Briton Stuart Baxter’s return to the Bafana Bafana coaching seat he vacated in 2005 will draw mixed reaction from soccer lovers after the protracted search for Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba’s successor finally came to an end on Thursday afternoon.
The SuperSport United coach comes up short when measured against the criteria set by his new employers‚ the South African Football Association (Safa)‚ in the beginning of the year.
One of the conditions states that the new Bafana coach needs to have international coaching experience‚ “Especially African competition with a minimum of five and 10 years.”
Bafana are the only national team he has coached on the continent and he was in charge between 2004 and 2005.
Many of those who are opposed to his appointment took to social media on Thursday and pointed out that he quit the same Bafana job in November 2005 after he failed to qualify the national side for the 2006 Soccer World Cup.
He had won 10 of his 23 games in charge of Bafana first time round‚ drawing six and losing seven.
Safa confirmed Baxter’s appointment on Thursday but did not reveal the names of the members of his technical team. The length of his contract with Bafana was also not made public.
According to a statement issued by the football mother body‚ the Briton will be officially unveiled to the media and the public in the coming days by Safa president Danny Jordaan when he returns to South Africa from Confederation of African Football and FIFA commitments in Egypt.
Bafana have a crucial 2019 African Nations Cup qualifier against nemesis Nigeria early next month and Supersport have agreed to allow Baxter to be part of the national team’s preparations.
“The Supersport United coach will‚ meanwhile‚ continue to fulfil his coaching responsibilities at the club for the remaining four Absa Premiership fixtures as well as the Nedbank Cup and Confederations Cup‚” said the statement.
“Safa and Supersport United have agreed to work together to ensure that the Baxter gets time off post the final league match on May 27 to prepare Bafana Bafana for the upcoming Afcon match against Nigeria.”
While Baxter’s first spell as Bafana coach was no great shakes‚ he has since gone on to enjoy considerable domestic success‚ including two league championships in three years at Chiefs‚ as well as a Nedbank Cup victory with SuperSport last May.
And to his benefit‚ he is a lot wiser this time and has a better understanding of the kind of environment he is walking into as Mashaba’s successor.
“It is big job to have and the fact that he has to lead South Africa against Nigeria makes the task more interesting and I believe that he will want to prove a point with the game”, said Supersport CEO, Stanley Matthew.