Baxter must be sacked to arrest Bafana’s decline
BAFANA Bafana’s shock exit from the quarter finals of the Cosafa Cup, and its humiliating defeat by 114th ranked Madagascar have brought into the spotlight the team’s rapid decline in international football.
It’s no longer acceptable for SAFA bosses to keep asking for more time and raising the hopes of the nation when the team is fast becoming a laughing stock and a major source of depression in the country. It is high time Danny Jordan and company turn the situation around or make way for other fresh minds.
So disappointing has been the once glorious Bafana that very people were willing to even come to watch them for free when they played Madagascar at Peter Mokaba on Sunday. But who can blame them? The nation has been forced to maintain an abusive relationship with our national soccer team, which saw soccer lovers’ emotions being played with for far too long.
But, quite honestly, the defeat by the lowly ranked Island was not entirely unexpected. The signs of the decline have been there for all who cared to see and listen. The slippery road to nowhere started way back in 2004, when we were sent packing from the AFCON without even scoring a single goal.
Under Coach Stuart Baxter, the team failed to qualify for both the African Cup of Nations and this year’s World Cup in Russia. In the process, it lost twice to Cape Verde at home and away.
The question on everybody’s mind now is whether Bafana will ever get out of this slump they are in? We have been in a downward spiral since the winning the AFCON at home in 1996, and reached the finals of 1998 and 2000.
Then we were in the semi-finals in 2002 and quarter finals in 2004. That trend went on until we just could not qualify anymore.
To qualify for the next AFCON in Cameroon, we need to beat Nigeria, Seychelles and Libya – a feat which is a mountain to climb given the sorry state of our team currently. While Baxter is undoubtedly a good coach, it seems Bafana have become a poisoned chalice for him.
While his predecessors complained about the quality of our players, commitment and lack of top notch goal poachers, Bafana were at least competitive and hardly lost to soccer minnows like Madagascar. It’s quite clear that Baxter has lost the plot or never really had any plan for the team.
But his tenure as Bafana coach has never really been impressive. In his first stint as Bafana coach, between 2004 and 2005, the 63-year’s tenure only lasted 611 days. At the time, he seemed to have lacked understanding of the South African football philosophy which inevitably led to his downfall.
He had been roped in by SAFA in an attempt to qualify the national team for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. But despite having an abundance of talent at his disposal, the coach failed dismally as Bafana finished third in their group behind Ghana and the DR Congo.
The coach accumulated a below average winning ratio of 44 percent. The Swede’s most notable victory came in a 2-1 victory against Mexico in the 2005 Gold Cup, held in the United States of America (U.S.A). South Africa were invited to participate in the tournament and advanced to the quarterfinals before being eliminated by Panama 5-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw.
However, it should be noted that on their path to the knockout rounds, Bafana drew with lowly ranked Guatemala and Jamaica. During the Baxter era, Bafana also had suffered considerable losses against the likes of Iceland, Burkina Faso and Ghana and now Madagascar.
How far has the once mighty Bafana fallen? Although we are ranked 72nd in the world, we lost to a side ranked 42 places lower and with a population of under 24 million people.
Baxter has once again failed to qualify a Bafana side to the World Cup in Russia next year and has only been able to win eight of his last 17 matches, which is a winning percentage of 47. This should be enough reason to send him packing and bring in someone capable of rebuilding Bafana.