/ 12 November 2007

Tough test ahead for Igesund

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Gordon Igesund faces arguably the toughest test of all Premier Soccer League (PSL) coaches as he guides his team towards a third consecutive league title as well as a third cup final this year.

Sundowns beat Free State Stars 2-1 in the Telkom Knockout semifinal on Sunday. On Monday morning, after travelling from Kimberley by car that same evening, the four-time league winning coach was back at Chloorkop, the club’s headquarters, for a training session.

”The better the team becomes, the more challenges you face and have to accept,” Igesund said. ”We’ll be playing our third cup final this year, we’re on track retaining our league title and it’s tough. But being a successful team, and a club that wants success, brings about these kind of challenges.”

Since October 31, Sundowns have played three Absa Premier League (APL) games and one cup match, and on Wednesday they face Kaizer Chiefs in Durban for another APL game. They beat Bloemfontein Celtic (1-0) and Orlando Pirates (2-1), and drew with Santos (1-1) in the APL matches.

”We’ve played, or going to play, five games in 15 days,” Igesund said. ”We have just returned from Kimberley and tomorrow [Tuesday] we leave again for Durban. It’s hectic.

”We have to stay focused on what we want to do and we are. I’m not going to complain about the fixtures or the travelling, as it is a part of the game.”

The PSL fixtures give the five-time league winners a short break after their game against Chiefs, as they will only be in action 10 days later against Jomo Cosmos.

No complaints

Igesund, who has won the inaugural PSL title with Manning Rangers, says he has accepted what’s coming his way.

”I cannot say how I want the league to be run, even if I did say what I want, we’d still play more games than the rest of the clubs as we are involved in cup games and next year our schedule [games] will increase when we compete in Africa again — so I won’t, or rather cannot, complain about fixtures,” the coach, referring to the continental championships that will be added to his roster early next year.

Igesund believes the league has become much more competitive since he won his first league title in 1996/97.

”The competition in the league has become tougher over the years,” he said. ”The gap between the smaller clubs and bigger clubs is smaller and this has made the competition better. Teams are now sponsored and are managed better, and clubs are more capable of winning silverware as they have more quality players at their disposal.

”Patrice Motsepe [Sundowns owner] has raised the bar in South African football by investing in Sundowns and the players we have, and this is one of the reasons why we are successful. I brought in Trott [Moloto] to strengthen our team and it’s working for us, but others see what we’re doing and can obviously follow our lead.”


Despite the success Igesund is enjoying, the former Pirates and Santos coach hopes his side will have some luck in their quest to win the Telkom Cup and the league.

”By luck I mean less injuries, or no injuries, and no suspensions that will affect the team’s momentum. On Sunday we suffered a big blow when Dillon [Sheppard] broke his leg, we’re also waiting for the return of Surprise [Moriri] and Godfrey [Sapula], who were injured for a while.

”I am confident we’ll do well in the league, I am Mr League, after all,” he said jokingly, and then added seriously: ”Since the start of this campaign it’s been difficult for us [due to injuries], but I believe we have the players and mentality to do this [win the Telkom Cup and league] as we are on track for success in the league.”

With Sheppard and Moriri out, Igesund is looking to strengthen his squad of 25 players when the transfer window opens in January.

”We’ve got good players here, but I need to get another two strikers, another midfielder and maybe another defender or two. These injuries are hampering our plans, but what can I do? It’s part of the game and we’ve accepted it, so we have to move on to the next step and that’s to add more depth to our squad.

”We’ve been down this road before and we’re OK to deal with the situations that we come across.”

Sundowns are fourth on the log with 12 points from eight games, five points behind log leaders Ajax Cape Town. — Sapa