Stuart Baxter spoke like a mix between a pastor and a salesman in his first official address as Bafana Bafana coach‚ preaching unity and selling the legacy he wants to leave behind.
But it will take more than words for Baxter to win over everyone, as the decision by the South African Football Association (Safa) to appoint the Brit has divided opinions.
The association “settled” for Baxter after money became an issue in the protracted search in which Safa could not tie down the front-runners Carlos Queiroz‚ two-times Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) winner Herve Renard, and Belgian Hugo Broos, who helped Cameroon become African kings after 13 barren years.
Baxter does not have an international football CV as impressive as theirs.
What he has over them‚ though‚ is a good understanding of South African football.
That understanding has prepared him to deal with the doubts and criticism that surrounded his appointment, just as was the case in his first stint as Bafana coach and also when he returned to manage Kaizer Chiefs.
“If I worry about all the negativity that people could throw up – what if this‚ what if that – then that diminishes my ability to do the job properly‚” Baxter said.
“I have to believe in the team. I’ve got to believe in the process and I’ve got to believe that we will be successful.
“There are a million reasons why people will suggest that we won’t be successful.
“If I listen to that‚ then we won’t be successful.”
Bafana’s trip to Uyo to take on Nigeria on June 10 in the 2019 Afcon qualifiers will be a perfect opportunity for Baxter to silence his detractors and set a good foundation against the old enemy.
He will announce the squad for that match today.
“Winning everyone over can’t be done in five minutes‚” Baxter said.
“I can’t do that‚ let’s say‚ before the Nigeria game. I’ll do that when I am in the seat and have a little bit of time there.
“It will take me going around visiting the clubs‚ finding out what they need from their association and outlining what we want from them.
“It’s those things I will need to do.”