Baxter: loose with the truth

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Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter

Embellishing your CV is hardly a new trait, but Stuart Baxter really ought to be a little more careful.

The new Kaizer Chiefs coach, in an interview with The Star on Thursday, did his best to make his time in between coaching Bafana Bafana and the Amakhosi look, shall we say, as effervescent as possible.

Baxter resigned from the Bafana job in November 2005, after failing to qualify the team for the 2006 Fifa World Cup. His return to South Africa and the Amakhosi came as a surprise to many, when it was confirmed last week.

Whatever Baxter said in meeting with Chiefs president Kaizer Motaung persuaded the Amakhosi chairman that the 58-year-old Englishman was the right man for the job.

Yet one hopes Baxter was not as generous with the facts as he was on Thursday. The Chiefs coach’s first strange claim was that upon leaving Bafana he “went to Japan for one year and won the title”.

Closer inspection reveals that in 2006, Baxter’s Vissel Kobe finished third in the Japanese second division, winning promotion to the top-flight through a play-off.

That’s a “title”?

Baxter then went off to Helsingborgs in Sweden, a country where he lifted the Allsvenskan title in 1998 with AIK Stockholm.

“When I went to Helsingborgs they were third bottom and we finished third.

“We also got to the last 16 of the Europa League,” said Baxter on Thursday.

Another swift check of the facts, however, and Helsingborgs actually finished fourth in the 2008 Allsvenskan, and reached only the last 32 of the 2007/8 Europa League (the Kaizer Chiefs statement on Baxter’s appointment this week also states that he reached the last 16).

These exaggerations extend to Baxter’s time with the Finnish national team, who he joined in 2008.

The Chiefs coach correctly noted that Finland had drawn twice with Germany in a decent World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign.

But the truth was once again loose as he went into their failed Euro 2012 qualification.

According to Baxter, Finland “got beaten 2-1 by Holland, lost to Moldova when we had Sami Hyppia sent off five minutes, in, and came back and drew with Hungary.

“It was very difficult to qualify. I said to the Finnish FA that I wanted to get back into club football, and spend more time with my daughter.” (Baxter’s daughter fell very ill when he was in Japan, one of the main reasons he went back to Scandinavia).

Well, Finland did lose 2-1 to Holland and did have Hyppia sent off in a 2-0 loss to Moldova (in the 36th minute, not the fifth), but they also lost 2-1 to Hungary.

It is difficult to believe how anyone could make this succession of mistakes accidentally, and has to cast Baxter in a slightly dappled light even before he has started his work with Chiefs.

No wonder, if he believes his own story, that the Chiefs coach says: “I don’t think I have to prove anything to anybody. I must just make sure the players enjoy training and the supporters enjoy what they are watching.” – The Star


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