Coach Igesund makes one soccer shocker
GORDON Igesund made some surprising choices when he revealed his first Bafana Bafana squad yesterday. The one choice that truly raised eyebrows was 18-year-old Kgosietsile Ntlhe, a virtual unknown.
The Pretoria teenager, who plays for the second-tier English Championship side Peterborough FC, is part of the 25-man squad that will face Brazil and Mozambique in friendly internationals next month.
However, Igesund and his assistants, Thomas Madigage and Serame Letsoaka, insisted that the seemingly strange choice is sound.
"There was a lot of work being done behind the scenes to see Ntlhe's progress. I spoke to his coach, Darren Ferguson, (son of Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson) about him and there was a lot of positive feedback," said Igesund.
"Darren says he is a player who will never let you down - just about his best player at the moment. If an 18-year-old makes it in the Championship, one of the most difficult leagues in the world, we've really got to have a look at him."
To make space for Ntlhe, Igesund has dropped Kaizer Chiefs rightback Siboniso Gaxa, who was injured at the start of the season in his club's MTN8 quarterfinal defeat by Mamelodi Sundowns.
Gaxa made his return last week when Amakhosi got their revenge against Sundowns in a 2-1 win, but it was too late to secure a spot in Igesund's squad.
"It's going to take time, but if we never look at these players, we are never going to know what they can offer," Igesund said yesterday.
The coach left out big names like Andile Jali (Pirates), Oupa Manyisa (Pirates), Thanduyise Khuboni (Golden Arrows), Teko Modise (Sundowns), Lebohang Mokoena (Sundowns) and Tsepo Masilela (Chiefs), among others.
However, Igesund said, the team was not yet carved in stone, though he did confirm that Steven Pienaar will remain skipper for now.
"There will be no favours. Players will not just walk into this team. I want all of them to be running to the internet after training to see if their names are on the list," said the coach.
"Having said that, no doors are closed for anyone."
First time call-ups, apart from Ntlhe, include Kamohelo Mokotjo (Feyenoord, Holland), Katlego Mashego (Free State Stars), Thabo Matlaba (Pirates), Dean Furman (Oldham Athletic, England), Dino Ndlovu (Maccabi Haifa, Israel) and Thamsanqa Gabuza (Arrows).
Igesund also revealed that goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs, who quit Bafana ahead of 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Ethiopia and Botswana in June, is in the squad after he sent a letter to Safa renouncing his resignation.
Bafana will take on Brazil in Sao Paolo next Friday and Mozambique at Mpumalanga's Mbombela stadium four days later.
Goalkeepers: Wayne Sandilands, Moeneeb Josephs, Itumeleng Khune.
Defenders: Siyabonga Sangweni, Bevan Fransman, Bongani Khumalo, Eric Mathoho, Anele Ngcongca, Punch Masenamela, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Kgosietsile Ntlhe.
Midfielders: Steven Pienaar (captain), Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Bernard Parker, Thulani Serero, May Mahlangu, Katlego Mashego, Thabo Matlaba, Dean Furman, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Lerato Chabangu.
Strikers: Siyabonga Nomvethe, Dino Ndlovu, Thamsanqa Gabuza.