Bafana’s last prayer
There will be some shocks in the announcement. I won’t be doing anyone favours – Igesund
Bafana Bafana head coach Gordon Igesund will wake up this morning faced with a double dilemma prior to naming his 23-man squad for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
Who does he leave out and how does he break the heartbreaking news to those who will not make the cut?
“It’s a tough situation for me,” said the 56-year-old ahead of his toughest call to date.
“I was not sure whether to tell them after training yesterday, or to wait until this morning to break the news. In this age of Twitter and other social media, it is difficult to keep news to yourself because once it is out, it spreads like wildfire.”
After completing their final training session at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto yesterday, Igesund had a brief chat with the players as they dispersed for a three-day break. He said he felt for those who did not make the team, but said life must go on.
“There will be some shocks in the announcement and people must respect my decision. I am not going to compromise on my principles,” he said.
“I won’t be doing anyone any favours because this is about the national team and not about me.”
He added: “People must understand that there are certain players who are crowd favourites, but still don’t perform at the level required here (at Afcon). But I am happy with the commitment shown by all the players. And those wh
o won’t make the team should hold their heads high because there are still more games to come.”
Reading between the lines of Igesund’s comments, this might mean the end for Andile Jali and Teko Modise, who missed last weekend’s friendly match against The Flames of Malawi.
Igesund said he thought losing Orlando Pirates striker Benni McCarthy, Kaizer Chiefs defender Eric Mathoho and Belgium-based Ayanda Patosi to injury would make things easier for him as he now has three less players.
Instead, the multiple-league championship-winning coach said more players have raised their hands to be selected.
Igesund said the match against Malawi gave him something to ponder about after few players produced five-star performances.
“I have my team now. It is a good headache not knowing who to leave behind.”
Players who have made a serious bid for berths include Pirates defender Thabo Matlaba, Platinum Stars winger player Thuso Phala and May Mahlangu, a midfielder with Helsingborgs IF in Sweden.
Igesund said he might go with seven defenders as he has players who can play more than one position at the back.
His biggest headache is who of his three left-backs – Matlaba, Tsepo Masilela of Chiefs and Ricardo Nunes of MŠK Žilina in Slovakia – should he leave out.
Siboniso Gaxa of Chiefs and Anele Gcongca are guaranteed a berth at the right-back position.
The withdrawal of Mathoho from the squad has opened space for Thabo Nthethe to join captain Bongani Khumalo and Siyabonga Sangweni in the heart of defence.
Russia-based Siyanda Xulu and the lanky Bevan Fransman are unlikely to get picked.
While Kagisho Dikgacoi and Dean Furman have been regulars in Igesund’s midfield selections, some will be omitted from a clustered group that has Phala, Chiefs duo Siphiwe Tshabalala and Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Golden Arrows’ Thanduyise Khuboni, Mahlangu, Lerato Chabangu, Modise and the Pirates contingent of Jali, Oupa Manyisa, Sifiso Myeni and Daine Klate.
Another player who seems to have forced his way into the team after a long lay-off is marksman Katlego Mphela of Mamelodi Sundowns, who should lead Bafana’s attack.
He will be joined in front of goal by the fit-again Bernard Parker, Tokelo Rantie and Thulani Serero. Lehlohonolo Majoro might also make it.
In the goalkeeping department, Chiefs’ Itumeleng Khune and Wayne Sandilands of Sundowns seem the obvious choice. New call-up Darren Keet will not make it as his Belgian team, KV Kortrijk, are reluctant to release him during the Afcon period and this leaves room for Pirates’ Senzo Meyiwa.
Probable Bafana Afcon 23-man squad
Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Wayne Sandilands (Mamelodi Sundowns), Senzo Meyiwa (Orlando Pirates)
Defenders: Anele Ngcongca (FC Genk, Belgium), Bongani Khumalo (PAOK, Greece), Ricardo Nunes (MSK Zilina, Slovakia), Thabo Nthethe (Bloemfontein Celtic), Siyabonga Sangweni (Orlando Pirates), Siboniso Gaxa, Tsepo Masilela (both Chiefs)
Midfielders: Thulani Serero (Ajax Amsterdam, Holland), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Crystal Palace, England), Dean Furman (Oldham Athletic, England), Oupa Manyisa (Pirates), Reneilwe Letsholonyane (Chiefs), Siphiwe Tshabalala (Chiefs), Sifiso Myeni (Pirates), Lerato Chabangu (Moroka Swallows), May Mahlangu (Helsingborgs IF, Sweden), Thuso Phala (Platinum Stars)
Strikers: Katlego Mphela (Sundowns), Bernard Parker (Chiefs), Tokelo Rantie (Malmo, Sweden)