Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

GORDON Igesund will remain as Bafana Bafana coach despite falling short of his contractual obligation.

When he was appointed on a two-year contract as national football coach last June, Igesund was told Bafana must at least reach the semifinals of the African Nations Cup.

On Saturday night the team fell agonisingly short, losing on penalties against Mali in the quarterfinals. But the coach has found many forgiving people, not least of whom is South African Football Association (Safa) president Kirsten Nematandani. "They (Bafana) were the better side on (Saturday night), so to me, they have gone into the semifinals, but not a recognised semifinal."

He said Safa was not necessarily letting Igesund off the hook.

"His contract is subject to what is happening around us. We want to be more patient with coaches in future, but at the same time a coach must give you results," he said.

"We gave him a (semifinals) mandate in the Nations Cup because we always want to aim high. It was a very clear goal and we saw they were almost there, but not quite."

Nematandani hinted that Igesund could also be given a new target: qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, to be held in Russia.

The football boss said there was "nothing wrong with shifting the goal posts", as long as the coach built on the foundations laid at this year’s Nations Cup.

Nematandani said Igesund, who is a four-time Premier League winner, was "the best in the country".

"You don’t want to dismantle something that shows so much potential," said Nematandani. "A coach’s period should always be long term, and ideally when you stretch (the mandate) to two World Cups, then you are probably giving him a better chance of success."

The president said he believed in continuity. "In eight years a coach might have more of an impact on a national team. Actually, experts will tell you that a target that is as far ahead as 2022 should be set and we are already nine years from that World Cup," Nematandani said.

Igesund’s upcoming challenge is to guide Bafana to next year’s World Cup in Brazil. South Africa have two points from the same number of matches collected after successive draws against Ethiopia and Botswana last year in qualifiers. Bafana are third in their group.

The Central African Republic complete South Africa’s group and are Bafana’s next opponents on March 22 and again on June 7.

A return leg against Ethiopia, the only team from the group to also participate in the Nations Cup besides hosts South Africa, is set for June 14. In September Bafana host Botswana.

Meanwhile, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Monday that Safa has to develop a scientific approach to the game if it hopes for the national team to compete at the highest level.

"We will solicit expert and scientific advice from leading thinkers in the field of sport sciences with a view to examine in a holistic sense the size, shape and strengths of our football players, nutrition, access to modern technology, sports psychology, early childhood preparations for high performance sports, and so on," Mbalula said on Monday.

South Africa also needed to make use of the lessons learned in major competitions, but a long-term plan was necessary to achieve success in global competitions. "It’s time now for all role players in football to go back to the drawing board. We have started the building blocks on a positive note and can see a ray of hope.

"We need to draw our lessons from this … tournament as we prepare for the qualifiers of the Fifa World Cup 2014 in Brazil, but we need to urgently work on a long-term strategy for a scientific athlete development plan."

Safa needed to work with "highly successful codes", such as rugby and cricket, to share ideas, Mbalula said. He called on South Africans to support the Nations Cup tournament, despite the absence of Bafana in the remaining matches.

With Sapa