DURBAN - Kaizer Chiefs appointment of Stuart Baxter makes for poor optics and makes one question whether South African sports authorities are really concerned about taking action against societal problems like Gender-Based Violence and racism or whether they just claim to do so as a publicity stunt.
The Englishman's most recent coaching spell in charge of Indian Super League club Odisha FC ended in February last year after he made insensitive and reckless comments in a post-match interview, implying that his players would have to be "raped" to be awarded a penalty.
"You need decisions to go your way and we needed a penalty. I think one of my players would have to rape someone or get raped himself if he was going to get a penalty," Baxter said in a post-match interview in 2021 after his former club Odisha fell to a 1-0 loss against Jamshedpur.
After the comments were made, Odisha released a statement saying that they were "appalled" by the actions of their coach and he was subsequently sacked the following day.
Baxter's comments were especially insensitive as they were made in India, a country with an extremely high level of gender-based violence. A 2019 report by the Indian National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) stated that India has an average of 88 rapes per day.
Like India, South Africa also has high levels of gender-based violence with the South African Police Service having a scary 42 289 reported rape cases for 2019/20. The true number is likely far higher than this as most cases of gender-based violence are not reported.
South Africa is a football-mad country with high-profile players and coaches idols in the eyes of millions throughout the nation. It is imperative that sports bodies help to cultivate good role models for the public to follow, something which Baxter certainly is not even though he may be a good and experienced coach.
South African sports teams can make a good statement by not recruiting personalities who are found to be insensitive regarding racism and gender-based violence.
Baxter may be able to attract Chiefs fans to start following their team again in high numbers especially as he is a cult-figure among them for previously leading the club to two league titles.
However, his appointment leads to one getting a sense that South African sports teams are more interested in money than actually taking a stand against serious issues affecting the country.