Editor's Blog 13.9.2018 01:58 pm

Does the Libya coach want Stuart Baxter’s job?

Stuart Baxter during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match between South Africa and Libya at Moses Mabhida Stadiium on September 08, 2018 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Anesh Debiky/ Gallo Images)

Stuart Baxter during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match between South Africa and Libya at Moses Mabhida Stadiium on September 08, 2018 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Anesh Debiky/ Gallo Images)

After another in a long line of letdowns from an increasingly lengthy Bafana Bafana catalogue of calamity on Saturday evening, it was left to Libya’s coach Adel Amrouche, slightly bizarrely, to play cheerleader for South African football.

“When you play South Africa it is not easy, I always say that for me in South Africa and Zimbabwe, you can find a diamond (of a player) … I don’t say that just because I am here in South Africa. “I think what you have is wonderful, you have organisation, stability in the country, a good plan with a coach who is doing a good job. People in football all want results today but you must be patient,” said Amrouche, after his side, despite all the political instability back home, had pulled off an impressive goalless draw to remain ahead of the pack on the road to Cameroon 2019.

Was Amrouche angling for a job in the Rainbow Nation? One had to wonder, so much gloss had the Algerian just thrown over a Bafana performance that was as flat as the day is long. “Tripoli (Libya’s capital) is not Cape Town … I am happy to bring happiness to my people in Libya, but in football I don’t believe in tomorrow, I say what I think, today I am in Libya, tomorrow maybe I leave if I don’t find happiness … I prefer to play Nigeria (Libya’s next opponents) than Bafana. Bafana has fantastic players, it is not easy to play Bafana, I am ready for Nigeria. I stayed up long at night thinking about how do I stop this one, or this one (from Bafana), because Vilakazi, Dolly, Tau, all the players are not easy to play from South Africa. I respect them too much – the team, the players and the coach.” It was a performance (from Amrouche, not from most of Bafana’s players) that literally screamed “MAKE ME AN OFFER!” though if he wants Stuart Baxter’s Bafana job, I would have to advise him to think twice, maybe three times, and then turn around and walk back out the door.

Coaching Bafana right now looks like a job that turns happiness to misery, leaving the incumbent with a bewildered expression of hopelessness, sometimes fury on his features until he finally stumbles, or is pushed, out of the door. Pitso Mosimane, Gordon Igesund, Shakes Mashaba, all have gone of late appearing a little tetchier than when they arrived, and Stuart Baxter is starting to look like a man who wonders why on earth he left Premier Soccer League football behind, where he had so much success. At the end of Saturday’s press conference, there was a tetchy, slightly unnecessary confrontation with one journalist, that spoke of a man feeling the heat.

Heavily linked to a job with Kaizer Chiefs in the off-season, it does feel right now only a matter of time before Baxter exits the stage, another man who has failed to revive the spirit of a flagging footballing nation. Whether we are talking days, weeks, or months, who knows, but I doubt it is years. It is, of course, not really Baxter’s fault, Bafana after all, just don’t have the same quality of player that once graced the shirt. There are grafters, there is plenty of spirit and there is talent, but nowhere is there a Benni McCarthy, a Lucas Radebe, a Steven Pienaar, a Quinton Fortune, a Doctor Khumalo, a Shoes Moshoeu, a Shaun Bartlett. And yet it is the coach who always takes the fall, and so the merry-goround will turn again.

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