JOHANNESBURG – If Bafana Bafana don’t qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), head coach Stuart Baxter will gladly step down from the job without asking for a penny should the South African Football Association (Safa) ask him to do so.
Bafana need at least a point against Libya on March 22 to book a ticket to Egypt for the continental showpiece this year.
Baxter and Safa are still waiting on the Libyan Football Association to confirm whether the Mediterranean Knights’ neutral home venue, due to the political instability in Libya, will be Tunisia or Egypt.
Baxter desperately needs to take Bafana to the Afcon having failed to qualify for the Fifa World Cup that was played in Russian last year, finishing at the bottom of the group in the qualifiers for the first time in the country’s history.
“As a coach, when we fail I look at myself in the smallest, smallest detail,” Baxter said at Safa House yesterday. “I break down everything, I build it back up again and say, 'could you have done anything more?'
“So I took the responsibility (when we didn’t qualify for the World Cup), in my heart it hurt me deeply. If we don’t qualify, certainly I will tell the FA you better really make sure that you want me to carry on because I will walk if you want.
“There’s this nonsense that it will take a fortune for them to get rid of me, that’s not true. It’s not going to cost anybody a fortune.
Do you know how much I got the last time I left here (as Bafana coach in 2005), with two years remaining in my contract? Zero rand. They said, 'coach, what about your package?’. I said, ‘My package? Give my package to the kids’ and I walked.”
The England-born coach went on to explain that he might not even wait for Safa to sack him before he hands in his resignation.
“If I can’t do the job here, and I feel that we’re not moving forward at the pace that we want because of certain things and I just can’t do it, I will also walk, even if they want me to stay. We’ve all got to be happy, not only the FA,” Baxter said.
Bafana’s clash with Libya will be a tough mental test against a team who have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. The Mediterranean Knights are looking to inspire a troubled nation that has been ravaged by in-fighting. But they have to take the game to Bafana as they need a win at all costs to qualify.
Bafana can afford to draw as they lead the Libyans by two points. The catch is that Baxter’s men have struggled in some of their mental tests, especially in matches they should easily win, dropping two points against Libya at home and failing to beat Seychelles away.
“There’s no getting away from the fact that whatever action you take is preceded by a thought,” Baxter said. “If those are positive and strong thoughts, then we have more chances of it being a positive and strong action. We’ve really got to work hard on that.
I’ve got to get the message to the players even before we get together to ensure that they’re staying positive and they believe in themselves.”