Owen da Gama was the Bafana caretaker coach before Stuart Baxter was appointed. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Owen da Gama will have to find a new role within the SA Football Association (Safa) after Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter this week made it clear that he had his eye on someone else, not Da Gama, to be his assistant.

“I have got nothing personal against Owen, let me get that out of the way,” said Baxter, who named his 25-man squad to face Nigeria in their opening 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Uyo on June 10.

“When Louis van Gaal came to Manchester United, did he ask David Moyes to stay on as his assistant? If Pitso Mosimane is going to take over SuperSport United tomorrow, will he be asking Stuart Baxter to stay on as his assistant? That’s football life, that I come in here and wouldn’t have the person that was sitting in before as my assistant.”

Da Gama was asked to serve as Bafana caretaker coach in November last year when Shakes Mashaba was initially suspended for his tirade – aimed at his bosses – minutes following the national team’s crucial 2-1 victory over Senegal in a qualifier for next year’s World Cup.

Da Gama carried on in that capacity again in March for the two friendly matches against Guinea-Bissau and Angola, Mashaba having been sacked three days before Christmas.

Baxter has not discussed his backroom staff much since his appointment earlier this month, with reports suggesting that he’d asked Safa to bring in his son Lee as the goalkeeper coach as well as Joshua Smith, who is currently the fitness trainer at SuperSport United, where Baxter is also coach until the end of June.

“If Safa have Owen under contract and want to put him into another role and he agrees, then yeah, but it won’t be with the senior national team,” the Scotsman explained.

“I am not going to give out names because I haven’t gone to my employer yet. In principle, I think Thabo Senong (Under-20 coach and second assistant to Mashaba) has done a good job with the junior team and I think he should follow that group and see how far he can take them, and maybe he can still be with us as someone we could mentor a little bit.

Stuart Baxter says he has nothing personal against Owen da Gama. Photo: BackpagePix

“Then we can have someone more experienced – a coach, scout/analyst. Of course there’s also a goalkeeper coach and physical trainer needed.”

Baxter said he had not suggested his son Lee and Smith be recruited as part of his technical team. “What I have said is that if this is an ambitious association, I believe we should have a full-time goalkeeper coach and physical coach because we will have academies up and running as well as courses.

“This means they will be servicing more than one team. Safa then said they will look at the budget and get back to me. I will present names, and based on their budgets and ambitions, they will give it a yes or no.”

Baxter worked with Lee for the first time in 2015 when he left Kaizer Chiefs to take over at Turkish club Gençlerbirliği, where he was fired after just two league matches that the team had lost.

Lee followed him to SuperSport in January the following year before he recently joined Danish side AGF as a goalkeeper coach.

Stuart Baxter’s son Lee was the former goalkeeper coach at SuperSport United. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu, BackpagePix

“If I ruled out Lee for the position, it would almost be a crime against my job because it must be the ambition of Safa and me as the head coach to have the best possible staff,” Baxter stated.

“I become a little bit insulted when people assume I rate him because he is my son. He was coaching for nine years before I offered him a job. 

“I told him it was because I think he was now good enough. But from saying this, it doesn’t mean I have plans to bring Lee in.

“As I speak now, we haven’t finalised who should be in my backroom staff, to a degree that we may have to go to Nigeria with what we have now, but make no guarantees that it is going to remain that way.”


Sunday Independent

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