Stuart Baxter wants whole country behind Bafana
Coach disappointed over negative reaction to return despite his record
New Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter says he was taken aback by the negativity that greeted his reappointment to the national team two weeks ago.
The Briton said after winning numerous titles with Kaizer Chiefs and SuperSport United in the past couple of years‚ he did not expect the disapproval that accompanied his return to a job he left in November 2005.
South African Football Association (Safa) president Danny Jordaan and CEO Dennis Mumble introduced Baxter to the media on Monday for the first time since his appointment, disclosing the new coach had been given a five-year contract.
Acknowledging that he took note of the reaction that accompanied his return to Safa House‚ Baxter said he hoped the nation’s soccer lovers would get behind the national team ahead of the difficult 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Nigeria in June.
"I understand the media has a job to do and the criticism is a part of our lives‚ negative and positive‚ but I just want to highlight one thing‚ not Stuart Baxter here‚ and that’s how we can all get behind the national team," he said on Monday.
"Danny [Jordaan] spoke about all of us getting behind the national team.
"One ambition I have while I am national coach is to try and unite the whole football family behind the development of the game in this country. Yes‚ I have got ambitions short-term. I want to win games and I want to qualify this country to big tournaments," he said.
"But on the long-term basis‚ I would love to see this country united," said Baxter.
"I think that if we are united – the Premier Soccer League‚ the clubs‚ the national teams‚ the supporters and the media – we would be united behind a strategy‚ united behind a vision‚ then I think this country would be a powerhouse of Africa and continue to do well in world football," he said.
Baxter’s technical staff was not announced on Monday and Owen Da Gama will probably continue working as his assistant coach in the short term.
And while Baxter will continue with SuperSport until the end of the season‚ a compromise has been reached and the new Bafana coach will not travel with the club to Confederation of African Football matches in the coming weeks.
He will start preparations for June’s Nations Cup encounter against the Super Eagles and national team manager Barney Kujane will get the ball rolling when he travels to Nigeria on Tuesday to begin his inspection of venues and facilities.
Baxter acknowledged his first spell as Bafana coach under former Safa president Molefi Oliphant had its challenges and he was persuaded to return when Jordaan and Mumble gave him an understanding of what they wanted to achieve.
"[Safa’s] Vision 2022 has already started and it was one of the reasons I considered coming back because, as you know, my first period as national coach was not friction-free."
Baxter said he hoped his second stint would be better than the first.
Signalling a huge departure from his sacked predecessor Ephraim "Shakes" Mashaba’s regime‚ Baxter said he would travel to Europe and visit all the South African players plying their trade overseas.
Mashaba was reluctant to visit the overseas-based players and often clashed with Jordaan over the issue.
Baxter also said he would work with Safa technical director Neil Tovey and give him his input — another departure from his predecessor.