Warning on fixture congestion

Stuart Baxter has warned that South African football needs to avoid the trap of over-congestion of fixtures for Bafana Bafana to avoid under-performing as England have done.

New Bafana coach Baxter has urged the South African Football Association (Safa) and Premier Soccer League (PSL) to continue working together – as they have done increasingly well in recent years – to balance fixture congestion and the interests of national teams.

“The English national team has never really fulfilled what everybody expects of them‚” the former England U20 coach said ahead of his imposing first match with Bafana – the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Nigeria in Uyo on June 10.

“England had the ‘golden generation’ – who didn’t really become golden. It was more like tin.

“One of the reasons for that is that their programme is so hectic‚ so draining‚ that by the time they have a qualification‚ they do well in the early parts but then fall away.

“They may just qualify‚ but then when they go to the tournament – disappointing.

“That is a reason we have all got to work together – PSL‚ Caf‚ Safa‚ clubs‚ media and players.

“We’ve got to get our house in the best possible order‚ so that we give our boys the best possible chance – not where if clubs do well on the continent it’ll cost them so much that they’ll be out of domestic honours for the next four years.

“The same with Bafana. While Nigeria have camped in France for three weeks‚ playing against Corsica and Togo‚ I’ve got to pick up SuperSport and Sundowns players who play on the June 2 [in the Confederation Cup and Champions League]‚ and Bafana meet up on June 4.

“SuperSport’s players fly back from [Democratic Republic of] Congo‚ they land‚ and I’ve got to put them into a demanding camp‚ then play Nigeria away.

“If we want to do this properly everybody has got to be on the same page so that we give the national team‚ the clubs and most importantly the players every chance they have to reproduce the sort of form that will take us where we want to go.”

These are lofty‚ and perhaps idealistic and unrealistic‚ ideas expressed by the coach.

But even in the past PSL season – a scheduling nightmare due to having to juggle Mamelodi Sundowns winning the Champions League and competing at the Club World Cup‚ and the break for the Africa Cup of Nations – there were areas that could have been bettered.

The PSL has continued to improve markedly, making allowances for the national cause‚ seen again last season with a late start in August to aid the SA U23s at the Rio Olympics‚ complicating scheduling further.

But the league missed a beat persisting with a Christmas break‚ which unnecessarily extended the league season‚ which in turn will affect Bafana’s preparations against Nigeria.

The PSL’s continued insistence‚ too‚ in bowing to sponsors’ demands to stage cup competitions on a league fixtures-free week or weekend also creates congestion.

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