Wednesday, 8 January 2014

La 3e Orange Championnat d’Afrique des Nations 2014: Will CHAN be a four-letter word for Gordon Igesund

Under pressure: Bafana Head Coach Gordon Igesund

CHAN. A year ago nobody knew what those four letters meant. Now they spell danger for South Africa coach Gordon Igesund.

Officially, CHAN is a shortening of “La 3e Orange Championnat d’Afrique des Nations 2014” an African Championship for home-based players – no of those highly-paid stars from Europe allowed.

On the surface of it, the tournament sounds a great idea and for the long-suffering Igesund, fresh from that earth-shaking win over FIFA’s No1 Spain.

Who could ask for more: Orlando Pirates have just reached the final of the African Champions League, our glittering PSL is considered the richest league in Africa and Bafana get to play at the magnificent Cape Town Stadium, where fans turn up to watch paint dry.

But the chance of an international football tournament being won on home soil for the first time since 1996 has been shaken by that unseemly spat between SAFA, the PSL and our greatest footballing franchise, Kaizer Chiefs.

We all know the details. The PSL dumped the top-of-the-table clash between Mamelodi Sundowns and Chiefs slap bang in the middle of the CHAN tournament and despite an agreement forged with SAFA, Bobby Motaung (and quietly, Jose Ferreira) threatened to withdraw their stars.

But following Saturday’s sparkling statement of patriotic fervour from SAFA, all 23 members of the squad were present and correct before the opening CHAN clash against Mozambique on January 11. Kaizer over-ruled Bobby. Hooray!

But wait. The fact is Igesund now finds himself under huge pressure to emerge from Group A (Mali and AFCON champions Nigeria complete the group) before surging to CHAN silverware. It feels like South Africa has bent over backwards for SAFA and the nation is demanding the ultimate result.

But the truth is, this is not a great Bafana squad. Orlando Pirates? Their African crusaders weren’t even considered. Our talented foreign contingent, as per the rules, are absent.

Igesund, rather than turn to the Amajita who recently won the COSAFA Under 20 tournament under Ephraim Shakes Mashaba in Lesotho, finds himself trying to persuade his aging squad to overcome all obstacles. Anything less and the calls for his head will rise to a crescendo despite THAT glorious triumph over Spain (which has actually seen Bafana slip one place to 62 in the FIFA rankings).

Igesund himself is full of platitudes: “At the end of the day this is our national team; it’s the national team for the people. We want to do well, try and get as many players as we can to compete and win things.

“We are trying to change the mentality of the people out there. We want to start having a winning mentality.”

The truth is, Gordon, it’s win or bust. Selecting the old favourites and forcing them to play in the middle of an already chaotic PSL season without drafting in a few promising youngsters could spell trouble. Serious trouble.

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