|No walking the plank: Gordon Igesund and Roger de Sa|
The first hint of peace came early this morning when Orlando Pirates coach De Sa told me: "Gordon is one of the good guys. He is a reasonable person - we talked nicely. My players won't be playing for South Africa in the friendly against Nigeria. Hats off to Gordon for agreeing on that.
“We are doing this for the sake of the nation"
Then the call from Igesund: "Roger and I talked sensibly. I felt I couldn't pick a squad without any Pirates after their historic 3-0 win over Al Ahly. I knew this situation could arise, but once we'd talked about what South Africa needs, we agreed to go without the Buccaneers.
“We have a friendly against Nigeria. For Pirates, the home game against Zamalek is the game of their lives. But Roger didn’t demand their release, he requested it. I thank him for that.
“There are times when you have to put the best interests of the nation first."
And there it was. Sorted. For the good of the game. And all on my radio show BOLLOCKZ an hour before the official announcement. Pirates, fresh from that historic 3-0 win over the African champions in Egypt, will save their players on the 14th for their clash with Zamalek on the 17th at the Orlando Stadium.
A second successive win over the Pharoahs will all but secure their place in the top half of Group A. Senzo Meyiwa, Thabo Matlaba, Andile Jali, Oupa Manyisa, Thandani Ntshumayelo and Daine Klate will NOT run the risk of injury which could derail the quest for a second star to follow the now-legendary 1995 success.
Igesund, meanwhile, will have to put Jali's international comeback on hold for Nigeria at the Moses Mabhida in Durban on the 14th. He already knew Mandela Day - which sees the rugby Springboks play Argentina too - would be staged against Burkina Faso on the 17th at Soccer City without Roger’s Sea Robbers.
Having already picked a squad of 28 – Gordon knew he would also have to do without his overseas contingent for the second game – Igesund has called up SuperSport United’s pair of former Swallows Bennett Chenene and David Mathebula as reinforcements following the Pirates announcement.
What’s refreshing about this situation is that there was no war of words as their might have been when club and country fall out in Europe. No Sir Alex Ferguson declaring Manchester United players with mysterious injuries, no aggrieved England coach crying foul.
That two men under such huge pressure can come to an amicable agreement is a real boost for South African football – especially when you consider Igesund MUST win his final World Cup qualifier against Botswana in Durban on September 7 to stand any chance of qualifying for Brazil 2014.
Igesund, who is relying on Ethiopia to drop points against the Central African Republic in Bangui, said: “Look Neal, I had to pick the best squad I could. That’s my job. I always knew I would lose nine players after the Nigeria game. Now I’m only losing three – with Chenene and Mathebula coming in.
“I did call (goalkeeper) Darren Keet’s agent in Belgium and asked if he’d be available for the Mandela Sports day game on the 17th but it’s not a FIFA date and his club (KV Kortrijk) are in action that weekend. But to be honest, I was going to start with Itumeleng Khune for both games anyway.”
Speaking on my www.ballz.co.za show BOLLOCKZ! (see video below), Roger said: “Gordon understood where I was coming from. We have a good working relationship. Common sense prevailed.”
BOLLOCKZ! my show on www.ballz.co.za, airs every Thursday from 10am-noon. You can also follow me on www.twitter.com/nealcol for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal & Pray” column every Tuesday in www.thenewage.co.za. A shorter version of THIS story will be published in The New Age on Tuesday.
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