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Thu Apr 24 18:41:31 SAST 2014

Schillo's worth a Hail Mary

Carlos Amato | 09 October, 2012 06:340 Comments

GORDON Igesund has promised to pop over to Liverpool shortly to have a cup of coffee with Steven Pienaar. To hell with the coffee, I say.

Since he trousers a cool R30-million a year, Schillo should stump up for a five-course banquet at Merseyside's finest gourmet restaurant, complete with a bottle of Chateau Lafite. These chaps need to talk at length, and some vino-powered veritas is in order.

It may be too late for Igesund to convince Stevie P to reverse his decision to retire - but it's still worth a shot. It's time for a Hail Mary effort by Igesund, because the loss of Pienaar will hurt Bafana far more than we care to admit.

We can shrug and gobble our sour grapes and say, "Ag, he was never that great for Bafana anyway", but his absence will be painfully felt when the likes of Ivory Coast loom into view at the Nations Cup in January.

Even a below-par "Schillo" is streets ahead of all his compatriots. His world-class close control, quicksilver passing and manic work-rate, combined with a newfound knack for goal-scoring, might have helped propel Bafana to the semifinals. And with Thulani Serero in doubt due to injury, Bafana are dangerously short of a top-notch creative director.

Teko Modise could do a job as a deep-lying playmaker for Igesund, but he's not going to strike fear into the hearts of Cheikh Tiote or Alex Song. The other options in the deeper role are Oupa Manyisa and Reneilwe Letsholonyane. With due respect to both, they aren't going to own Seydou Keita or Anthony Annan.

Alternatively, Igesund could gamble by deploying either Sifiso Myeni or Lerato Chabangu as creative trequartistas in place of Bernard Parker. It's generally accepted that Siphiwe Tshabalala lacks the skill set to dictate play from a central position.

But never mind all the Plan Bs. They amount to deck chair shuffling. Igesund's first big challenge as a national coach is to do his level best to schmooze Pienaar back into the fold - no matter how childish, selfish or "unpatriotic" Pienaar's decision to quit may have been.

Footballers are no different to the rest of us: they want to enjoy themselves, and they want to feel respected and valued. If Pienaar pulled the plug in a fit of pique after Igesund said he couldn't guarantee him the captaincy, it was a silly reaction, but not a shocking one.

Some have noted the contrast between Pienaar's decision and Yaya Toure's unwavering commitment to the Ivory Coast national side - he will do Nations Cup duty yet again this season, despite the fact that his absence earlier this year threw Manchester City into a slump.

If you were to be kind to Pienaar, you could argue that Toure keeps the faith because he is far closer to glory. He came desperately close to winning the cup this year with a wonderfully talented Elephants side. Toure is also far less injury-prone than Pienaar, and thus better able to handle the physical stress of serving both club and country.

A less kind interpretation is that Toure keeps fighting for his country because he is a born winner. It's very possible that Pienaar lacks the sheer bloody-minded force of character needed to lift Bafana to greater heights.

Either way, Igesund needs to find out the truth.

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Schillo's worth a Hail Mary

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