Bro­ken dreams

Bafana coach puts on brave face af­ter fail­ing to qual­ify for the World Cup

CityPress - - Front Page - TIM­O­THY MOLOBI in Polok­wane tim­o­thy@city­

DEJECTED Bafana Bafana’s goal­keeper, Itume­leng Khune, re­acts dur­ing the 2018 World Cup qual­i­fiers foot­ball match against Sene­gal at the Peter Mok­aba Sta­dium in Polok­wane on Fri­day night. Bafana were fight­ing an up­hill bat­tle to qual­ify for the World Cup and had to win this game to stand a chance. They were beaten 2-0.

Win­ning just one out of four World Cup qual­i­fiers is not a good re­turn of in­vest­ment, but Bafana coach Stu­art Bax­ter has re­fused to be drawn on what this could mean for his fu­ture.

Af­ter fail­ing to qual­ify for yet an­other World Cup, Bax­ter says he will not quit his po­si­tion.

Bax­ter has missed out on a chance to lead Bafana to next year’s foot­ball spec­ta­cle in Rus­sia fol­low­ing their 2-0 de­feat to Sene­gal on Fri­day night, killing their slim hope of sneak­ing through.

This was Bafana’s third loss in the cam­paign af­ter go­ing down to Cape Verde twice.

They are at the bot­tom of the group and, while Sene­gal is off to the World Cup, Bafana are once again go­ing back to the prover­bial draw­ing board.

This is the sec­ond time Bax­ter has failed to qual­ify for a World Cup. He was also in charge when Bafana failed to make the 2006 event in Ger­many.

But the English­man put on a brave face on Fri­day night, say­ing he was not go­ing to walk away from the team.

“I’m hear­ing already what I’m gonna do now, walk away. I have been in the job for about 220 days and only 40 days in camp with the play­ers. I’m not go­ing to hang my­self or fall on my sword be­cause we didn’t qual­ify. That would be ab­so­lute lu­nacy,” said Bax­ter.

The vis­i­bly up­set coach said his man­date wasn’t to qual­ify for next year’s event, say­ing he did not have a writ­ten di­rec­tive to qual­ify for the World Cup.

“I don’t think I have a writ­ten one in my con­tract. My aim was to try to qual­ify for the World Cup and Afcon in 2019. No one said, ‘if not, pack up and go’. But, as a pro­fes­sional, I know if I have a night­mare in both I will go. They don’t have to chase me.”

He said a lot had not changed in South African foot­ball and that it was about time things were done dif­fer­ently.

“There is a say­ing that if you do what you have done, you al­ways get what you al­ways got. I don’t think we have changed our men­tal­ity at all since the time I was here be­fore. I hope we can have more co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the Pre­mier Soc­cer League [PSL] and the SA Foot­ball Association.”

He said the time had ar­rived for the au­thor­i­ties to take devel­op­ment se­ri­ously. He also said it was a good sign that the PSL was more at­trac­tive and com­pet­i­tive.

“As the PSL gets more com­pet­i­tive and at­trac­tive, play­ers don’t have to go abroad – that’s good for the league, but I think we have got to talk about devel­op­ment pro­grammes and how we de­velop our play­ers. We will prob­a­bly end up in the same boat in four years’ time. I don’t think we have done anything dif­fer­ently since the last time I was here.”

Bax­ter said Bafana lost the plot in the two games against Cape Verde in Septem­ber, and it was al­ways go­ing to be dif­fi­cult to bounce back from those de­feats. “I think the Cape Verde re­sults de­stroyed the cam­paign. It is the same Mau­ri­ta­nia syn­drome in that we un­der­mine small coun­tries. These are games we expected to win, but we didn’t.”

Need­ing an out­right vic­tory to keep their hopes alive in the cam­paign, Bafana were un­done by a Di­afra Sakho’s early goal in the 13th minute.

Then Tham­sanqa Mkhize com­pounded their prob­lems with an own goal to give the visi­tors a 2-0 vic­tory.

Bax­ter said there were some pos­i­tives in some as­pects of the game, but that there was still a long way to go.



STUNNED Andile Jali, seen here in a tan­gle with Lamine Gas­sama of Sene­gal in Fri­day’s World Cup qual­i­fier at the Peter Mok­aba Sta­dium in Polok­wane, was el­i­gi­ble to play, but was benched in the first half due to a mix-up

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