CAPE TOWN – While it is not desirable for a coach to pick his own son in a sports team, it is something that has crept into South African sport over the years.
Stuart Baxter’s decision to appoint his son Lee as a stand-in goalkeeper coach for Bafana Bafana – with Andre Arendse unavailable – has been rightly criticised in some quarters.
The sheer audacity of Baxter in trying to wish away criticism of his conduct by stating that “my son is the most qualified goalkeeper coach in this country, bar none” has left me stunned.
Is his son really the most qualified? Perhaps technically on paper, but not in reality. Lee Baxter has never played international football, and has not featured in any national team set-up previously.
Of course you can still be a quality coach without having played at the highest level, but does that make Lee Baxter more qualified than say, Brian Baloyi? Or Rowen Fernandez and Calvin Marlin?
Farouk Abrahams – who was the Bafana goalkeeper coach at the 2002 World Cup as part of Jomo Sono’s management – is still running a goalkeeper academy in Cape Town.
And so we can go on.
But the issue here isn’t so much about whether Lee Baxter is qualified or not to be the Bafana goalkeeper coach.
It’s about the fact that he is Stuart Baxter’s son, and no matter how the head coach tried to spin it this week in explaining his decision, appointing your son should be a no-go area.
I use the word “should”, because unfortunately in South African sport, there have been many examples where coaches have called on relatives. Is that acceptable or not? Not in my mind…
The way Stuart Baxter spoke, by saying he would be “massively, massively disappointed and surprised if there was a reaction” to his son being part of the Bafana set-up, shows that he didn’t think this through long enough. How could there not be a “reaction”?
Currently in rugby, we have the unique situation of Sharks head coach Robert du Preez having all three his sons in his team. Robert and twins Jean-Luc and Dan have been given every chance to excel at provincial and Super Rugby level, and now they are all Springboks.
Would they have received the same opportunities if their father wasn’t the Sharks coach?
The same happened with Johan Ackermann at the Lions over the last few years. His son Ruan didn’t make the Blue Bulls Craven Week team, let alone SA Schools.
But quickly enough he was snapped up by the Lions, where his dad was the senior team head coach, and he even played for the Lions Under-19 side while in matric. Ruan Ackermann eventually made it into the Currie Cup and Super Rugby teams, and then joined his father at Gloucester in England last year.
Kaizer Motaung Junior played for his father’s club Kaizer Chiefs, later in his career, although he had spent many years overseas before that in the Chelsea youth team and 1860 Munich in Germany.
In cricket, Adam Bacher made the Proteas team when his uncle Ali was the MD of what is now Cricket South Africa.
So, where do you draw the line when it comes to relatives in sport?