Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund announced his first squad for the international friendly matches against Brazil and Mozambique and reiterated that players were selected based on merit and their current form.
|Gordon Igesund @ Backpagepix
Igesund starts his reign as new Bafana coach against five-time world champions Brazil on September 7 in Sao Paulo before returning home for another friendly against neighbours Mozambique at Mbombela Stadium on September 11.
The new Bafana coach unveiled a fairly balanced squad with a mixture of experience and some new faces. Household names that used to hog the national team in the previous regime like Teko Modise and Katlego Mphela (recently recovered from injury) were not on the list.
The former Moroka Swallows coach said selecting the squad was not a cut and dry exercise.
ďThe most important thing for me was to sit down with the coaches regarding player selection and the philosophy coming into the national team. I have spoken to the coaches and informed them that for any player in our country to be selected, he has to be performing for his club.
ďI want to be able to, maybe, give the coaches a little bit of power in the sense that if they have a player that is not performing and feels like he can just do whatever he likes, why should I make the assumption that I can get the best out of that player when he comes to the national team? That player will not be selected into the national team if I get a report that he is not training properly and messing around,Ē he said.
Of key importance also for Igesund was the fitness level of the players selected, as he believes the national team is no place to address this issue. "Players should go into national camp already fit enough to go for battle," he said.
ďFitness is also very important because the national team is not a pre-season training camp. The national team is a place where we need to work on tactics, the philosophy, how we are going to player and get the players motivated, psychologically ready for the match.
ďIf a player comes to the national team not fit that canít happen. My fitness trainer will also liaise with the club fitness trainers and get a full report on the fitness of the players. So we will always have a fully fit national team and players that are in form. That is one of the main criteria that we have to focus on,Ē Igesund said.
According to Igesund, the clubs will also derive some benefits as the players know that if they want to play for the national team, they have to be performing at club level. ďThat means the clubs will always have players fighting to have a place in the side. We have to make this national team a competitive team where every player will fight for his place,Ē he said.
Below is how Igesund responded to some of the questions from the media:
On the selection of Furman, Mokotjo, Dino: Well Dean Furman plays in England and I have seen video tapes of him and spoken to his coach. I am very impressed and I donít think Dean will stay in that team for much longer as a lot of clubs will be after him. Besides that, from what I have seen in the last couple of games, I think he deserves a chance. I think itís very important that we have the opportunity to have a look at a player like him and see what he is capable of.
We are going to play two very tough games now and it will be a great opportunity to see him. He is a very useful player, a holding midfielder and distributes the ball well.
Mokotjo: He plays for Feyenoord. He is a fantastic player and plays as a holding midfielder but at the moment he is being played as a right-back. He is young and the future and he also deserves chance. He plays at the highest level; you do not play for giants like Feyenoord if you are not a decent player. He is getting good game time and I think he is another player we need to have a look at.
Dino: I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by Dino. He is playing tremendously well at the moment, I have seen his videos. He is strong and powerful, great skill and scoring lots of goals at the moment.
Expectations: There is no doubt in my mind that this team will go out there and play for each other, play with passion, play with pride. As I said earlier, itís a great challenge for us, we are not going tom Brazil to be the whipping boys. We are going there to perform and do our very best.
We know we are playing the five-time world champions. Our preparation has not been that great for certain circumstances that we can all understand. I am having the team three days before we start training but I am not worried about that. We have a team that can go out there and fight, a team that can play really well for each other.
We are going to play a new system, we are going to play a lot more attacking football and I am expecting a lot from these players. These players that have been given the opportunity now will want to stay in this team. Every player will want to play for his country and you will see thereís going to be a lot of competition.
On the captaincy: Steven Pienaar will be the captain. Thereís absolutely no reason for me to change. Thereís been a lot of speculation (on Pienaar captaincy) but I need to see for myself. This will be my first meeting with the players and we will take it from there. I am very happy to say Steven will be leading our team out there.
There are going to be three players going back to their clubs after the Brazil game because I want to give everybody a chance. Pienaar, Mahlangu and Dikgacoi are the three that will not play against Mozambique.
Morgan Gould injury: Obviously itís a blow to him, to Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana Bafana. You donít want to see any player injured, especially a player that has been playing so well. That is a big blow for us but it does open the opportunities for other players. But I do not want to open the door only when other players get injured. The door is always open. When these players are performing and doing a good job, they will get the recognition for their work.
Exclusions: The only player that is unfortunately not in the squad and I would have loved to have him in, in fact I had him in my final 25, is Tokelo Rantie. He is playing well at the moment, scoring four goals in two games but unfortunately he is only 60 to 70 per cent fit. I have spoken to him on a number of occasions and I have also spoken to his coach, who said I made the right decision. Because I had to phone him up and tell him I will be withdrawing that call up.
Tokelo also feels that for such a huge game, he doesnít want to be not at his best and felt it was not the right time to play for Bafana at this stage. I appreciated his honesty and when I spoke to his club the coach said he used him for 35 minutes in the last two games although he did well. He is the only player that I had to withdraw from the squad.
As far as injuries and suspensions, there are a few other players that I feel are not quite there yet but they are getting there. As for injuries there are no other serious injuries except for the one from Kaizer Chiefs.
On Ntlhe: Ntlhe I have seen him on DVDs but obviously behind the scenes a lot of work has been done with these players. As you know Ntlhe has played for the under-20 team and did a magnificent job.
Everyone was speaking about him. I spoke to Darren Ferguson (Peterborough coach) on a few occasions and he said this player will never let you down coach. Those were his words: he said he will never let you down. He said the English Championship is one of the most physical leagues in world football. He said this player is strong and he goes forward often but besides what he said, itís what I have seen on DVDs.
Gabuza: Not only have I noticed him now but noticed him last season. He is a young, physical and skillful player. He can play with his back to goals and scores goals. His movement is very good and he is going to cause problems for defenders.
I just think sometimes there are too many players who go unnoticed because they donít play for this team or that team. We need to really look at players that are performing and this player has been performing. We watched him play against Orlando Pirates and he was outstanding. Last season he was a handful for a lot of defenders. At the end of the day, I think he is a player thatís going to surprise a lot of people.
Moeneeb Josephs: First of all, every single player that plays in our Premier League is an asset for the national team if they are able to play. And in my opinion I felt that Moeneeb Josephs retired prematurely. He is only starting to mature as a goalkeeper, most goalkeepers only start to mature in their 30s. I never went to Moeneeb and asked him to come back to the national team. I never asked him to please come back and that we need you to play for the national team. We have many other goalkeepers in our country.
What I went to Moeneeb for was to find out if there was any way we could assist him with his problems and why. The question was why did you retire from international football? I had a heart-to-heart talk with him and he told me what issues he had. He told me that he would now want to compete for a place in the national team, he feels motivated and feels he wants to compete. He has no problem with being number one, two or three. He said he would like to compete and will fight for his place and I said if thatís the case, I am very happy with that.
Just to add to that, I must say that he has written a letter to Safa to withdraw his retirement and stating exactly what I have just stated. He knows like any other player that there is no automatic place, thereís no guaranteed places in the national team. I want to repeat again, I never asked him to come back and I never begged him to come back I wanted to find out what the problems were and why he had retiredÖ If it wasnít Moeneeb, if it was Khune or any player, I would have done this if I thought in the long-term that person had something to offer I would have certainly done that to anybody.
Approach for the Brazil game: I donít go into games not to lose. We will play the game the way it should be played. We will try to play an attacking brand of football, which I think has been lacking. We need to get forward, we need to be offensive and get into those wide positions. We will play with a tactical game plan, which I will make later on. "I think we need to instill the confidence in the players. I believe we have players that are as good as any other player in the world. All we need to do is start believing that we are capable and not this pull-him-down syndrome. We need to believe that we are capable and that anything is possible.
As I said before, I think I have a very strong team out here that when they go out there and put the jersey on, they should get some goose bumps. In their minds they have to say, I want to stay in this team, I want to continue playing for this team and thatís the kind of attitude we have.
We know we are playing the five-time world champions, thereís no secret about that but I also donít think we should be intimidated and feel inferior to them. We are not inferior to them, we will get there. Yes we will not have an ideal preparation but I will not allow that to hinder us. Letís turn those things into positives.
Wayne Sandilands (Mamelodi Sundowns), Moeneeb Josephs (Orlando Pirates), Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs)
Siyabonga Sangweni (Orlando Pirates), Bevan Fransman (SuperSport United), Bongani Khumalo (Paok Thessaloniki, Greece), Eric Mathoho (Kaizer Chiefs), Anele Ngcongca (Racing Genk, Belgium), Punch Masenamela (Mamelodi Sundowns), Kamohelo Mokotjo (Feyenoord, Netherlands), Kgosietsile Ntlhe (Peterborough, England)
Steven Pienaar (Everton, England), Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Siphiwe Tshabalala (both Kaizer Chiefs), Thulani Serero (Ajax Amsterdam, Netherlands), May Mahlangu (Helsingborg, Sweden), Katlego Mashego (Free State Stars), Thabo Matlaba (Orlando Pirates), Dean Furman (Oldham Athletic, England), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Crystal Palace, England)
Siyabonga Nomvethe (Moroka Swallows), Bernard Parker (Kaizer Chiefs), Dino Ndlovu (Maccabi Haifa, Israel), Thamsanqa Gabuza (Golden Arrows), Lerato Chabangu (Moroka Swallows).