Home Sport Seems like everyone but the coach wants to get to Russia

Seems like everyone but the coach wants to get to Russia


Baxter has called the cream of Mzans's international and local footballers to lend a hand in getting to the Russia World Cup in 2018

Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

This humble weekly column joins many others who have been condemning national football coach Stuart Baxter’s questionable team selection choices against the Cape Verde national team in both the away match as well as last Tuesday’s game in Durban.

The twin losses against the Cape Verdeans have all but wiped out the cascade of goodwill Baxter had been showered with after winning so memorably against South Africa’s long time nemesis; Nigeria in Akpo in June.

With regard to SA’s World Cup preparations Baxter had called together what is beyond argument the cream of Mzansi’s international and local footballers to lend a hand in getting us to the Russia 2018 World Cup.

However, once the foreign-based players arrived in camp, Baxter, for some inexplicable reason, put most of them on the bench and tried to start the game with locals who have no international résumés at all.

Without taking away from their talents and exploits on the local football scene, the likes of Lebogang Manyama, Ronwen Williams and Tebogo Langerman, to name a few, have no international exposure to write home about, yet Baxter saw fit to experiment with them during the qualifying rounds for the most global of sporting events ever.

The gravity of the situation regarding qualifying South Africa for the Fifa 2018 World Cup seems not to have made an impression upon the Scotsman. He displayed a sense of being out of touch with the seriousness with which the mass of football followers in this country regards a tournament of this magnitude.

Let’s put in some perspective to help the coach.

Fifa World Cup games are not of this world. Everybody on all six continents wants to play on this stage. Those who are not yet on it dream about getting there. Nothing, save maybe the Olympics to some degree, compares with it. But otherwise nothing, nada, zilch, niks, hakuna that comes close.

Baxter must recall that he was never the football watching and stadium trotting universe’s favourite for this job. His “friend”, Safa president Danny Jordaan, thought he was a good purchase. Jordaan’s sentiments were not echoed in the Safa corridors where we learned with some alarm that his choice was not popular but was carried because Jordaan is the boss after all.

As for this column, you may recall that I had long proposed and supported the idea of holding on to the team which was left in charge after Shakes Mashaba was deposed; namely Owen “Rubber Doll” Da Gama and Thabo “T-Boz” Senong.

Nothing wrong there.

They are local, they read the national mood right most times and they are on top of their game. Check out what they pulled off in the Ke Yona Nedbank team competition for amateurs a week ago.

The fact that they were not selected to lead the national team had nothing to do with merit but was, it seems, all about Safa’s internal politics.

So now that we are likely to not make the trip to Russia, thanks to Baxter’s bungling, we are tempted to shout, “We warned you about this coach!”

But that would be kind. The issue at hand now is: What about Russia? We still want to get there even if Baxter seemingly plans otherwise. For all we care he may as well step off the bus now.

We may just salvage what’s left of our Russia 2018 World Cup campaign with a new general at the helm. For what it’s worth, should Baxter stay on, as is very likely, we won’t stand a chance against the likes of Senegal and Burkina Faso who will undoubtedly be emboldened by Bafana’s slip-ups during this campaign.

Not to mention that Fifa have ordered that we replay the game we won against Senegal.

Should he stay on, Baxter might drag along to those remaining games a load of bad vibes from his boardroom including a fan base that has lost faith in him.

Oh, before I sign off, please note that your favourite column will take a break for the next three weeks.