Bafana Bafana

Baxter not shy ahead of 2nd Bafana stint

Stuart Baxter (Gallo Images)
Stuart Baxter (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - His contract as Bafana Bafana coach was not renewed by SAFA after the national team failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany while under his tenure.

But likeable, articulate Stuart Baxter has shown he is seemingly not an adherent of the old maxim "once bitten, twice shy" by now accepting what appears a tricky second term as the Bafana mentor.

The rambling, long-delayed SAFA decision on a new Bafana coach was confirmed last week after five months of hazy, indecisive speculation since the sacking of Shakes Mashaba.

While not at all unexpected following the recent announcement that SAFA was involved in negotiations with the SuperSport United and former Kaizer Chiefs coach, the decision has not been hailed with what might be described as unanimous enthusiasm.

The main reason for this is the fact that Baxter was by no means the indecisive SAFA's first choice after pursuing half-a-dozen other candidates without success because of financial and other obstacles.

Although unconfirmed, another former Bafana coach and currently ensconced in a notably successful tenure as Iran's national coach, Carlos Queiroz, was widely hoisted as SAFA's first choice and in a poll recently conducted by News24, it was Bidvest Wits coach, Gavin Hunt, who was the popular favourite.

For all this, Baxter is a man of undoubted integrity and experience and is clearly prepared to roll up his sleeves and take on the second opportunity for him to help Bafana reach a World Cup Final tournament - namely the one in Russia next year.

Indeed, if SAFA and SuperSport media releases are to be believed, this was the main motivation behind Baxter taking on the tricky undertaking with Bafana instead of what appeared the relatively more stable and secure position he has in the PSL - although clearly a more lucrative financial package had something to do with it as well.

However, Baxter's task should not be minimised, particularly because he must kick off as the Bafana coach with the testing away CAF Nations Cup qualifying game against Nigeria early in June under the somewhat bizarre condition that he remains the SuperSport United coach as well until the end of the month.

Baxter's success will ultimately be measured by an unforgiving South African soccer public on whether Bafana make it to the 2018 World Cup and the 2019 African Nations Cup - not to mention the less high-profiled and significant 2018 CHAN Cup to complicate matters further.

Then there are the potential dark clouds hanging over Bafana regarding the possibility of the controversial home World Cup victory over favoured Senegal being replayed because of a crooked referee - and the resolute Mashaba still stoically trying to win back his job through a CCMA Arbitration proceeding and maybe also the law courts.

So it might well be appropriate at this juncture to wish Baxter the best of luck in his bold undertaking. He may well need it!

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