Baxter lost confidence he could take Bafana forward

02 August 2019 - 14:51 By Marc Strydom
Stuart Baxter announces his retirement as Bafana Bafana coach at a press conference in Johannesburg on Friday August 2 2019.
Stuart Baxter announces his retirement as Bafana Bafana coach at a press conference in Johannesburg on Friday August 2 2019.
Image: Gavin Barker/Backpagepix

Stuart Baxter no longer had confidence that his input would “help forward the project” for Bafana Bafana‚ he said on his resignation as national team coach on Friday.

Strangely‚ Baxter’s announcement was made at a privately-called press conference‚ arranged by his agent‚ Steve Kapeluschnik‚ at Killarney Country Club on Friday‚ rather than the SA Football Association headquarters at Safa House.

The coach‚ who guided Bafana to the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt last month‚ read from a written statement‚ the full contents of which were: “I’ve spent the last few weeks after Afcon reflecting on all aspects of our performance‚ and the way forward.

“Firstly I will say that given the compromised preparations that they had‚ both the players and staff gave a strong account of themselves and that this time‚ in the rebuilding of this squad‚ the experience of this tournament will support future development.

“In the disappointment of not qualifying for Russia [the 2018 World Cup]‚ I submitted a four-step plan to Safa.

“Phase one was the rebuilding of the squad‚ both in terms of average age‚ deepening the squad‚ and improving the culture surrounding the squad.

“Going into Afcon this squad had not lost in a year-and-a-half and that was of course not an easy thing to do‚ whilst introducing new players‚ and new ideas.

“I’m sure that you guys [the media] would have been licking your lips if during that process we would have been losing every other game.

“Going to this Afcon became Phase two. After qualifying for that major tournament‚ we needed to gain the confidence and experience to be able to compete at the highest level again‚ and to test our in-tournament strategies.

“Phase three would be to gain momentum. And I believe that this squad is now well-placed to do that with the introduction of a few younger players who have been identified from the younger squads.

“And Phase four was obviously to make in impact at the [2022] World Cup.

“I do‚ however‚ feel that someone else should now continue this project‚ and therefore I will be resigning from my position as head national coach at Safa.

“I feel that I cannot continue to work with the required professionalism and passion as I have done‚ and to deal with the many issues that will be involved with this programme.

“A coach must have confidence that his input will help forward the project. And at this moment in time‚ and particularly after the experience of Afcon‚ my belief in that process is weakened considerably.

“I have chosen not to point fingers in the past‚ and will not do that now. I’m a professional and even when it would have been easier for me personally to blame others I have remained focused on what I could do to affect the situation and trying to retain a level of integrity.

“Choosing not to answer some hugely inaccurate‚ misinformed and misleading media coverage has also been difficult. But it’s something that I have grown used to and tried to not allow it to sway my judgment‚ but in the process risking being accused of being arrogant or aloof for not answering.

“I would like to thank each and every player who has played under me with Bafana in the last couple of years‚ and wish them all the best in their continued national careers.

“For their part everyone at Safa House will need to work together with other major stakeholders effectively. And I would like to thank Russell [Paul‚ Safa’s acting CEO] and the president [Danny Jordaan]‚ and wish them good luck for the future with Vision 2022.”

Bafana were mediocre reaching the last-16 of the Nations Cup as the 16th-best of the four best third-placed group stage finishers.

They then produced arguably their best performance in 20 years shocking hosts Egypt 1-0 to reach the quarterfinals.

They lost 2-1‚ conceding the losing goal in the 89th minute‚ in their quarterfinal against Nigeria.