Bafana Bafana

Stuart Baxter is a good choice for Bafana, but...

Will Stuart Baxter take Bafana to Utopia?  (Aubrey Kgakatsi, BackpagePix)
Will Stuart Baxter take Bafana to Utopia? (Aubrey Kgakatsi, BackpagePix)

Johannesburg - Stuart Baxter ticks all but one of the 10 criteria the SA Football Association (Safa) needs to be met by the right man for the top job.

The only aspect the Englishman lacks is that he does not possess international experience “especially in Africa” of a minimum of five to 10 years.

At face value, the 63-year-old seems a perfect fit. But is he as perfect as it looks on the surface?

To get an answer, one would need to pose a few questions:

. Is he the right choice?

. Is the timing correct?

. Does he tick all the right boxes as per Safa’s criteria?

. Why did it take so long to appoint him?

. What is the effect of the delay on the road ahead, including on the journey to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and World Cup qualification?

World Cup qualifiers

Yes, Baxter is the right choice and, as already mentioned, he ticks all but one of the boxes set out for the right candidate.

The key lies in the rest of the questions.

Having fired Shakes Mashaba in December, Safa should have acted immediately – at least by January – to replace him.

This would have given the next person ample time to study the situation and lay the groundwork for the two tough tasks ahead – Bafana Bafana’s qualification for next year’s Fifa World Cup in Russia and the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

Currently, South Africa is second in Group D of the World Cup qualifiers with four points – equal to Burkina Faso – with favourites Senegal in third with three points. Cape Verde, who still needs to collect a point, is in fourth.

Bafana Bafana will have back-to-back matches against Cape Verde in the last weekend of August and over the first weekend of September.

There is also still the slightly thorny issue of the question mark hovering over the match against Senegal, in which Fifa found that the referee manipulated the proceedings that ended with South Africa winning 2-1.

While the whistleman has been banned for life, the world football governing body has remained mum on the outcome of the match.

Dicey situation

Still on the timing, Baxter will only be free to join Safa after SuperSport United play their last league match on May 27. This scenario might change should United make it to the Nedbank Cup final, which is pencilled in for June 24.

Baxter has said he would like to lead the team to the World Cup, which is every football coach’s dream.

However, his bosses might not make it easy for him – they have already reneged on their promise that the next incumbent would have a free hand at selecting his own technical team.

Besides helping the national team qualify for the World Cup, Baxter will have the Afcon qualifiers, where his side is pitted against Nigeria, Libya and the Seychelles in Group E, to contend with.

Given all this background, the verdict is that Baxter is the right man for the job, however, is the situation conducive for him to deliver the goods?

Therein lies the rub. It is a dicey situation that can go either way.

The nation will have to play a game of wait and see.

Instead of being given time to start on a steady footing, Baxter has been handed a task that leaves him no choice but to hit the ground running.

With a penchant for experienced players, this might also put him on a collision course with his employers, whose Vision 2022 emphasises youth development.

He will have to use all the skills he acquired in his playing days as a midfielder. He seems to know exactly where the goalposts are – he scored 97 goals in 226 appearances between 1973 and 1984.

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