South African Football Association (Safa) acting CEO Russell Paul (L), Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter(R) speaks during a personal media briefing at the Killarney Country Club. Photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)
South African Football Association (Safa) acting CEO Russell Paul (L), Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter(R) speaks during a personal media briefing at the Killarney Country Club. Photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)
Stuart Baxter at this morning's press conference. Photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)
Stuart Baxter at this morning's press conference. Photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – Stuart Baxter's resignation has gone against SA Football Association (Safa) president Danny Jordaan's recent proclamation that it is not beneficial to continue changing the Bafana Bafana head coach.

Baxter called a press conference on Friday in Johannesburg to announce he will be leaving his role as head coach, which began in  May 2017.

It has been reported that the 65-year-old, who also had a previous spell as Bafana coach in 2004, has received job offers in China and Saudi Arabia.

Although Friday's conference was independent to Safa, Baxter was accompanied by Safa CEO Russell Paul.

"Someone should continue with this project and therefore I am resigning as Bafana Bafana head coach, Baxter said. "It was my personal decision to step down.”

South African Football Association (Safa) acting CEO Russell Paul (L), Stuart Baxter( C) and Baxter's agent Steven Kapeluschnik (R) during a personal media briefing at the Killarney Country Club., Photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)
South African Football Association (Safa) acting CEO Russell Paul (L), Stuart Baxter( C) and Baxter's agent Steven Kapeluschnik (R) during a personal media briefing at the Killarney Country Club., Photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

The news came as little surprise – since what was ultimately a disappointing show at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) two months ago, Baxter has been in a cagey mood and recently said that: "I have no problem leaving this job‚ don't confuse me with a coach who is desperate for a job, I am not a desperate coach who says‚ 'please don't sack me‚ please’."

Bafana beat hosts Egypt in the Round of16 of the Nations Cup, but their overall record was poor, with their only other win coming against Namibia, and just three goals scored in the tournament.

Baxter, meanwhile, was criticised by fans and even by senior Safa officials for what were deemed as negative tactics, and poor team selection.

Although there were merits to these complaints, South African fans have made a habit of finding fault with the national team head coach, and there has been a general air of disillusionment with Bafana for the past 15 or so years.

Those with a more balanced view of Bafana's struggles will, however, mostly agree that the head coach – be it Baxter, or his predecessors, is not necessarily the problem. Or at least, it's the tip of the iceberg, and the issue goes a lot deeper.

Stuart Baxter has resigned from his position as Bafana Bafana coach despite his contract still having three more years to run. Photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)
Stuart Baxter has resigned from his position as Bafana Bafana coach despite his contract still having three more years to run. Photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Jordaan admitted as much this week, before Baxter stood down.

"We have mostly fired coaches on returning from continental or global events. That has resulted in the incoming coach having to dismantle the team and start afresh," he said.

"We can no longer afford to do that. The technical committee must assist in finding the root cause of our national teams' problems, suggest solutions and then we implement them.

"Also, if we change the senior national team coach now, how long will the new one have to prepare for Bafana's first Afcon qualifier against Ghana in November?”

For now though Safa will have to forget about trying to tackle the underlying causes of South African football's underperformance and instead get down to the task of appointing a new man.

Locally, the likes of Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane (who previously served as a Bafana head coach), Bidvest Wits mentor Gavin Hunt, and Cape Town City's Benni McCarthy have been touted as frontrunners for the position.

Former Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter speaks during a personal media briefing at the Killarney Country Club. Photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)
Former Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter speaks during a personal media briefing at the Killarney Country Club. Photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Since 2002 – the last time Bafana Bafana qualified for a World Cup, the national team has had 11 different coaches, with several of those having had two spells in charge.

The list including caretaker coaches, reads: 

Jomo Sono, Ephraim Mashaba, Jomo Sono, April Phumo, Stuart Baxter, Ted Dumitru, Pitso Mosimane, Carlos Alberto Parreira, Joel Santana, Carlos Alberto Parreira, Mosimane, Steve Komphela, Gordon Igesund, Ephraim Mashaba and of course Baxter. 

African News Agency (ANA)