Baxter waits to be axed

Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter knows it’s just a matter of time before he is sacked.

“After one-and-a-half years, I’ve passed the sell-by date of most coaches—they’ve had 12 coaches in 11 years,” Baxter said on Monday. “Sooner or later, I’ll be sacked. It may be now or maybe they’ll wait until the end of the campaign.”

The campaign, to qualify for the next year’s World Cup in Germany, is over after South Africa’s 3-1 loss at the weekend to Burkina Faso.

Now, the team need to secure at least a place in the 2006 African Cup of Nations.

“I am massively disappointed,” Baxter said.
“When you reflect on the performance, at least two goals came after schoolboy errors. Big players need to play big in big games.”

In defence of his players, Baxter said they were under a lot of pressure and criticism from South Africa’s media.

“They fight their club managers to go back and play for the national team and when they get back, they get beaten by the press before they even play,” he said.

The constant pounding from the press affects the players’ performance, Baxter said.

“When you need to stand up and when it counts, it’s hard for them to go to that extra bit—it’s not an excuse, but it may be in the back of their heads,” Baxter said.

Baxter is in the northern German city of Bremen for South Africa’s exhibition match against Germany on Wednesday.

The well-travelled coach, who is English by birth, said meddling by South African Football Association (Safa) officials makes it difficult to coach the team and for the players to perform at their best.

“They [Safa] wanted me to be sacked when we were two points ahead; their culture is to be negative and critical,” Baxter said.

Baxter said he is worried that South Africa’s decline will continue unless the federation starts a coach-education system and youth development—things he tried to push through during his tenure.

When the current crop of older players leaves the scene, probably next year, South Africa will not have enough time to put together a credible team when it stages the 2010 World Cup, he said.

“They’ll be very entertaining, but they’ll get slaughtered,” he said.

Baxter said he has tried to bring in younger players to give them some international exposure looking ahead at 2010, and that qualifying for 2006 should not have been a priority.

But he said the country has a huge wealth of talent that needs to be harnessed and properly schooled.—Sapa-AP

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