LELO MZACA: To Gordon - Congratulations... and Condolences
Flipping through the pages of one of the daily newspapers this week I chuckled at a Zapiro cartoon about Bafana Bafana's new coach Gordon Igesund. On the sketch the former Moroka Swallows mentor was reading one of his congratulation cards which he picked from a small heap of letters in front of him. However, behind him stood a SAFA fat-cat who was delivering a big postage bag which he said were "condolences". That cartoon summarised my sentiments to a "T".
See, football fans expressed joy and relief on social media when they found out that for once SAFA had listened to their pleas and finally chose Igesund to coach the flagging national football team. Since the sacking of Pitso Mosimane, Igesund has been the public's popular choice to be his successor. The celebrations were short lived when SAFA president Kirstin Nematandani officially announced the multiple booby-traps in Igesund's contract.
Igesund has been given a two-year performance-based contract. In order to hold on to his job he had to take Bafana, who have not qualified for the past two African Cup of Nations tournaments, to at least the semi finals of next year's edition. He has also been mandated to make sure that Bafana qualifies for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Bafana are two games in the qualifiers and have dropped four points in their group stages thanks to SAFA's blind faith in Mosimane.
Igesund is a good coach with a proven track record. He has won league titles with four different teams, including the unfancied Manning Rangers and the recently relegated Santos. Who can forget how he turned around Moroka Swallows from a relegation-threatened side to title contenders, who missed out on being crowed champions on the last day of the previous season?
The man was deserving of the Bafana Bafana job in 1998. Yet Trott Moloto was given the nod and Bafana's troubles snowballed from that era. The cracks at SAFA's lack of grass-roots development and lack of leadership widened and rapidly tore the wall-paper.
There is no doubt that Igesund is a deserving candidate, however, as usual, SAFA is looking for an easy way out. The poor man, whom it took years of sweat, blood and tears to build up his implacable reputation, is now expected to turn around years of deterioration in just a few months.
I'm sure my letter of condolence to the coach was in that bag on Zapiro's cartoon because what could happen to this man could blemish and ruin his hard earned legacy. He also couldn't hit the ground running in his first week because SAFA still has to "discuss" how his technical team should be appointed. Talk about a waste of precious time. Despite the hospital pass by his new notorious employers, Igesund welcomed the challenge. "I feel very honoured and privileged to be in charge of an asset like the national football team.
All I can say to you all is that I'm going to do my very best to make us all proud," he said at poorly organised press conference at Safa House that was held in a stuffy canteen.
On the day of the announcement SAFA again scored an own-goal by its lack of internal communication. It was blatantly clear that the left-hand did not know what the right-hand was doing when an insider prematurely let the cat out the bag by sending an official email out that Igesund had pipped Steve Komphela for the top job. The meeting with both candidates was still ongoing when "someone" pushed the send button. Journalists, who had camped in Nasrec all day for the news, found out about the much anticipated appointment through the writing across the bottom of the back-and-white TV screen at SAFA's reception area while they were watching Chippa United sink Santos. It created chaos.
The circus did not end there. Nematandani talked about how football is a "four-year cycle" and the reason why Igesund has been given a 2 year contract was because his predecessor was fired two years into his contract. However, he stressed that the new coach will not be getting the same hefty salary as Mosimane, who earned in the region of R800 000 per month. He justified that decision by saying, "After the 2010 World Cup the Association could no longer afford to pay that kind of salary".
If that's the case, then it means the Association was bending over backwards to enrich Mosimane who had two years left on his contract and that Igesund is not worth neither the money nor the trouble. Igesund surely does not deserve to be treated this way. Him being expected to perform miracles in half the time for half the money gives off the impression that the man is already being set up for failure.
This brings me to the conclusion that in Mosimane's tenure SAFA was only too happy to pay champagne-money for beer but now it seems they want to get champagne for beer-money.
Lelo Mzaca is a sports journalist in EWN's Johannesburg office. Follow him on Twitter @LeloMzaca