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Igesund’s Untold Stories

Jali, Serero, Manzini & More: Igesund Answers Your Hard Questions

Whilst telling my untold stories over the past few weeks, we have been encouraging you the reader to send through some of the burning questions that might have been spurred on by these stories. The response has been quite overwhelming and this week, I’m elated to actually get down to answering a few of what some of the loving Soccer Laduma readers have asked including Andile Jali, Thulani Serero, that 5-0 drubbing by Brazil and more...

@Hermito - My question is: What happened from the Spain game, did we improve, or it was just a victory that did not take us anywhere? The day we stop celebrating mediocre will be the day we start qualifying for all the tournaments, reaching the finals even winning them.

Perhaps the answer to this question would be to ask how many coaches have the national team had since the Spain game in 2013? Personally, I think that’s where the downfall lies. The changes happen too quickly in my opinion.

I don't think coaches are given enough time in the national team to implement their philosophy before a new coach comes in and dismantles everything that was there before him and tries to instil his own new philosophy until he too inevitably runs out of time and the cycle continues This leaves us constantly going back to the drawing board and starting all over again.

If you look at the players I used in my last two games against Australia and New Zealand, there were young players in that squad that did not feature for Bafana Bafana until Stuart Baxter came in and recalled them 6 years later.  This for me just serves to highlight the point that instead of slow and steady progression, the start-stop nature rather serves to break down the momentum.

@YoureNext! -  I will never forget the day you were flying out of a stadium to attend your daughter's wedding. One of my crazy moments. Thanks for the good memories!

I have that fond memory from my one and only season at Pirates, we started the campaign well and made it all the way through to the BP Top 8 final in the 2000/01 season. It was my first opportunity to deliver silverware to Dr Khoza and the Pirates faithful, as per my promise when taking up the position of head coach. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, the PSL decided to change the date of the final, which then clashed with my daughter’s wedding date – August 26.

Ultimately, I took the decision to miss the first part of the wedding and lead my team against a youthful Ajax Cape Town at the FNB Stadium. A decision I wish no coach to have to make. Thankfully the radio station 702 had arranged a helicopter to fly me straight from the stadium to O.R Tambo so that I would not miss my flight to the wedding. It was so surreal; I didn’t even get the chance to celebrate the victory with the team. What I did get though while being whisked away was an unforgettable birds-eye view of a packed FNB stadium in celebration.

@Illpro -Interesting that you mentioned underrated captain Michael Manzini, disciplined on and off the field, evergreen and so consistent in the field but ignored by many coaches for national duty, can you clarify his omission…

Michael Manzini was an amazing captain and one of the very first names on my team sheet during my time with Mamelodi Sundowns in the 2006/07 season. He exemplified everything a coach could want in a player, and he was always ready to go to war for his teammates.

However, despite how I felt about Michael, coaches differ in their philosophies and playing styles and perhaps they felt he lacked an element they needed to successfully implement those ideologies. It may have been for a host of different reasons - his age at the time, his height or perhaps even what other players were performing at the time.

Unfortunately not every play gets the opportunity to showcase their talents at the National team level. It’s the nature of the game and what makes being selected for the National team such an honour.

@Illpro - Why when you were the national team coach and asked about the omission of Andile Jali from the national team when he was on top of his game, you said you haven't seen anything special about him but, the country was not oblivious that you did not want him in your team.

Andile Jali in my opinion is a fantastic player and I had no qualms about him whatsoever. The omission you are referencing in 2012, was when he had just come back from an injury and in my opinion, was still carrying a bit of excess weight and holding him back from playing at his best.

I spoke to him at the time, and I told him that in order to be ready for national team football he would have to shed a few kilos and to his credit, he worked incredibly hard to lose that weight. All I wanted was for Andile to be fit. I told him that he was a great player and an asset to South African football.

He has been a great ambassador of South African football now some 10 years later he is still playing some of the best football of his life and is a contender for PSL player of the season.

@Mothapo Mothapo III - Coach please tell us about the Brazil game…

We played two matches against Brazil. One in Sao Paolo in 2012 and one in Johannesburg at the FNB Stadium in 2014. In Brazil in 2012, we lost the match 1-0 but we walked off the pitch to a resounding standing ovation from the 50 000 fans who were in attendance at the Morumbi stadium that day.

We had given an exemplary account of ourselves which at times had the 5-time world champions rattled. Siboniso Gaxa and Itumeleng Khune were outstanding on the day. Gaxa man marked Neymar out of the match and Khune's heroics ensured that they only found the Back of the net once while we had hit the post on two occasions.

The second match in 2014 was a very different affair. We had just come off the terrific victory against Spain and I decided to use the opportunity to see how some of the other squad players would perform at that level. We actually didn’t play that bad, but take nothing away from Brazil, they showcased all their pedigree and were clinical on the night.

Another question that I often get from people who I come across in the street is why I opted to send Thulani Serero back to Amsterdam when he claimed he was injured in 2013…

To answer that question, Thulani was released from his Club Ajax Amsterdam to the national team and whilst in camp in Durban he trained normally with the squad. He didn't complain of any discomfort and never went for any treatment so, in my mind, Thulani was fit and ready to play.

After our Friday morning training session, I went to Thulani and told him that I was planning on starting him in the upcoming match, and the roles and responsibilities that would go along with what I was thinking.

Later that evening, at supper, the team doctor told me that Serero didn’t want to play. He said he didn’t want to play because he had a big Champions League game against Barcelona coming up.

When I approached Thulani, he confirmed this.

I asked him why he didn’t call me when I had made the squad announcement to inform me of his position, instead opting to rather come out for a “free holiday’. To which he had no answer. As a patriotic person, I want my players to be patriotic especially when it’s such a privilege and an honour to represent the Country.

I made it clear that I was bitterly disappointed and couldn’t tolerate such behaviour. I then made the decision to release him from camp and had team manager Barney Kujane book him on the next available flight back to Amsterdam. I was resolute that no player is bigger than the Country and was only going to work with the players who wanted to be there and had the Nation's best interest at heart.

There’s R500,000 added to the second Soccer 10 on Saturday for a likely pool of R4 million and great matches in the pool include Liverpool in a tough clash against Spurs. It’s make-or-break for both and anything but three points will be a devastating blow.

On Sunday Chelsea need to bounce back from some inconsistent performances against Wolves at home, while Kaizer Chiefs must try to reclaim some pride when they face PSL champions Sundowns. Both matches can be found in Sunday’s first Soccer 10, which starts with R250,000 added by TAB.

Also is this pool the Orlando Pirates, who also face a tough trip away to Al Ahli Tripoli with the hopes of a nation resting on their shoulders. 

Yours in football,

Coach Gordon Igesund

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