Baxter misreads political dynamics
RESULTS, or lack thereof, will not be Stuart Baxter’s downfall as Bafana Bafana coach.
His failure to read and understand the country’s political dynamics will lead to his demise if he doesn’t quickly change his ways. The irony though is that if he were to be in politics, he would thrive as he has mastered the art of “cadre redeployment”.
His move from Kaizer Chiefs to SuperSport United and from Matsatsantsa a Pitori to Bafana for a second stint showed that the British coach has his people.
That’s not a bad thing when looked at in isolation. A coach deserves to be fully in charge and work with people he trusts, people who know what he wants.
But things are different in the national team. You also have to factor in the political landscape in almost everything you do as you aren’t only a coach but also a diplomat. The manner in which Baxter got the job, as a “safe option” after the South African Football Association (Safa) struggled to get their first, second and third choices means that he starts on a position of disadvantage.
Baxter’s appointment divided the country because of his first tenure and the fact that Safa dragged the process so long looking for their man that the public wanted something special to make up for the wait. Baxter wasn’t that something special which meant his first port of call was uniting people behind him. The victory over Nigeria in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier was a good start. But he moved a couple of steps back with his recommendation that Quinton Fortune be hired as his assistant.
Don’t get me wrong, Fortune is qualified for this position but he isn’t the right appointment if you understand the country’s political landscape.
Fortune showed Safa and the country his middle finger so often in his days as a Manchester United player that we can identify it with our IBO Cruiserweight World Title, Youri Kalenga v Kevin Lerena, 7.30pm, SS9 3rd Test, England v West Indies, day 3, 11am, SS2 Africa T20 Cup, KZN v Free State, 9.15am; Northern Cape v Kenya, 3.15pm, SS12 European Masters, day 3, 1.30pm, SS6; LPGA Women in Tech Championship, day 3, 6.30pm, SS8 MotoGP, San Marino, qualifying, 1.30pm, SS5 eyes closed. That individual isn’t exactly someone you then bring to the national team to inspire players to respect the jersey he showed little regard to.
The manner in which Baxter went about in search for a fitness coach, an appointment that can only be made by the team doctor not the coach, is another not so politicallycorrect move on his part. How then does he work with someone he showed before he had even worked with him that he wants to replace, or work with the doctor he undermined his authority?
Baxter struggled to get the buy-in of his ideals and vision in his first tenure because he came with the Mr-Know-it-All attitude, a stance that will alienate people rather than win you fans. A Britisher coming to Africa to tell people what they have been doing is wrong and this is how to do things right doesn’t exactly come across well, regardless of the intentions. That’s where tact is needed.
People are more receptive towards him this time around because of his work at Chiefs and SuperSport. But his first act after getting the job was not to mend the fences that needed to be fixed, instead he strengthened relationships that were strong to further prove that he has his people.
With all of this, it doesn’t help his course that he started his tenure on a poor note by losing twice to minnows Cape Verde, washing away the historic win over Nigeria in Nigeria.
The defeats to the Blue Sharks might have ended our dream to go to the World Cup in Russia next year, especially now that the match against Senegal has to be replayed. If we couldn’t get a point against the lowly Cape Verde who have never qualified for the World Cup, it’s hard to imagine that we can get six points from Senegal – co-holders of the record for the best performance by an African nation in the global showpiece having reached the quarter-finals of the 2002 edition.
So far Baxter has done a poor job at negotiating the minefields in front of him. Managing a national team is an intricate balancing act of not only producing the results but also negotiating your way past the political dynamics.
Baxter has excelled in neither so far, which doesn’t read well for a man who will be constantly reminded that he wasn’t the first choice. For Shakes Mashaba his tenure was about controlling his temper which was fuelled by how Safa treated him in his first stint. He couldn’t and that led to his sacking. For Baxter, his tenure is about managing the political dynamics that come with this job.
If he fails that’s how he will leave it. Championship, New Zealand v Argentina, 9am; Australia v 11.40am, SS1; Currie Cup, WP v Cheetahs, 2.45pm, SS1 MTN 8, 2nd leg semi-final, Maritzburg v SuperSport, 7.30pm, SS4/SABC1; MDC, Celtic v Sundowns, 9am; AmaZulu v Pirates, 11.55pm, SS4; Premier League, Man City v Liverpool, 12.30pm; Leicester v Chelsea, 3.30pm; Stoke v Man Utd, 6pm, SS3; Arsenal v Bournemouth, 3.50pm, SS5; La Liga, Real Madrid v Levante, 12.55pm; Valencia v Atletico Madrid, 4.10pm; Barcelona v Espanyol, 8.40pm, SS7 US Open, day 13, 6pm, SS6 3rd Test, England v West Indies, day 4, 11am, SS2; Africa T20 Cup, Kenya v KZN, 9.15am; Northern Cape v Free State, 1.15pm, SS12 Vuelta a Espana, Stage 21, 6pm, SS12; Tour of Britain, Stage 8, 2.15pm, SS8 European Masters, day 4, 12pm, SS6; LPGA Tour Women in Tech Championship, day 4, 6.30pm, SS8 MotoGP, San Marino, Moto3, 10.45am; Moto2, 12pm; MotoGP, 1.45pm, SS5 Nascar Cup Series, Federated Auto Parts 400, 1.30am, SS6 World champs, 4.55am, SS1 Varsity Netball, Madibaz v UJ, 3.45pm; Tuks v Maties, 5.25pm, SS10 MTN 8, 2nd leg semi-final, Wits v CT City, 2.30pm, SS4/SABC1; MDC, Maritzburg v FS Stars, 9.30am; Arrows v Chiefs, 11.15am, SS4; Premier League, Burnley v Palace, 12.30pm; Swansea v Newcastle, 4.30pm, SS3 US Open, day 14, 7pm, SS6 Third Test, England v Windies, day 5, 11am, SS2 Varsity Netball, UWC v VUT, 5.15pm, SS10; Tuks v UJ, 6.55pm, SS10 ABSA Premiership, Free State Stars v Mamelodi Sundowns, 5.30pm, SS4 Soccerzone, 9pm, SABC1 English Premiership, West Ham United v Huddersfield Town, 8pm, SS3 La Liga Santander, Malaga v Las Palmas, 8.55pm, SS6 Independence Cup, Pakistan v World XI 1st T20, 6.45pm, SS2 ABSA Premiership, Orlando Pirates v Ajax Cape Town, 6.30pm, SS4; SuperSport United v Platinum Stars, 7pm, SS11 UEFA Champions League, Celtic v Paris Saint-Germain, 8.40pm, SS1; Chelsea v Qarabag, 8.40pm, SS2; Man Utd v Basel, 8pm, SS3; Roma v Atletico Madrid, 8.40pm, SS5; Barcelona v Juventus, 8.40pm, SS6; Bayern Munich v Anderlecht, 8.40pm, SS8 UEFA Youth League, Barcelona v Juventus, 3.55pm, SS6; Celtic v Paris Saint-Germain, 5.55pm, SS6 Momentum eKasi Challenge, Titans v Lions, 9.15am, SS8 Independence Cup, Pakistan v World XI 2nd T20, 4.15pm, SS2 One-Day International, Ireland v Windies, 11am, SS6 Mitre 10 Cup, Canterbury v Counties Manukau, 9.30am, SS1 ABSA Premiership, Cape Town City v Kaizer Chiefs, 6.30pm, SS4; Bidvest Wits v Golden Arrows, 7pm, SS11 UEFA Champions League, Feyenoord v Man City, 8.40pm, SS1; Real Madrid v APOEL, 8.40pm, SS2; Liverpool v Sevilla, 8pm, SS3; Porto v Besiktas, 8.40pm, SS5; Tottenham Hotspur v Borussia Dortmund, 8.40pm, SS2; Leipzig v Monaco, 8.40pm, SS8; Shakhtar Donetsk v Napoli, 8.40pm, SS10 UEFA Youth League, Tottenham Hotspur v Borussia Dortmund, 3.55pm, SS5; Liverpool v Sevilla, 5.55pm, SS5 European Tour, KLM Open, day 1, 11.30am/3.30pm, SS1 PGA Tour, BMW Championship, day 1, 9pm, SS1 Ladies PGA Tour, The Evian Championship, day 1, 11am, 3.30pm, SS8