NEW Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund may have just six months to turn the ailing national team into a continental powerhouse, but his former employers at Moroka Swallows believe he will be able to meet the tough challenge.
After South African Football Association (Safa) president Kirsten Nematandani warned that Igesund could lose his job if Bafana do not reach the semifinals of the 2013 African Nations Cup - to be held in SA from January 19 to February 10 - Swallows CEO Leon Prins said yesterday he was confident that the new Bafana coach would carry out the mandate.
"We all know that he is walking into a lion's den but nobody will give it a go more than Gordon," Prins told Business Day yesterday.
"It is a tough job and a huge challenge for anybody. But I know that Gordon will tackle this challenge head-on."
Igesund faces a stern test as Bafana are no longer even ranked in the Top 10 on the continent by the Confederation of African Football. They are 15th on the chart and a distant 68th place on football governing body Fifa's global rankings.
Safa and the government have attached a lot of importance to Bafana lasting beyond the group stages of the 2013 African Nations Cup as the success of the event will depend on the hosts remaining in the tournament for as long as possible.
The odds are against Igesund, as Bafana failed to qualify for the last two editions of the African Nations Cup in Equatorial Guinea (2012) and Gabon, and in Angola (2010).
The last time Bafana qualified to play in continental football's biggest football tournament - under Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira - the national side could not even get out of the group stages. Parreira's limping charges embarrassingly finished at the bottom of Group D without a single win after games against Tunisia, Angola and Senegal.
Nematandani said Igesund got the job because of his ability to turn struggling teams into competitive sides within a very short period.
"He showed us how he would come in and turn the team around in terms of performance," he said. "That is what actually impressed us more than anything else.
"We want a team that can go out there and perform. That is exactly what impressed us the most about Gordon," Nematandani said.
Igesund comes with an impressive CV after winning the domestic league title with Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates, Santos and Manning Rangers.
While Pirates and Sundowns are pedigreed sides that have huge financial muscle behind them, his exploits with Santos and Rangers caught the eye as he achieved results with very limited resources and with squads that had no star-studded players. But it was his achievement with Swallows that helped to swing the decision his way after leading Swallows to the runner-up spot in the premiership last season.
Igesund will have to acquaint himself with his job very quickly as his first task with Bafana is to scout for players for the away friendly against Brazil on September 7.
Safa expects to confirm several other appointments in the coming days, as Steve Komphela will become the new technical director after losing out on the Bafana coaching job to Igesund.
A Safa executive committee member said yesterday: "Contrary to the very misleading reports that claimed the job was going to Steve, his presentation was actually more in line with what we want from a technical director than from a Bafana coach."