Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Response to Gordon Igesund's legal threats: look forward to meeting you in court, Gord

Legal threats: Gordon Igesund

GORDON IGESUND has finally gone a step too far. The Bafana Bafana head coach's fate will be decided on Thursday when he delivers his CHAN report to “Iron Lady” Natasha Tsichlas and her SAFA technical committee.


This morning I received a warning from Igesund’s lawyers saying I can no longer write about their client (the letter can be found at https://workspaces.acrobat.com/?d=74OueIF9mywUN0tZqFigcA). Obviously, these words indicate just how I feel about that. In 40 years of journalism I have never been accused of defamation, let alone warned to keep my opinions to myself. I have only ever written what I feel is in the best interests of the game. ANY game.


On Thursday, Igesund will have to explain just how hosts South Africa managed to fail at the first hurdle in a tournament restricted to home-based players only; how a tournament in which he promised "to go all the way" ended in abject failure.


Throughout the first year of Gordon's reign I was the great supporter; I initiated the oft-trending hash tag #ingordwetrust  in June 2012 and we talked long and hard about that opening game in Brazil, which was narrowly lost 1-0 in Sao Paulo.


In his first public appearance after his appointment in June, 2012, Gordon and I shared a sneaky cigarette at the Sandton Convention Centre as we talked about whether his late assistant Thomas Madigage should wear his famous ZCC hat on the bench for Bafana Bafana.


The ups and downs came thick and fast after that, with his two mandated tasks – reaching the AFCON semi-finals on home soil in 2013 and qualifying for the 2014 World Cup – both ending in failure.


Throughout stinging criticisms on the social networks I stood by Igesund. He was doing his best, I thought, he was looking everywhere for players who could rescue the nation’s ailing footballing reputation.


But then came the Thulani Serero affair. Igesund threw the Ajax Amsterdam midfielder – our highest performing star following Steven Pienaar’s international retirement – out of the team hotel when he complained of groin pain after a long-term injury during training.


I came out in support of Serero – and Igesund spent an hour haranguing me on the telephone. He insisted: “Do you know who I am? I am the head coach of South Africa…” and to my eternal shame I wrote this http://neal-collins.blogspot.com/2013/09/thulani-serero-putting-barcelona-ahead.html after that conversation.


Shaken by Gordon’s response, I then spoke to various people about the Serero incident and wrote this http://neal-collins.blogspot.com/2013/09/thulani-serero-other-side-of-bafanagate.html in an attempt to redress the balance.


From that point on – September 2013 – the relationship with Igesund was broken. I had helped Gordon publicly at every turn on several different platforms and dug hard on the Ethiopians losing points for fielding an ineligible player, backed him to the hilt, but we no longer talked; even after the sensational friendly win over World No1 Spain.


And even when I was forced to shave my head when Gordon lost in a friendly to an amateur Norway line-up http://neal-collins.blogspot.com/2013/01/hair-today-gone-tomorrowhow-i-was.html I had kept the faith. But still not a word from Igesund.


At around this time I became aware of various problems within the Bafana camp. There were allegations of favouritism – as there were surrounding his predecessor Pitso Mosimane – and I touched on the subject, only to be harangued by Mike Makaab, the man who represents both Igesund and Mamelodi Sundowns centre-back Thabo Nthethe.


I was particularly aggrieved when Igesund publicly berated Russian-based defender Siyanda Xulu, 22, over a single pass during training and dropped him from the starting line-up, keeping Nthethe, 29 at the back.


That simmering resentment continued during CHAN, when Nthethe was the only member of a creaking back four to keep his place throughout the tournament. This led to threatening phone calls from Gordon’s son Grant at 2am and demands for an apology from Makaab. Throughout this, Gordon refused to take my calls.


Makaab insisted that I apologise for suggesting he influenced Igesund’s selection. That apology appeared here http://neal-collins.blogspot.com/2014/01/bafana-bafana-apology.html and it’s true, I can’t prove anybody sways our national head coach BUT IN MY OPINION certain players are favoured and nobody disputes that Makaab and Igesund have long maintained an agent/client relationship.


Makaab said an apology would end threats of legal action. He thanked me for doing it publicly on twitter - but this morning the legal letter arrived.


On Wednesday, January 22, as the furore over CHAN failure swept football-speaking South Africa,  I told a national radio station that an agent had visited the team hotel before the Spain game. I argued again that some players are favoured for their affiliation rather than their talent.


SAFA president Danny Jordaan, also appearing on the show, responded: “This will be investigated” and Igesund’s lawyers are angry that their client now appears to be “under investigation”.


Of course, since then, further allegations have arisen against Igesund. On January 26, several Sunday papers suggested Igesund was behind a pre-CHAN bonus row that nearly resulted in a strike. Obviously, Igesund IS "under investigation" and rightly so.


I have no idea what will happen on Thursday. Perhaps Igesund will talk his way out of trouble, pointing out (rightly) he had a sub-standard squad and not enough time to prepare. Or perhaps he will work out his contract and a new regime will begin after the World Cup. Perhaps he will even do the honourable thing and resign for failing to achieve his mandates.


Close shave: Gordon and I after I was
forced to shave my head after
Bafana's Norway defeat
But it is my opinion that South Africa would be best served by not renewing Igesund’s contract – which runs until July this year. He failed – narrowly – to reach the AFCON semi-finals on home soil. He failed – despite Ethiopia’s points deduction – to reach even the play-offs for Brazil 2014. And he failed – utterly – at CHAN.


I also believe Gordon’s selection process throughout CHAN was flawed. He chopped and changed in all positions, leaving players confused and uncertain. Though Gordon described his training sessions as being “like World Cup finals” I heard different, from several sources.

He also promised he would go out to win in the final Group A clash against Nigeria, where Bafana needed just a draw. Instead, he fielded a lone striker and was forced to make a first-half substitution when the Super Eagles took an early 2-0 lead.


There is plenty more that could be said here. But I’ve had enough. The late night phone calls. The threats. The prospect of a first appearance on a defamation charge in 40 years of journalism does not phase me. I should just shut up and apologise, as I did before.


But I have a right to my opinion, based on what I read on the social networks and what I hear from those involved in Igesund's turbulent reign. I have a right to change my mind about Igesund, who won the domestic PSL title with a record four different clubs.


I will not be silenced. I have nothing to lose. I earn less than R7000 a month. I do not own a home and I drive a third-hand Citroen C2. I have no other assets and I certainly can’t afford a lawyer to defend myself.


But if it’s a court battle Igesund wants, bring it on. My only motivation is to improve the standing of South African football. To weed out corruption and favouritism. That is my story.


Full text of the legal letter from Igesund's lawyer can be found HERE:









6 comments:

  1. Very interesting. Nobody must ever silence you!

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  2. Very interesting. Nobody must ever silence you. Aluta continua in the struggle to fight for our football.

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  3. In Chabangus quote Gordon is a "Bunch of loser". He must sue Mbalula not you or Maybe his lawyers are still gathering evidence against Mbalula.
    From Putso

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