Bafana criticism is getting the better of Igesund
GORDON Igesund's relationship with the media reached an all-time low at a press conference yesterday during which the coach answered most of his questions with terse, one-liners.
Five days before his team kicks off in the Africa Cup of Nations against Cape Verde at Soccer City, the coach appeared to be reacting to criticism of his team in the past months, especially after its 1-0 defeat in a warm-up against Norway last week, and Saturday night's goalless draw against Algeria.
A transcript of the later stages of the conference, after Igesund had answered two questions about the team meeting President Jacob Zuma yesterday, is revealing:
Question: You've had all your players for the friendlies ahead of the tournament - has that worked out for you?
Answer: Ja, look, obviously I'm very happy with that, ja.
Q: A couple of days before the tournament starts, what's the mood like?
A: No, the mood is excellent - the guys are very positive and the mood is very good at the moment.
Q: President Zuma alluded to the fact that we must switch off from the critics - in terms of switching off, how do you go about that from a team perspective?
A: Ja, look, obviously it's very difficult because the players want to get confidence and get people behind them. But, you know, I think they've learned to deal with it, like I have. We know what our mandates are, we know what we have to achieve, we know the responsibility that we've got. So we'll get out and do our best out there.
Q: Coach, what's the condition of Kagisho Dikgacoi?
A: KG's OK, he'll resume training tomorrow.
Q: The president expressed confidence that the team is ready - are you ready?
A: Yes we are.
Q: When you break down our group, we face a team that has nothing to lose [Cape Verde], a team [Angola] whose coach has been told he will be safe no matter the result, and a team [Morocco] whose coach is building for the Afcon in 2015. How will Bafana Bafana deal with the pressure, given they are the one team expected to produce results now?
A: As I said before, I think I said it a minute ago, the team is ready for the Afcon.
It seemed to be a reaction from the coach - especially a 56-year-old with a world of experience - that was, frankly, immature.
The conference lasted only three-and-a-half minutes - normally such briefings last for 10 to 15 minutes.
It followed a press conference after the Algeria game at which Igesund was notably defensive. At Monday's training session, the coach did not want to make players available to be interviewed by the waiting reporters and had to be persuaded to do so by media manager Matlhomola Morake.
To be fair to the coach, there are two sides to the story. Some of the criticism levelled at him has been unfair, one-sided and often for matters that are quite irrelevant.
But he should also be aware that such is a national team coach's lot, not just in South Africa but in most countries. Pressure and criticism - sometimes unfair - come with the job.
And Igesund will not make matters any better with his current confrontational approach, especially with a major tournament as a host country looming.