Personal tragedies which have befallen five Mpumalanga men prompted them to take a 319km journey to .
Two months before the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund says the national football side cannot call themselves a team.
South Africa went down 1-0 to Afcon champions Zambia in the Nelson Mandela Challenge at FNB Stadium on Wednesday night after a second-half Collins Mbesuma strike ended Igesund’s 100 percent record against African opponents.
The coach, appointed in July, bemoaned Bafana’s lack of time together after they had gathered in Johannesburg on Sunday evening and had a single training session on Tuesday ahead of the Challenge fixture.
“The difference between the two teams is that they (Zambia) are a team,” Igesund said after the loss.
“They have been together for maybe three years or so and we’ve been together for three months, five games and eight training sessions.
“We are 23 players that have been put together and we haven’t done our set pieces, we haven’t done our counter-attacking, we haven’t done a lot of stuff.
“This will say it by itself — if you have five games and you have eight training sessions, one training session with the team before the game, what do you do?
“You can’t train out there for six hours, but these aren’t excuses.”
Igesund believed his side had not been outplayed by Chipolopolo, but he admitted that South Africa failed to create enough goal scoring opportunities and lacked solid combinations throughout the team.
“Personally, I don’t think they were much better than us in certain departments,” he said.
“The game tonight was a little bit disappointing because I don’t think we created enough opportunities.
“The combination plays weren’t there in situations, the understanding between players wasn’t great.
“We missed a little bit of creativity in the middle of the park and we didn’t really create enough chances, although we did have a couple.”
The South Africans were kept under pressure by their visitors and lacked the final touches in the Zambian half, resulting in a disjointed attack when they were allowed forward movement.
“We didn’t get in behind them and we didn’t really create a lot of chances. We could have done a lot better in our offensive play,” Igesund said.
“It was unfortunate because we had two injuries to the two strikers (Bernard Parker and Tokelo Rantie).
“We’ve got the backbone of the team, I think, and there are certain areas in which we have to really improve.”
A quiet first half was followed by a more lively second period, with the hosts looking more likely to score, before Orlando Pirates’ Mbesuma beat goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune in the 64th minute.
“At the end of the day, it was a very good exercise, a very good game against some very good opponents,” Igesund said.
“We wanted to win the game. We tried our hardest to do that, but I think Mbesuma scored a wonderful goal.
“We should have dealt with it a bit better before it got to him, but at the end of the day, that’s how it is and I just think we need to have more time on the training field.
“It was a tough, tough game and under the circumstances, it wasn’t bad.”
While he was disappointed by Wednesday’s result, Igesund said the team was on track and would continue to prepare for next year’s Afcon tournament, which will be played in South Africa. “Obviously I’m disappointed because we wanted to win the game and get a bit of momentum going,” he said. “We were beaten [Wednesday] night and we would have liked to have won, but it’s part of the programme.
“It’s part of the process to get to where we want to be.”