File photo: Stuart Baxter

Kaizer Motaung has defended Kaizer Chiefs’ decision to hire Stuart Baxter as the club’s coach for next season, reasoning the Englishman had many attributes including the know-how of working with black footballers.

Motaung, the Chiefs owner, backed Baxter – who coached Bafana Bafana from May 2004 to December 2005 – as an experienced coach who would contribute positively to the revival of Amakhosi, who will finish the season trophyless after a disappointing campaign.

“We went for an experienced coach like him because we are also looking at the future,” Motaung told The Star on Monday night. “Fortunately, Stuart was here with Bafana and he knows what’s happening in South Africa. In Sweden, and in other European countries where he coached, he worked well with black players. We are not merely looking at winning with him, but he can also mentor our coaches. His involvement with youth academies will also help us.”

But Motaung’s decision to hire Baxter – under whose watch Bafana failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, losing out to Ghana – is unlikely to be warmly welcomed by thousands of Amakhosi fans, who have seen their team decline in the past three years. Chiefs will finish the season without silverware for the first time in a decade, and morale in the terraces will not necessarily be lifted by news of Baxter’s arrival, when some had been expecting a local coach.

Steve Komphela, of Free State Stars, had been punted as a possible first local man to head Amakhosi on a full-time basis in 20 years, but Motaung said he fell out of the race due to his obligations to Bafana, where he’s assistant coach.

“We spoke to Steve and he was keen to come to Chiefs, but he’s now committed to both Stars and Bafana. There’s still an opportunity for someone like him in the future to be considered, if the need arises,” Motaung said.

He dismissed suggestions that his club overlook local coaches. “The fact is local coaches are not available, most of them are committed to their clubs. I think coaching is not about local or foreign. Stuart reminds me of (former Chiefs coach) Jeff Butler. He did not change our style of play. In fact he enhanced it, giving the players the freedom to express themselves.”

Baxter signed a two-year deal with an option to renew, which is a departure from the normal three-year contracts Motaung offers new trainers.

He will start his duties in June, but it was unclear if he would bring his own assistant, although Motaung hinted Donald Khuse and Doctor Khumalo could remain on the technical team.

“We will make an announcement regarding other positions on Friday, but I don’t anticipate that there would be a problem (for Baxter to work with the current technical team),” Motaung said.

Born in August 1953, Baxter arrived in SA to take over Bafana following the 2004 African Nations Cup. His mandate was to qualify the country for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, but tumultuous home and away defeats to Ghana put paid to Bafana’s dream.

Baxter did qualify them for the Nations Cup in 2006, but quit abruptly in December 2005, bringing to an end an unglamorous tenure characterised by an occasional clash with the media.

He left SA to take up the reins at Vissel Kobe, a Japanese club, and then Helsingborg, of Sweden, whom he led to the knock-out phase of the Uefa Cup in 2007.

Baxter then spent two years at the helm of the Finland national team, but vacated the position after it became clear he would fail to lead them to this year’s Euro Championships.

In him, however, Chiefs clearly see a man who can take them out of the rut into which Vladimir Vermezovic, sacked last month, had sunk them. - The Star