Faced with a staggering R17m payout were they to get rid of a coach they gave an unprecedented five-year contract to, the SA Football Association (Safa) went to the ground this week, not answering any questions about the future of Stuart Baxter.
Baxter’s stay in Bafana came under more scrutiny after the team’s uninspiring performances at the recent Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, where they were knocked out by Nigeria in the last eight.
Before the 2-1 defeat against the Super Eagles, Bafana had been outclassed by Ivory Coast (1-0) and Morocco (1-0) in their Group D matches in which they huffed and puffed to win 1-0 against their Southern African neighbours Namibia to progress to the last 16 as one of the four best third-placed teams.
The only commendable performance by Bafana came against hosts Egypt, who they beat 1-0 via Thembinkosi Lorch’s goal.
Then followed a tirade against Baxter from fans and foes alike.
On Tuesday, SA football legend Professor Ngubane blasted Safa president Danny Jordaan and the organisation’s leadership. Ngubane blamed Safa for Bafana’s woes, calling for the Safa suits to resign en masse if SA football was to recover its former glory.
“I think we need to change everything at Safa and bring people with the interests of the country at heart, people who have passion for football,” Ngubane told reporters in Limpopo, where he is the manager of PSL club Black Leopards. You can’t have people failing year in and year out, but they keep on running football. He [Jordaan] thinks Bafana is his own club. It is a national asset, but it looks like it is being run like a football club which belongs to Danny Jordaan.”
NOT DESPERATE FOR A JOB
Ngubane’s denunciation of Jordaan and Safa surfaced a few hours after the association had sent an e-mail (at 2.47pm on Wednesday) notifying the media about Thursday afternoon’s press conference at which Jordaan was to address the future of Baxter, among other issues.
Apparently, having seen Ngubane’s criticism on TimesLIVE at 4.26pm on Wednesday and how this influenced the opinion of the public, Safa quickly sent a WhatsApp message to the press at 6.27pm the same day, cancelling the presser on Thursday.
“Due to unforeseen circumstances, the proposed Safa press conference for tomorrow (Thursday) has been called off. Apologies for the inconvenience,” read Safa’s message.
Asked to respond to Ngubane’s accusations against Jordaan and the Safa leadership, the association’s communication head, Dominic Chimhavi, tried to downplay the comment as having had no impact.
“The generic answer can be that Ngubane, like any other South African, is entitled to his own opinion. But my first option is ignoring all these!” wrote Chimhavi in his email response to eight questions posed by the Sunday Times.
Chimhavi was asked why Safa’s Wednesday press conference was called off, but did not respond to this and other questions, which included what would be Safa’s stance on the future of Baxter, whose five-year contract still has 36 months to run?
Baxter, who earns R490,000 a month, sounded like he was confident of his future when he returned with Bafana from Egypt two weeks ago, boasting of having had a number of good offers elsewhere.
“I have no problem leaving this job, don’t confuse me with a coach who is desperate for a job,” said Baxter in a highly charged verbal sparring with reporters when he returned from Egypt. I turned down a job last week from the Saudis to be with this team,” he claimed.
Two weeks later Baxter had not followed up his words with a resignation letter to Safa, an indication that he might be buying time for the organisation to sack him in order to cash in on a possible golden handshake.
Bafana’s next official match is in November 2020 when they start the campaign to qualify for the 2021 Afcon in Cameroon.
– Sunday Times