Stuart Baxter. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Stuart Baxter. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Stuart Baxter has warned that South African football needs to plan against club fixture congestion so Bafana Bafana avoid underperforming.

New Bafana coach Baxter has urged the South African Football Association and the Premier Soccer League (PSL) to continue working together to balance fixture congestion and the interests of national teams. He cited English underperformance as a result of congestion.

"The English national team has never really fulfilled what everybody expects of it‚" the former England Under-20 coach said ahead of his first match with Bafana, the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Nigeria in Uyo on June 10.

"One of the reasons is that their programme is so hectic that, by the time they have a qualification‚ they do well in the early parts but then fall away.

"We’ve got to get our house in the best possible order‚ so that we give our boys the best possible chance.

"Not where if clubs do well on the continent it’ll cost them so much they’ll be out of domestic honours for the next four years.

"The same with Bafana. While Nigeria have camped in France for three weeks‚ playing against Corsica and Togo‚ I’ve got to pick up SuperSport and Sundowns players who play on June 2 [in the Confederation Cup and Champions League]‚ and Bafana meet up on June 4.

"SuperSport’s players fly back from [Democratic Republic of] Congo‚ they land‚ and I’ve got to put them into a demanding camp‚ then play Nigeria away.

"If we want to do this properly everybody has got to be on the same page so we give the national team‚ the clubs‚ and most importantly the players‚ every chance to reproduce the sort of form that will take us where we want to go."

These are lofty ideas. But even in the past PSL season — which was a scheduling nightmare — there were areas that could have been improved.

The PSL has continued to improve markedly in making allowances for the national cause‚ seen again last season with a late start in August to aid the SA U-23s at the Rio Olympics‚ complicating their scheduling even further.

But the league persisted with a Christmas break‚ extending the season‚ which in turn will affect Bafana’s preparations against Nigeria.

The PSL’s continued insistence‚ too‚ in bowing to sponsors’ demands to stage cup competitions on a league fixtures-free week or weekend also creates unnecessary congestion.

TMG Digital

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