Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter returned this week from an information-gathering and relationship-strengthening tour of the French clubs where SA players are based.
Baxter visited the clubs of Lebogang Mothiba (RC Strasbourg)‚ Keagan Dolly (Montpellier HSC) and Bongani Zungu (Amiens SC).
“I was in France [to visit] Keagan Dolly‚ Lebo Mothiba and Bongani Zungu. Lebogang Phiri [at EA Guingamp] was injured and not playing, so I didn’t get to see him this time around.
“I was visiting some of the clubs that have got our injured players‚” Baxter said.
“I wanted to see Lebo Mothiba’s club because I think he’s going to be an important player for a long time for SA.
“I went to Montpellier and met their physiotherapist and got an update on Keagan’s injury. I met Bongani Zungu’s sporting director at Amiens.
“Then I went to Strasbourg‚ just to watch Lebo Mothiba train, and I sat with his coach [Thierry Laurey] and president [Marc Keller] and asked: ‘Are you happy with everything — what can we do for you’? It was good. And I think that relationship we have there is going to be vital going forward. I don’t think Strasbourg will be his final destination — I think he’ll move on.”
Baxter returned to the news that Safa had agreed‚ pending government approval‚ to replace Cameroon as next year’s Africa Cup of Nations hosts.
He said he would travel to see some of SA’s emerging young talent based in Portugal in December or January.
“When I go back [to his home in Sweden] and celebrate Christmas‚ on the way back to SA I’m going to go and visit a few of the younger players, like Luther Singh and Thabo Cele in Portugal‚” Baxter said.
“I’ve got to get around and figure out how we can turn these young guys into players we can use for Qatar [the 2022 World Cup].
“I’ve got to see how they’re progressing‚ if they are having any problems at the club that we need to know about?
“How do the clubs see their development‚ do they see them as a No 9 or a No 10?
“I think we need to co-operate on that and the clubs need to be viewed more as partners and as friends.
“I’ve tried to do it with the South African clubs‚ and now I need to get around to the European clubs — because very often they can turn out to be the stumbling blocks,” Baxter said.