OPINION | Stuart Baxter must go - Finish and klaar
Stuart Baxter must go. Enough excuses. That is where we are. Klaar.
Every situation and scenario is‚ of course‚ always more complicated than that statement; those four words.
It’s easy to say: “Stuart Baxter must go”.
But what then?
Who do we replace him with who can turn this schizophrenic‚ mentally unstable Bafana Bafana into consistent performers capable of realising their potential and competing for an Africa Cup of Nations?
Even in that paragraph‚ there are issues to unpack.
Bafana have potential?
The answer‚ contrary to the kneejerk reaction towards negativity‚ is yes. This young crop do.
They can compete for a Nations Cup? Under the right coach‚ yes.
Is firing Baxter complicated? Only if we make it.
After a goalless draw against Seychelles‚ Baxter making as many tactical mistakes as he did‚ at this stage of his tenure‚ and then returning and making the excuses he did about ball boys and the artificial pitch‚ that is the only conclusion that can be reached.
Baxter has to go.
Perhaps not this week. Or this month.
There is a game against Nigeria at FNB Stadium on November 17.
Baxter may win it‚ as he did‚ 2-0‚ in his first game back in June 2017 for Bafana’s first competitive victory over the Super Eagles at the beginning of this Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign.
The start of what is now simply a too unimpressive tenure to be sustained.
A win would see Bafana qualify for the Afcon. On the evidence of the past 18 months‚ that will only be prolonging the inevitable.
Examine the facts in the cold light of day.
Baxter was castigated for taking charge of a 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign from Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba last year that had started with an away draw against Burkina Faso and home win against Senegal‚ which was blown to pieces by his back-to-back defeats against Cape Verde Islands.
Mistakes were made in starting line-ups‚ substitutions and tactical approach that were comprehensively reported on at the time. Leaving his best attacking players on the bench in the crucial second game in Durban was the most notable‚ to jog the memory.
If there was the mitigating factor that those were only Baxter’s second and third competitive games in charge‚ there cannot be now for Seychelles‚ a year-and-a-half into the tenure.
A turnaround from a triumphant 6-0 thrashing on Saturday at FNB Stadium to the 0-0 draw in Seychelles might prompt the sentiment that the players have a responsibility to share. They do.
Lebogang Mothiba hit the crossbar from an open goal. How does a team go from 6-0 vanquishers to unable to get on the scoresheet?
But Baxter’s tactical mistakes – which he‚ in character‚ did not even come close to owning up to – were too numerous. And it was not for the first time. (It’s now for the past acceptable time).
In Cape Verde shaky Ronwen Williams was selected in goal‚ and there were iffy substitutions. The panicky call-ups for veterans Siphiwe Tshabalala‚ Morgan Gould and Clayton Daniels‚ resulting in wooden performances against Senegal‚ when young fearless talent was needed.
In Seychelles‚ Dino Ndlovu came in for the mobile Maphosa Modiba to play as a poorer version of Mothiba‚ alongside him in a centre-forward pairing‚ as Bafana played in crosses to the two in a strategy that was not working.
Phakamani Mahlambi‚ whose pace could have pulled Seychelles out of shape‚ should have been ahead of Ndlovu in the pecking order in both matches. He did not play a minute.
Ndlovu should not have been called up. He plays in the second division in China‚ for Pete's sake. He scored as a substitute at FNB against a Seychelles already vanquished‚ which meant nothing. His call-up was a joke. His fielding was a bad punchline.
Baxter made just one substitution in Victoria when his crossing strategy was not working‚ bringing on Modiba‚ who then took two shots at goal. Percy Tau and Mothiba’s partnership at FNB was praised by Baxter. Why move Tau outside in Victoria?
Those were the glaring errors. Others – Hlompho Kekana playing no role‚ Thamsanqa Mkhize perhaps being a better right-back than Ramahlwe Mphahlele – are debatable.
The players must take some responsibility. Bafana’s embarrassing string of chameleon performances has persisted through coaches. But when a coach make this many mistakes‚ it is exacerbated.
South African football needs to treat the symptom and not the cause‚ and have a better class of player coming through. But trying to find justifications for Baxter’s mistakes in too many games is no longer viable‚ whatever the symptoms.
The SA Football Association (Safa) are unlikely to have the guts to fire Baxter when qualification for Cameroon 2019 is still on the cards with Bafana in second place.
Probably Safa will at least hedge their bets until the Nigeria game against a vastly different Super Eagles from the one that froze in Uyo‚ who actually did‚ unlike Bafana‚ reach Russia 2018.
A defeat at FNB might be the excuse the association are waiting for‚ with time to search for a replacement before the next qualifier in March. Probably even with a loss they will remain inactive.
What seems apparent‚ though‚ is that Bafana are not progressing under a coach who was hired as a cheap option when twice-Afcon winner Herve Renard was available.
A coach who has apparently been in negotiations with Kaizer Chiefs and SuperSport United for returns to his previous clubs‚ indicating even he does not believe he is completely up to the Bafana job. Three wins in eight competitive games (qualifiers)‚ with four defeats and a draw‚ is poor.
South Africa might qualify for Cameroon 2019. But surely they cannot make an impact there. And qualification alone is not enough for there to be some feeling of progression from the national team.
It is hard for Safa to fire a coach simply in anticipation of such a failure. Reduced to the base element‚ though‚ a draw against Seychelles is unacceptable‚ in any circumstances‚ under any conditions.
Any other message sent out by Safa is unacceptable‚ too.