Stuart Baxter on Tuesday stopped short of committing himself to coaching Bafana Bafana for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, while the South African Football Association (Safa) said they expected Bafana not to go to Egypt simply “to make up the numbers”.
There have been rumours of tensions between Baxter and Safa for some time now, and these were not necessarily eased by Bafana’s 2-1 win over Libya Sunday to seal their place at Egypt 2019.
The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations runs from June 21 to July 19, with the draw set for April 12.
Baxter’s job was almost certainly on the line ahead of the Libya game, and interestingly, when it was put to him on Tuesday that he would definitely be in charge for the Africa Cup of Nations, the Bafana head coach was rather evasive.
“The truth and reality of a coach [is that] a coach will do a job for as long as he feels he can.
“People can’t tell me I can’t coach Bafana. I will know that myself, and that will be for different reasons, if it is my health, my motivation, or the fact that I don’t feel I am taking the team where I want it to go.
“There could be a million things. At that point I could resign.
“At that point, as well, other people could think ‘you are not doing that’ and sack you.
“That is where we were when we went to Tunisia.
“I could have been sacked and could have said … this is not for me,” said Baxter.
“So that can work in a lot of ways, but I think this squad of players has shown that, despite all those possibilities – we could lose, we could get the adulation of winning 5-0 – they put all that aside and did a job.
“In that respect my ambitions for the future … should take a back seat.”
Safa president Danny Jordaan did not attend Tuesday’s welcome, apparently called to an urgent meeting, and vice-president Ria Ledwaba spoke in his place.
“The mandate was to qualify and Stuart has done that.
“It is the first time there are 24 countries in an Africa Cup of Nations, so South Africa must go there and not make up the numbers,” said Ledwaba.
“We have to go there and expect we have got a good team.”
Baxter, for his part, was keen to remove too much pressure from his side to perform in Egypt.
“I don’t think we should say now we must go and win it.
“We have just qualified for the first time in a long time. The next step in the development of this squad is to develop a personality.
“I said to the players that when they go to Egypt, I want you to show people that this is South Africa, show them what we are and be proud of that.”
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