Baxter says he’s just about decided his future. Bafana played five matches at the AFCON, lost three and won two, including the famous win against the hosts Egypt at the Cairo international stadium. But the 2-1 loss to Nigeria in the quarter-final, is most likely to have been the Baxter’s last Bafana match in his second stint.
Long before this tournament, the signs were there, that the South African Football Association (SAFA) and Baxter don’t share the same vision.
It was for the first time the team had qualified to the AFCON since 2015 and also won its first knockout stages match in 19 years.
But after their first loss to Ivory Coast in the opening game, SAFA President Danny Jordaan didn’t mince his words that they needed a coach with a long term vision.
Prior to this tournament, Baxter had promised to bring three to four youngsters from the COSAFA U23 squad.
But come the day of the announcement, there was not even an explanation why that promise was not followed.
Samuel Chukwueze, who scored and got the man of the match award for the Super Eagles against Bafana, is a member of the 2015 FIFA U17 World Cup squad where Nigeria were crowned champions.
Amajimbos under Molefi Ntseki were part of that tournament and majority of those players have since been to two FIFA U20 World Cups and there’s been an Olympic team as well. But still, Bafana had the second oldest team at this tournament.
Baxter has been complaining about not having had enough preparatory matches coming to this AFCON as they only played Ghana in a behind closed doors training match.
He said this affected their performances in the earlier matches as they used those games to warm-up to the tournament as most of the players last played competitive football six weeks before the tournament started.
SAFA is reported to had lined-up warm-up matches against Zambia, Uganda, Egypt and Ghana but that was before Baxter was alleged to have changed the preparation plans for the AFCON.
Very soon, the AFCON 2021 qualifiers, 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers will be starting and there’s no doubt that the current Bafana team needs to be refreshed. The less said about Baxter’s comments about South Africa as a country to the British media the day before Nigeria’s game, the better.
He was also clear in the article that he’s fishing for something elsewhere and there’s been rumours of a possible link to China and the chapter of Kaizer Chiefs has never been closed.
No matter what happens, SAFA should equally take the blame for the second stint of the Baxter era.
He never met the criteria in the first place and didn’t make the shortlist for the job. Under him, the continuity plan from junior national teams to the senior national team died a natural death.
The dithering on technical matters at SAFA needs to stop or the country’s senior national team will never succeed at the top level. Bafana legend, Mark Fish had a title of being an opposition scout at this AFCON but on the day our potential opponents were playing, Nigeria and Cameroon, he was sitting on the bench and not in Alexandria, why?
An FA serious about technical matters can’t let critical things like these go unnoticed, not in the modern day of international football. – Report by Velile Mnyandu in Cairo, Egypt