Bafana Bafana

SA football crisis: Did SAFA learn anything from Stuart Baxter's exit?

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Stuart Baxter. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)
Stuart Baxter. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)
  • A pall of despair has since descended over South African football after yet another Bafana Bafana coach was sacked.
  • Molefi Ntseki was fired on Wednesday after failing to reach the Nations Cup tournament in Cameroon next year.
  • It appears SAFA learnt little from ex-Bafana coach Stuart Baxter's acrimonious exit less than two years ago.

On Wednesday, the South African Football Association (SAFA) sacked Bafana Bafana head coach Molefi Ntseki just shy of 20 months since Stuart Baxter was frustrated into quitting the same post in August 2019.

While Baxter successfully sent South Africa to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt, where they ousted the hosts in the Round of 16, it wasn't enough to prevent another catastrophic coaching exit – one of many since SA's sporting readmission.

SAFA hired Baxter's then-assistant Ntseki, the former national men's Under-17 coach, Serame Letsoaka's former Under-20 assistant and Shakes Mashaba's ex-deputy when Bafana made the 2015 AFCON tournament.

Ntseki was hired under the guise of continuity, but he, too, fell on his sword after failing to guide Bafana to the 2022 AFCON in Cameroon when Bafana were beaten 2-0 by Sudan in Khartoum.

A pall of despair has since descended over South African football. Many have questioned whether things will ever get right with the organisation that runs football in the country or whether they learnt anything from past failures.

READ | Who will be the next Bafana coach?

SAFA technical committee chair Jack Maluleka, who was used as a human shield against the media firing squad at SAFA House on Wednesday, said Baxter submitted a report that formed the basis for Ntseki's appointment when Baxter left.

"Yes, Baxter submitted a report to the technical committee," said Maluleka.

"He resigned on a Friday and the same Saturday we had a technical committee meeting where he submitted a report and was part of the meeting, even though he had resigned.

"He was still on duty because that report belongs to the organisation. That report was used in the process of hiring Ntseki.

"According to the technical committee, Ntseki was a relevant appointment at the time and did well for this organisation. And he is knowledgeable.

"We recommended him to be hired on the basis of continuity.

"Unfortunately, the issue of qualification is part of football and we did not qualify. In terms of his contractual obligations, he was supposed to qualify."

Baxter skated around some fundamental issues when he departed, citing the word "respect" numerous times in his exit press conference in Killarney.

He also said he felt he could no longer do his job with the same passion and professionalism he is accustomed to and felt it was best to leave the job for the second time in his career.

"I feel that I cannot continue to work with the required professionalism and passion like I have done, and to deal with the many issues that will be involved with this problem," Baxter said in 2019.

"A coach must have confidence that his input will help move the project forward, and at this moment in time, particularly after the (2019) AFCON experience, my belief in that process is weakened considerably."

The only constant in South African football's demise is the administrators in charge.

READ | Jordaan no-show as Maluleka 'thrown under the bus' at Ntseki's sacking

SAFA president Danny Jordaan was a no-show at Ntseki's axing announcement and didn't answer Sport24 requests for comment.

It means whoever takes over from Ntseki faces the same myopic approach and hand-to-mouth planning that ultimately sees Bafana trip up at the last hurdle and the coach getting sacked.

Bafana is trapped in this cyclical lose-lose game where, no matter the coach and players available, there's a new person in charge of the men's national team every 18 months to two years – if that.

SAFA CEO Tebogo Motlanthe pretty much confirmed that there was much to fear ahead of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers for Qatar 2022 that begin this winter.

"Every contract will have deliverables and part of those is making sure we get a coach who will be able to take us further from where Ntseki left the team," said Motlanthe.

"We need a coach who will take us to the World Cup. That will be part of the requirements.

"We aim for success; we don't aim for failure. We cannot say that we will give him a chance if he does not qualify. We will look for a quality coach who will improve the fortunes.

"The country is proud when we qualify. We have done it with juniors and we want Bafana also to go back there."

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