JOHANNESBURG – Stuart Baxter has described himself as “prouder than the proudest South African” to be back in charge of Bafana Bafana, and has promised to take the country’s senior national team to higher heights than he did in his first stint.
Speaking for the first time since his appointment as a replacement for Shakes Mashaba, Baxter said he is pleased that there seems to be a better sense of teamwork in football than there was when he initially arrived.
“I thought long and hard about coming back, and when I spoke to Danny (Jordaan), I realised that the work is starting and that’s why I decided to come back,” Baxter said on Monday afternoon at Safa House.
“Vision 2022 has already started, and that was one of the reasons I decided to come back.
“Just as back when I came for the first time, I believe the nation has good players for us to be competitive, and I have belief in my ability to coach any group of players – whether Swedish, Japanese or South African – and get the best out of them.”
Baxter is on a five-year contract with the mandate to lead Bafana Bafana to next year’s World Cup in Russia, as well as to the 2022 tournament to be hosted by Qatar.
And with a clash against Nigeria coming up in the first week of June, Baxter has to hit the ground running, and the man currently in charge of SuperSport United believes he will be able to deliver.
“Nigeria away is a big challenge for us and with very little preparation,” Baxter said. “But I’ve prepared, and I hope we will be ready for it. I’ve been reading about them and I know they’ve been in France for a camp.
“By the time we go there, I know we will be prepared and we will give them a tough game.”
Asked why he would have chosen to return to a job renowned for its volatility while leaving a fairly cosy and safe one at SuperSport United, Baxter said anyone looking for a safe job “shouldn’t be in coaching”.
“This is what I live for,” he added. “You have to be a very, very proud South African to be more proud than me to lead this national team.”