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'Stuart Baxter doesn’t kick the ball', says SAFA technical director Tovey

06 December 2017 - 14:46 By Sazi Hadebe
Coach Stuart Baxter of Bafana Bafana with Neil Tovey during the South African national soccer team training session at FNB Stadium on August 16, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Coach Stuart Baxter of Bafana Bafana with Neil Tovey during the South African national soccer team training session at FNB Stadium on August 16, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

If you thought Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter was going to be hauled over the coals after his team's failure to qualify for 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia‚ then think again.

South African Football Association (Safa) technical director Neil Tovey said on Wednesday Baxter’s future was never under scrutiny when they met him this week to review Bafana’s disastrous World Cup qualifying campaign.

“Not at one moment‚ no‚” said an agitated Tovey.

Asked why Baxter's future was not discussed after Bafana failed to qualify for a second World Cup in a row‚ Tovey echoed the beleaguered Bafana coach and said it was never the Briton's mandate to get the team to Russia.

“That wasn’t his mandate (to take Bafana to Russia)… he’s only been in this job for seven months‚" Tovey said.

"Should we keep replacing the coach?

"You’re (media) the same people that were criticizing Safa on how many coaches we’ve had for so many years.

“We selected him (Baxter) for a reason.

"Sometimes we have to look at players.

"He (Baxter) doesn’t kick the ball. It doesn’t mean the strategies were wrong.

"You can’t go beat Nigeria in Nigeria and suddenly become a bad team.

“You’ve got to look at the players. The players have to wake up and look at themselves. Are they giving enough?”

Tovey said he was still very much confident of Baxter’s ability to take Bafana forward.

“Yes I’m confident‚" Tovey said.

"I see how he works and going forward I’ve confidence in him.

"It’s about the application of the players. The players have to bloody wake up.

"And I’m being honest here. They’ve got to ask themselves if they’re doing enough.

“You know it’s always easy to point fingers at the coach. But those players have to start pointing fingers at themselves.

"They really have to get a big awakening because they’ve got so much potential. But they need to get their heads right and need to wake up.”

About the team not qualifying for the World Cup‚ what was the technical committee’s feeling?

“We are obviously not happy or the country happy about not qualifying and he’s not happy as a coach about us not going to the World Cup‚" he said.

"But that was never a question on whether he’s going to stay or not.

“Our meeting was all about what were the pitfalls? What went wrong? How can we correct them?

"There were a whole lot of things‚ mainly touching on how we going to develop the players and make them ready to play for Bafana.”

Baxter praised his team’s dominance of matches they didn’t win a few weeks ago and Tovey sang from the same hymn book.

“I think the national team mainly let themselves down in big match moments‚" the Safa Technical Director said.

"I mean everybody saw that we dominated against Senegal and we are a better team than Senegal‚ but we didn’t qualify.

“That doesn’t help (not qualifying). It doesn’t help being a better team but you don’t qualify.

"So where did we go wrong? You have to look at the mentality of the players. Have we got the right players?”

Tovey added that they did touch on Baxter’s selection and how he’s got to think about it in the coming eight months in which Bafana will not have a competitive match until September 7.

“He must keep the solid foundation and discard those he thinks failed to do the job for him in the qualifiers.

"I can’t talk names because I’m not talking from a coach’s perspective.”