DURBAN - Owen da Gama, the Highlands Park coach, has blasted Bafana Bafana boss Stuart Baxter for dismantling a good team that he had built.
Speaking after his team’s 2-1 Telkom Knockout last 16 defeat to Maritzburg United at the weekend, the former national team assistant coach lamented Baxter’s failure to build on the foundation he (Da Gama) had laid.
“I thought we will keep that team which beat Burkina Faso. It was the same team that went and beat Nigeria away from home. But thereafter we dismantled that team," Da Gama said.
“I’m just disappointed not because it was my team but because it was the national team. Of course people started to say it is Owen Da Gama’s team and that’s when people start disassembling. It is wrong. We should have taken that team and built strongly on it and kept the consistency.”
The team that Da Gama had in his short tenure as stand-in coach boasted talented players such as Thulani Serero, Kermit Erasmus, Luther Singh, Lorenzo Gordinho, Lebogang Manyama, Andile Jali and Phakamani Mahlambi.
The majority of those players have since been discarded under Baxter’s reign which started brilliantly with a win in Nigeria only to go pear-shaped with failure to qualify for the World Cup in Russia.
Bafana’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign is also on shaky ground following a home draw with Libya and failure to beat the Seychelles away (they drew 0-0) despite having hammered them 6-0 at the FNB Stadium a few days earlier. Da Gama feels he did a lot of good for Bafana during his time in charge of the squad as well as the national Under-23 side.
“Apart from calling up Lebo (Mothiba, in the Under-23 squad), I called Percy Tau for the first time in the national team. Percy turned out to be a revelation. There are quite a number of players (I called up) but the important thing is that these players got exposure. They got the exposure and I’m proud that they were able to continue. But I am disappointed with the results obviously,” Da Gama elaborated.
“I don’t know if you remember that when I was an interim coach at Bafana, I mentioned one name, Maboe (Lebohang, of Mamelodi Sundowns). I’m proud that Maritzburg United have produced a player of that calibre. I said he is going to be a good player and he turned out to be a great player.”
Disappointed as he is about Bafana, Da Gama has to now focus on his team who are intent on staying in the elite league after making a swift return from the NFD.