Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter came across as perplexed and arrogant during yesterday’s press conference on the squad’s return from their Africa Cup of Nations campaign –
a conference that was meant to reflect on the Afcon and plan the way forward.
Bafana endured a roller-coaster campaign as they crashed out in the quarter-finals to Nigeria. Before that South Africa produced a polished performance as they outclassed hosts Egypt in the last 16.
Bafana sneaked into the knockout stage as one of the best four third-placed group finishers. Baxter’s men were awful in the group stage. They finished third, having lost to the Ivory Coast and Morocco, while pulling off a slender win against underdogs Namibia.
Those mixed outings added more pressure on the beleaguered coach.
But, with many discerning supporters calling for his head, Baxter is not losing sleep over being unemployed.
“Look, I’ve got no problems leaving this job! Don’t confuse me with a coach that’s desperate for a job,” Baxter stated.
“This week, I’ve turned down a job with a north African nation. I’ve turned down a job last week with the Saudi (Arabians). I’ve turned down jobs in Asia and South Africa to stay with this team.
"I am not a desperate coach! I stayed in the job because I want to take the team forward. And if I don’t, I’ll leave. So, don’t confuse me with that desperate coach of ‘please don’t sack me’.”
It’s not the first time that Baxter had threatened to leave his post. Prior to the ongoing biennial continental showpiece he had made it clear that he would vacate his post if he failed to make the Afcon finals in Egypt, while he wouldn’t ask a penny from Safa for the underwhelming performance.
In light of the new developments, the British coach will take a mini-holiday to Sweden, where he’ll decide whether to stay put as the Bafana coach or pack his bags.
However, if he stays, Baxter is concerned that the majority of supporters will continue to be pessimistic over his second tenure.
“I think that if you know me, you know that I am my biggest critic of myself and take ownership for everything that I do,” he said.
“In the games, if there’s something that’s on my back, I take it on me. I’ll tell the players straight, ‘that was me’. You could choose to go down the route that Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger (who congratulated Bafana for a polished performance against Egypt) had done because they are football people and not media people.
“We’ve got a feeling in South Africa that it’s better to be negative than positive. And I’ve got a feeling that no matter how long I work here, that’s not going to change.”