Sport

EXCLUSIVE: Baxter’s Afcon report blasts Safa, sports minister

2019-08-11 17:23

But former coach doesn’t own up to national team’s dismal performance.

Ill-fitting suits despite multiple fittings. A minister who was given 40 minutes to motivate players, but only talked about himself. These are just two of the scathing remarks former Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has presented to Safa.

Safa is also not spared a tongue-lashing in the 16-page report Baxter compiled after the recently completed Afcon tournament in Egypt.

“When we came to the end of the camp, we were ‘instructed’ to wear suits when leaving the airport in Joburg. Those same suits had stolen three sessions of fittings during our camp and still not many fitted properly. Mine was still like a clown’s uniform – despite them measuring my own suit – leaving me without a suit after three attempts,” he wrote.

“But, still, we wasted time and energy on matters of total insignificance with no regard to the players.”

Baxter blasted Safa, saying “the build-up to this tournament was the most chaotic I have ever experienced”.

In the report, Baxter speaks of his frustrations before, during and after the tournament in Egypt, but does not take some responsibility for the team’s dismal performances.

Instead, he claims he was made a scapegoat for things he had no control over. The Scotsman also had a full go at Safa president Danny Jordaan and Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa in his report.

The report states that the coach was against the minister speaking to the players just before a game.

“The frustrations due to smoke and mirrors and lack of strategic honesty was both unprofessional and lacking dignity. To have to constantly hear from others the true situation and face the assembled media like a coach who couldn’t make his mind up was both difficult and embarrassing … but to constantly not know if Safa wants to throw you and the squad under the bus or just doesn’t have the money to do the job properly but doesn’t tell you the full picture was immensely frustrating and, on a personal level, I found it very difficult to deal with,” Baxter writes.

“Travel arrangements were in tatters, hotels cannot be booked timeously and we don’t know where we’re camping, kit shortages and disputes with players over both that and financial issues [sic].”

The report says the failure to secure an opponent for a warm-up match before the team’s camp in Dubai put them on the back foot.

In lambasting Jordaan and Mthethwa, Baxter writes: “We must stop allowing people with no idea what they are talking about to be allowed to disturb the players’ mental build-up close to the game. They take no responsibility for what they say and it is more for them than us.

“The minister of sport was allowed to address the players, against my better judgement, on match day at breakfast. He proceeded to delay the players eating by almost 40 minutes and the content of what was said was more for himself than the players. Unnecessary.

“While in camp, we were openly criticised by both our president [Jordaan] and [the] sports minister. And there were leaks to the media pre-match by our chief executive [Russell Paul] to deflect attention from Safa’s shortcomings. This was just some of the nonsense that had to be dealt with.

“During all of this, both the staff and players remained focused on their jobs, but any successes that were achieved, there could have been more, were despite the support systems and not because of them. [Team manager] Barney [Kujane] did his best in ridiculously erratic circumstances.”

Lastly, the report states that the team lost three valuable training sessions due to the fact that they had to spend so much time being fitted for suits.

Then he also takes a swipe at his former employer, Safa.

“What epitomised our lack of respect for the staff and players for me was when we arrived back in Joburg. After completing a solid Afcon and being complimented by many, our own organisation could not even book my flights home to see my family after more than six weeks in camp.

“More smoke and mirrors to deflect responsibility, and even more frustration and stress showing that the same lack of respect that didn’t send our coach to the World Cup or give him a ticket for Sundowns vs Barcelona without conscience were consistent to the end. I raise these issues with no hope of anything being done to rectify anything because it has been like this for the past two years, and I have constantly spoken about such things,” Baxter says.

Technical committee chairperson Jack Maluleke downplayed Baxter’s outburst, saying his report was of value to the organisation. Maluleke praised Baxter for his honesty and elaborate presentation.

“He was very professional in his approach; honest and positive about the future. He took us through all the challenges the team faced from the administration and management sides,” he said.

“From his report, there is a prospect for success in the future and I was happy with his assessment,” Maluleke said, adding that he would invite Baxter to be part of a planned symposium.

“I wish he could be part of the symposium because there are lots of things we learnt from him. The good thing is that he said he would not be lost to South African football and would be available to help when needed,” said Maluleke.

Huge interest in Bafana coaching job

The task team will meet this week to map the way forward in the search for a new Bafana Bafana coach.

Safa technical committee chairperson Jack Maluleke told City Press they have been inundated with CVs from local and foreign coaches interested in the job. 

The task team is made up of Maluleke, Buddha Mathathe, David Nyathi and Sudesh Singh.

Maluleke said: “Some of them sent their CVs even before Stuart [Baxter] announced he was going. And after his announcement last week, many more came. This has shown us that Bafana are a brand that people want to be associated with. Coaching Bafana is a plum job and it is not surprising that there is so much interest. So we are going to meet and come up with the criteria before we whittle them down.

“There are a few things we need to consider before we kick-start the process. I can confirm that there are a few international coaches who have already shown their interest.

“Do we give everybody an opportunity to present or do we headhunt? This is one of the questions we need to answer before we proceed.

“We don’t want to be accused later of leaving some good candidates out. But the task team will meet and decide on the best way to take the process forward,” Maluleke added.

However, he said the process may be prolonged. 

“Initially, we said we should have someone by the end of September, but, judging by the interest that has been shown, it might be a longer process if we are to give everyone a chance to present to us.”

City Press has learnt that Safa’s financial situation might deter them from getting a high-profile coach, who don’t come cheap.


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November 10 2019