Why Stuart Baxter ignored doctor's orders and made Bafana his number one priority

Stuart Baxter resigns as South Africa national team coach during a press conference at the Killarney Country Club, Johannesburg on 02 August 2019.
Stuart Baxter resigns as South Africa national team coach during a press conference at the Killarney Country Club, Johannesburg on 02 August 2019.
Image: ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter revealed at his press conference to announce his resignation that he ignored a cancer scare to oversee the 2-1 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying victory against Libya that saw the national team reach Egypt 2019.

Baxter‚ answering a question on job interest he had said had been expressed in him while he was guiding Bafana to the quarterfinals of last month’s Nations Cup‚ said he ignored doctor’s orders to be part of the crucial closing qualifier in Tunisia in March.

Baxter’s agent‚ Steve Kapeluschnik‚ said the coach turned down two offers – one inside‚ and one outside South Africa – at the Nations Cup.

“I can tell you that there were approaches for Stuart before he left and while he was in Egypt‚” Kapeluschnik said.

“And his response both times was the same – ‘I’m not interested‚ I’m focusing on my job‚ I’m focusing on this Afcon’.

“Those positions were subsequently filled by other coaches. And that shows his commitment to the national team.”

Baxter said‚ in answer to perceived question marks over his commitment to the Bafana job: “Steve’s right‚ I’ve had at least one very lucrative offer. Money’s not my god‚ and therefore I was totally committed.

“When we played Libya‚ the week before we were due to leave I was at a doctor and they said I had cancer.

“They said‚ ‘You need to have an op now’. And I said‚ ‘It can wait. I have to go to Libya. I cannot send the boys without me. I’m their best chance to reach Afcon’.

“So I went. And it was amazingly difficult for me to concentrate knowing that when I got back I would have to have a biopsy‚ and they would tell me if I had cancer or not.

“Now I put that off. And I didn’t do that because I’m a hero. I did that because I’m a professional.

“And so my commitment to the South African cause has been undoubted. Anyone who has called me [about jobs]‚ has received the same answer – ‘As long as I’m the national coach‚ I will not speak to you’.

“And now‚ I don’t know. I’ve got a question about what I will do? I don’t know.

“Maybe I will go back to Europe‚ maybe that’s me done in South Africa‚ maybe not.

“But certainly there are no contingency plans here. Anything that will happen will have to happen from here on in.”

Baxter in his second tenure failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Bafana scraped through the group stage at Egypt 2019‚ shocked the hosts in the last-16‚ then lost 2-1 conceding an 89th-minute losing goal against Nigeria in the quarterfinals.

The coach announced his resignation at a privately-called press conference at Killarney Country Club on Friday.

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