Bafana coach Baxter says SA football now reminds him of England 6 or 7 years ago
South African football‚ and the media and public’s swings from pessimism to optimism‚ remind Stuart Baxter of English soccer “six or seven years ago”‚ the Bafana Bafana coach has said.
After decades of underachievement from the national team‚ Baxter said that‚ having qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt in June and July‚ he will face both potentially optimistic expectation‚ and pessimism and anger should the team not perform.
Asked about this after South Africa were drawn with Ivory Coast‚ Morocco and Namibia in Group D‚ Baxter said:
“Sometimes I think the environment working here reminds me of England six or seven years ago.
“Where‚ we were on the one hand pessimistic‚ but on the other hand highly optimistic. In fact overoptimistic. And we fell in-between there‚ and it creates a difficult environment for everybody.
“So you guys [the media] don’t know how we should critique the performance‚ and we [the team] sometimes think‚ ‘Well‚ the performance wasn’t that bad’.
“I think we can start off by saying that I don’t think the Afcon qualifying campaign was a bad one. In a lot of ways we made a lot of progress.
“When we went out of the  World Cup‚ we said we had to make changes. We had to try and rejuvenate the squad‚ bring down the age‚ make the pool wider. At the same time we had to qualify for the Afcon.
“That’s not an easy background. So the fact that they have qualified I think is credit to the boys.
“Where does that position us in: can we win Afcon‚ or is this part of development?
“I read somewhere‚ someone wrote during our qualifying campaign‚ ‘To hell with Bafana’. Now‚ you can’t say‚ ‘To hell with Bafana’‚ but then when we land in Afcon‚ ‘And now you should win it’.
“I think we can all agree that OK‚ this was not a bad campaign. There were things I didn’t like – obviously the Seychelles game [SA’s 0-0 away draw].
“Libya at home [a 0-0 draw in Durban]‚ we were in the middle of a process where we were trying to make changes.
"That’s football. Libya came‚ shut up shop and got the 0-0 they wanted.
“The other games I’m quite satisfied with. Seychelles here [SA won 6-0] I thought we played very good football.
“Nigeria away‚ same thing [SA won 2-0]. Nigeria at home was a tough game‚ and I don’t think we can complain with a 1-1.
“The last game‚ Libya away‚ I thought the boys were outstanding‚ in terms of tactical nous and character.
“And development‚ I think we have to concentrate on that. Rather than now getting carried away and saying either‚ ‘We must win it’‚ or‚ ‘This is where we want to go’.
“So that when we play Ivory Coast‚ we should be thinking about us‚ not them.
“Of course I’ll do my homework and we’ll know exactly how they’ll play. But we need to be thinking about trying to create an identity that will take us further.
“And instead of banging our chests‚ like the English did‚ and keep getting beaten‚ if we can concentrate on the development of the present squad‚ and bringing in a few more good youngsters‚ then I think we can knock some of these [teams] over.
"And then that will be the result that everybody wants.”
Egypt 2019 runs from June 21 to July 19.