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Baxter’s second chance to score big

Bafana
DURBAN – Spare a thought for those who don’t believe in second chances, for their lives must be empty shells.

Stuart Baxter became Bafana coach again this week and, protracted though the negotiations were, most of South African football believes he was the right man for the job.

There is an anticipation that he will take this second chance with both hands and take Bafana somewhere towards international redemption.

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Stuart Baxter has been appointed as Bafana Bafana coach. Photo: Stuart Baxter

It’s a tall order, but his body of work in club football has seemingly validated his latest ascension to the most pressured job on our football scene.

The talks were extensive because he has become a commodity, a world away from the man who supposedly didn’t know what he was doing when he last held the reins.

South African sport can be insensitively cynical at times, and Baxter must have had a quiet chuckle to himself when he put pen to paper. He’s been down this road before.

The only difference, crucially, is that he now has a map for most of the potholes – but not all of them.

This is South Africa, after all, and it wouldn’t be so without an element of surprise every now and then.

His portfolio will have a whiff of deja vu, but the considerable journey he has taken to this point means he is now accepted with open arms, unlike the blank stares of over a decade ago.

Indeed, there is even a hint of desperation now. Fairytale teams like Cape Town City almost carry more tangible relevance than our national team because they win hearts with the sincerity of their endeavours.

Before Baxter wins matches, he needs to win back the following of the people and fill up stadiums around the country, every man pulling in the same direction.

He needs to convince club prima donnas that although their wages are paid by expensive suits who dwell in expansive suites, they need to pay tithes by committed, proud performances on national duty.

Baxter has a lot on his plate, but he’s also got a lot more clout now. This appointment is on his terms and though many things remain the same, a heck of a lot has changed.

He could have carried on at club level, winning trophies and ticking along, but in a very real sense, he has also given South African football the second chance that he also has.

He has seen attraction in the job and perhaps the chance to rectify the one glaring error in his considerable CV. However long and winding the road to this point was, the most important thing is that it has finally arrived at this destination, where both parties agree they are better together than apart.

Second chances are our lifeblood, in a time and place where our national teams routinely drop the ball.

Baxter knows who is truly on his side, and he won’t forget it. He also knows which players hurt him as a club coach and just what they can now give him as players under his wing.

That is exciting, given what he now knows. For many people, the future of our football is suddenly a lot brighter because there is a familiar face in charge.

Baxter has served his time and he could well spark a new era.

Long live the second chance and those who have the common sense to appreciate its enduring purpose.

Sunday Independent

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