Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Our training sessions are like World Cup finals: How Gordon Igesund aims to take South Africa all the way

NO NONSENSE: Gordon Igesund
BAFANA BAFANA coach Gordon Igesund has revealed the watchwords in his quest for CHAN silverware as South Africa prepare for their vital Group A clash with Mali tomorrow night.

Igesund’s mantra involves a series of two-word couplets: man-management; no-nonsense; goose-bumps.

Talking on www.ballz.co.za (see video below), Igesund – fresh from that opening 3-1 win over Mozambique, said: “In the modern game of football, I think 70 percent of it is to man-manage players who are paid a lot of money, they are celebrities. You have to let them know you are a no-nonsense person.

“Give them the respect they deserve, but they need to apply themselves I training… and from the moment they put the national jersey on.

“One thing about the Bafana team right now, what makes me very proud, is they all want to play, they’re proud to be a part of it. They want to be here. To play for millions of people. I tell them they must get goose-bumps when they go out to represent their nation.

“My training sessions are like World Cup finals. You must see it. That’s the attitude all my players have. Nobody has a right to be selected. They all want to be part of the starting line-up. There are no automatic choices.

“It’s all very good and respectful, but they compete.

“And the most important thing is, we’re scoring goals. That’s what people want to see. They want to see Bafana fighting… and scoring. Playing the kind of football they enjoy.”

Asked which is his favourite venue for Bafana games, Igesund said: “As a coach, I love the Cape Town Stadium and the Moses Mabhida… but that’s taking nothing away from Soccer City. We have such good stadiums. But I’d say we get the best support in Cape Town. The audience is a complete mix, a Rainbow Nation coming together.

“Slowly but surely, no matter where we are, if we play the right kind of football, the fans will come with us.

“I’m just so grateful for the support we’re getting in Cape Town. We had 26,000 for that opening game, let’s hope they stay with us for Mali and Nigeria and beyond Group A.”

And that’s a good thing. Mali tomorrow and Nigeria on Sunday will be played in the Mother City and if they top the group, the quarter-final will also take place at the Cape Town Stadium (January 25) with a semi-final in Mangaung (Jan 29) before a hoped-for return to Cape Town for the final on February 1.

With Igesund promising “two or three changes” for the Mali game, he added: “The guys are very pleased with that opening 3-1 win over Mozambique, it took a lot pressure off us. The players are under huge scrutiny, passions are high, people say we HAVE to win the tournament.

“They coped with that very well on Saturday, coming back from 1-0 down – after training, I can say everybody is really looking forward to the second game.

"I am contemplating making changes, Mali is a totally different game, I want to have a bit more pace going forward.

"We are playing against a very good and physical team so we have been working hard on keeping the ball, making quick passes because we don’t want to get into a tussle with them as we will come off second best.

"We need to be clever and use the ball well and need to be more penetrative than we were in the first match. So the mission is very clear – we have to get a result in this game so we know where we are.

"I was quite surprised how impressive Mali was against Nigeria, we have our work cut out for us.

“There are some very, very good teams here for CHAN. Morocco have eight of the Raja Casablanca players who played against Bayern Munich in the World Club Cup final in December.”

But as he has said form the start, Igesund believes a combination of no-nonsense, goose-bumps and man-management could end with long-awaited success: "We're not being arrogant saying we want to win this CHAN tournament, what we are saying is that we're going to be very competitive and I think we can go all the way.”

BOLLOCKZ! my own football show on www.ballz.co.za, restarts after the Christmas break on Thursday from 9am. See the Ballz channel on www.YouTube.com for our growing collection of interviews with the big names in South African football.

You can also follow me on www.twitter.com/nealcol for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal and Pray” column every Tuesday in www.thenewage.co.za.

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