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Sun Apr 20 08:24:03 SAST 2014

Bafana's Poland game pickle

MARK GLEESON | 25 September, 2012 06:470 Comments
Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund issues instructions during the international friendly between South Africa and Mozambique at Mbombela Stadium on September 11, 2012 in Nelspruit, South Africa
Image by: Manus van Dyk / Gallo Images

BAFANA Bafana are trying to withdraw from their upcoming commitment to play a friendly in Poland because coach Gordon Igesund is not keen to make the trip.

Igesund prefers instead to play African opposition as he told reporters last week. He also wants to win his next two matches to gain public confidence, as he said to his Safa bosses at a major behind-the-scenes meeting on Friday.

Safa has already moved to try and get out of the October 12 date in Bydgoszcz but whether it will prove successful remains to be seen.

Poland have started selling tickets for the match in a provincial town that does not often host international matches, and which is keenly anticipating the game.

The Bafana game is also a warm-up for Poland before they host England in a vital World Cup qualifier four days later.

The match is in return for the trip that the east European nation made to South Africa three years ago to help Bafana prepare for the 2009 Confederations Cup.

The two associations signed a reciprocal agreement and South Africa now face the prospect of being accused of bad faith if they do not honour the agreement.

This they have done before with severe financial costs. For example, when Carlos Alberto Parreira returned to the helm of the national team in 2009.

Parreira refused to have Bafana play a pre-arranged friendly match in Chile, and Safa had to pay over lost costs to the South Americans.

Safa is now in the difficult position of fulfilling Igesund's wishes whom it must support if he is to produce the required results at the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations.

The association must also honour its long-standing commitment to Poland.

In the meantime, insiders say alternative fixtures for Bafana against Tanzania, Angola or Mauritius are being investigated for October 12 and October 16.

Igesund's request for weaker opposition to bolster confidence opens the debate on what is the best preparation ahead of a difficult tournament like the Afcon.

Should Bafana be playing easy matches to get back their self-belief and win over a sceptical public?

Or should they be testing their strengths and weaknesses against tough opponents as in the case of the Poland away game?

Igesund was given a potential horror start with an away game against five-time world champions Brazil earlier this month. But Bafana emerged from a 1-0 defeat in Sao Paulo with great credit.

But even with that result behind him, the antipathy towards Bafana was on display just days later when fewer than 10000 spectators turned out to watch Bafana at home against Mozambique in Nelspruit.

Traditionally disgruntled fans stay away from Bafana matches when the team is not delivering positive results.

On the contrary, when Bafana won the Afcon in 1996 their build-up included matches against Argentina, Egypt and Germany.

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