Stuart Baxter reacts during South Africa's defeat to Cape Verde at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Tuesday. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu /BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - You would have thought Safa would have learnt their lesson before rekindling their relationship with Stuart Baxter.

The man failed them previously, for goodness sake. But they went for him again. And, as with most dysfunctional relationships, things often seem all good early on - the maiden victory over Nigeria in a competitive match, leaving the custodians of our national team beating their chest for having hired "the right man".

That there were some among us who questioned the logic of recalling a man who had previously let us down, was neither here nor there, Safa actually feeding the victory in Uyo to us as large helpings of humble pie.

Yet, as was the case with Shakes Mashaba before, it was only a matter of time before the wheels came off. Wasn’t it Albert Einstein who said: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results?" Ditto for rehiring a man who failed you and expecting him to give you different results, especially if you are Safa and Bafana. 

Here’s the thing. Anyone who knows the local game and has followed it as passionately as some of us have, would have known that if there was only one thing that would break the relationship between Safa and Mashaba, it would be the coach’s stubborn nature and lack of respect for protocol.

It happened many years ago when he was coach of the Under 23 side, Mashaba publicly accusing his employers for not being supportive of him. And then they elevated him to the role of senior national team coach.

Remember how it all ended? In court actually, with Safa having to pay him out after they’d severed ties with Mashaba following yet another outburst against his bosses.

You’d think they would have learnt. But no, a few years ago Bra Shakes returned to take charge of Bafana as a “cheap option” as Safa failed to secure their real target.

Need I mention that the premature ending was brought about by a rant from the coach following a win that he felt he achieved, in spite of ill-will from his employers?

Bafana players react after the final whistle in their 2-1 defeat to Cape Verde. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu /BackpagePix
Bafana players react after the final whistle in their 2-1 defeat to Cape Verde. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu /BackpagePix

And so to Baxter we get. That he returned to the national team, which he let down back in 2005 through failure to lead us to World Cup qualification, was because ... wait for it ... Safa could not afford their initial target. And so they settled on ‘the devil they know’ so to speak.

Those who supported his return reasoned that the man had success at club level with Kaizer Chiefs and SuperSport United. The national team though, is a different beast altogether, hey.

And even with his attempts to fill up the squad with the SuperSport United players that he had worked with only recently, Baxter could not deliver.

The back-to-back defeats by Cape Verde have not only exposed the fact that, just as back in 2005, Baxter is not the man to lead us to the World Cup.

Why Safa believed this speaks to the lack of open-mindedness at the country’s football governing body where the idea of sparing no costs for success is clearly foreign.

Sure, there is no guaranteeing that having hired a Hugo Broos or a Bruno Metsu would have helped us beat Cape Verde - our players’ lack of fight in the two matches actually illustrating the fact that our problems go deeper than just coaching.

Yet, surely, it was silly to expect that a man who previously failed us would deliver different results? I heard someone say, but we can still qualify for the World Cup.

Well, show me a time when we’ve made it to any major tournament when we did not have our destiny in our own hands - and having to beat teams much more accomplished than Cape Verde - and I will start saving up for Russia 2018.

The Star

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