Sun Oct 26 02:17:38 SAST 2014

Bafana coach 'almost quit'

Jan 14, 2013 | KGOMOTSO SETHUSHA and RAMATSIYI MOHOLOA |

BAFANA Bafana head coach Gordon Igesund threatened to quit his job over contractual disputes involving his technical staff three weeks ago, sources within Safa tell us.

And this is allegedly just the tip of the iceberg of niggling issues that could plunge the national team into chaos with only a week to go before the Africa Cup of Nations.

Though Igesund says claims that he threatened to quit three weeks ago are hogwash, reliable sources say he nearly packed his bags and left Safa House just after Christmas.

The tiff was over contracts for his support staffers.

Just this week, Bafana physical trainer Zak van Heerden walked out of his job seething with rage for what he terms "bad treatment" by Safa.

But acting Safa CEO Dennis Mumble smooth-talked Van Heerden back into the Bafana gym. He held a series of meetings with the reputable muscle toner on Thursday.

Mumble also had a glut of meetings with Igesund and his support staff to address their contractual issues. But Igesund maintains the only person who has contractual issues is his new assistant Serame Letsoaka.

"There's no truth in that, not even an iota of truth," says Igesund.

"The thought of quitting never crossed my mind.

"Yes, there were issues of contracts between my technical team and management a couple of weeks ago, but that is being sorted out.

"The only part you got right is that my assistant had to renegotiate his contract after Tommy (Madigage) passed on. Serame (Letsoaka) was elevated to the first full-time assistant coach post and obviously his contract had to be altered.

"Players were given contract proposals to go through and negotiations have been going on very well."

But four different sources within the organisation say none of Igesund's support team, which includes Van Heerden, Letsoaka and goalkeeper coach Alex Heredia have proper working contracts.

On Friday, Mumble also held a meeting with Bafana players, who Sunday World understands are still to sign contracts for the tournament.

Since the players are not signed to the football association, the norm dictates that they sign written agreements way before the final team is even selected.

"That will help avoid a situation where players take to the field without any guarantees," says one source.

"And that is what the players are agitating for at the moment. The CEO addressed them and hopefully some sort of agreement has been reached."

The contract issue surrounding the technical team members has been a spot of bother for Igesund.

Said to be fed up to his eyeballs, he is said to have approached his bosses and told them of his intention to quit.

One of our sources, who is familiar with happenings in the Safa national executive committee (NEC), says vice-president Mwelo Nonkonyana, then acting Safa president following the suspension of president Kirsten Nematandani, intervened and talked Igesund out of leaving.

Nonkonyana's intervention proved decisive as it ensured that the Bafana team's trip to Cape Town for a friendly against Norway was secure.

Nematandani and four senior Safa officials had been suspended in the wake of a Fifa report fingering him in a match-fixing scandal.

Mumble this week resembled Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt as he ran between his office in Nasrec and the team base in Fourways, north of Joburg, working to keep members focused on the bigger picture.

Mumble says: "Gordon is the most reasonable coach I've met in a long time. He works very well with me. Clearly he wasn't happy with the contract issues , but he's open with me.

"He gets emotional, but he hasn't hinted he wants to leave. I actually commend for him standing up for his staff.

"I've just come into office and I've had to prioritise all issues relating to the team to ensure by the time the tournament starts, everything is finalised with regard to contracts.

"One key issue is the player's bonuses. I've met with the players and I've referred the issue to the relevant Safa finance committee.

"I've received substantial guidance from the finance committee and I'm meeting them again and hopefully we'll get to a final decision.

"With regards to Serame, everything is pretty much concluded.

"It's just a matter of time before we put pen to paper."

Safa communications head Dominic Chimhavi says: "I don't know of anyone who doesn't have a contract. We've heard of those allegations and we know they are being peddled by mischievous people.

"The Serame issue was brought to Igesund's attention because he had to work on the finalisation of his assistant's contract. It's not true that Igesund wanted to quit.

"I can't disclose how much the players are getting in bonuses. We don't divulge terms of players' contracts."

Previously, Safa lost the services of knowledgeable coach Simon Ngomane, who quit following a contractual dispute with the association.

Ngomane, who was then coach of locally-based national team popularly known as "AmaBinneplaas", said at the time of his departure that he was "sick and tired of working without a contract".

sethushak@sundayworld.co.za; @Kgomotsso

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