAF – started badly and got steadily worse.
On Wednesday afternoon at Douale, the commercial capital, South Africa’s 34-strong travelling party for the crucial World Cup African Group A qualifier were told their flight to Yaounde, the legislative capital, had been cancelled. Something about tyres on the aeroplane.
|Pitch battle: The stony training ground in Yaounde,|
from Robert Marawa's facebook page today
With no relief in sight, Gordon ordered a bus. They made the five-hour trip through Cameroon by road, with one member of the party revealing: “It was a real eye-opener.”
Arriving late with one training session already abandoned, Igesund’s men then found the training ground they’d booked in preparation was “unavailable”. Another delay while a new ground was sought. It turned out to be the facility pictured on the right.
Igesund laughs: “It was unbelievable. Rocks everywhere, holes, even the goalposts were a mess. So we found a corner with a bit of grass and did some warming-up excercises. I didn’t want to risk injury.
“I was angry, of course I was. The whole thing was a disgrace. I’d love to know the full story behind the cancelled flight. But I had warned the players to expect this sort of thing. They’re not fond of us in these parts.
“I told the players afterwards, on Thursday night, they can throw as many obstacles in our way as they like, it only makes us stronger. And to be fair NOT ONE of my players made a single complaint, you know? They were good as gold.
“Today (Friday), we finally got to train at the stadium itself. It’s not bad. It’s a big pitch, plenty of grass on it. There are a couple of bumpy patches but really, in African terms, it’s like Wembley.
“Tokelo Rantie (who arrived from Malmo in Sweden after last week’s 2-0 friendly win over Lesotho on the astroturf at Maseru) looks sharp. I’m even considering playing three up front!
“Yeye and Shabba (from double-winning Kaizer Chiefs) are looking good, the team is shaping up. The centre-back pairing (Tower Mathoho and Thabo Nthethe) are looking solid and I’m very, very confident. I want to pick up from our home game, where we beat CAF 2-0.
“If we can do that again, we’ll be well on our way. And then we’ve got Ethiopia in Addis Ababa next weekend. Win that one and we just need to beat Botswana in our final game to top the group.
“And don’t forget, Ethiopia have got Botswana tomorrow – our neighbours drew 1-1 with Egypt last week, they could do us a favour, couldn’t they?
“Look, we know it will be a tough, tough game. They’re a physical side (the latest FIFA rankings show CAR at 59, South Africa at 60) but so were Lesotho (155) and if we can keep the ball, use our talented players, I’m confident.
“I can promise you we won’t be under-estimating them.
“But I have a very good side, despite the injuries. We have a good squad, Itumeleng Khune is a great goalkeeper, we will take these problems we’ve had and use them. We’ve turned the negatives in to positives.
“We know the nation is watching. Thank you for for your support Neal. I hope your 3-0 prediction (made live on South Africa's eNCAnews tonight at 7.45pm) doesn’t cost you your hair again!”
With thanks to Gordon and Robert Marawa on Metro tonight.