Baxter back on Kaizer Chiefs’ bench in Champions League final

Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter.
Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

In a potential psychological boost to Kaizer Chiefs, Stuart Baxter will be on the bench when they meet Al Ahly in the Caf Champions League final at Stade Mohamed in Casablanca on Saturday night.

This was revealed as it was Baxter who took the pre-match press conference along with his captain‚ Bernard Parker‚ virtually beamed back to SA from Morocco on Friday.

Strangely‚ attempts to secure information from Chiefs ahead of their Thursday departure for North Africa on whether Baxter’s work permit had come through were unsuccessful  as the club seemed reluctant to reveal that.

It was almost as if Chiefs wanted to unveil some form of “secret weapon” on Pitso Mosimane’s nine-time and defending champions Al Ahly on the eve of a match where Amakhosi‚ who had never reached the group stage‚ are the rank underdogs.

The psychological effect of having Baxter on the bench could be that it might freak out Al Ahly’s players to some extent. The then-Bafana Bafana coach oversaw the shock of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt when SA stunned the hosts 1-0 in the last-16 in front of 75‚000 home supporters at Cairo International Stadium.

Baxter was asked if he had been given any mandate to try to win the Champions League.

“We are all aware of the situation at the club in terms of where we stood in the PSL‚ and how long we had travelled in the Champions League‚” he said‚ referring to Amakhosi’s eighth-placed finish in the DStv Premiership in their unprecedented sixth season without a trophy.

“But I think once I’d agreed to come back to the club it was just a question of‚ ‘Well‚ let’s get you on the bench as quickly as we can’.

“And in the interim I was doing whatever I could. I had a work permit but it was with Safa. So I was allowed to work in SA but not officially because of all the paperwork.

“ I did whatever I could to prepare the team in the interim. Then when the work permit came through officially‚ I cannot sit on the bench.

“It was probably one of the most nervous times of my career to have to sit on the stands and watch the team you were responsible for playing without you.

“But the boys did a great job‚ the boys lifted their spirits and made a great feast of understanding the few things we put down.

“I’m happy to be back on the bench and looking forward to the game immensely.”

Chiefs have Baxter‚ along with Arthur Zwane and Dillon Sheppard – the caretakers who so effectively steered Amakhosi through their semifinal shock of Wydad Athletic – as a brains trust on the bench on Saturday night (kickoff 8pm in Morocco‚ 9pm SA time).