Cosafa Cup a chance to broaden Bafana’s scope
National coach says tournament will boost development of players for future contests
THIS is probably one of the few times Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has no undue pressure or expectation weighing heavily on him to win.
After all, winning the Cosafa Cup, which starts this weekend for South Africa, won’t rank among Baxter’s highest ambitions.
And failure to defend the title Bafana won in Namibia last year is unlikely to trigger panic or widespread criticism for the British coach or a Bafana Bafana side that is experimental in its design.
Bafana will open their Cosafa account against the winner of Group A in the quarterfinals at Royal Bafokeng Stadium on Sunday, having been given a bye in the group stages.
The Bafana coach was at pains to emphasise his priorities going into the tournament, mainly that the whole exercise was about widening his pool of players as he seeks to build strength in continuity.
“We have to use Cosafa and Chan tournaments to the benefit of SA football,” Baxter said.
“With all due respect, clubs at times don’t want to release their players and we have to battle with them for players. That creates bad blood between clubs and the association and we end up putting together a team that wins or doesn’t win.
“I’d like to think that in the development of players this should be a partnership of clubs with Bafana Bafana’s needs.
“The German squad playing the Confederations Cup is very similar. We are going down the same road, widening the squad and deepening the pool of players to select from.”
The significance of winning in the eyes of South African football public, however, cannot be lost on any coach who takes the job.
And Baxter knows better than most that the memorable victory in Nigeria may disappear faster than a toupee in a hurricane.
“Obviously, every time we put the South African shirt on we want to win, no question,” Baxter said.
“But there are other things that are important to gain from this tournament and that is to do something that’s going to help the national team going forward. We don’t want to just play in the tournament, finish where we finish and then carry on as usual.
“So that’s the basis of the rationale behind the selection of this squad.”
Baxter has appointed Greece-based Lehlogonolo Masalesa as captain of the squad, having been impressed by his character, able authority and impressive experience.
“They look up to him and see his quality on the field. He’s got the right presence to be captain,” Baxter said.
PLANNING AHEAD: Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter.