Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter during the South African national mens soccer team training session at FNB Stadium on November 16, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images
Stuart Baxter stared down the barrel of a loaded gun on Wednesday and said he would quit his job as Bafana Bafana coach if the national team fails to qualify for this year’s African Nations Cup in Egypt.
A candid Baxter said contrary to popular opinion‚ it would not cost his South African Football Association (Safa) employers a lot of money to release him from a contract that runs until the end of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Baxter — who took over the job in May 2017 — and his charges face a considerable amount of pressure as they have to either beat or draw with Libya next month in a massive final Nations Cup qualifier if they are to secure a ticket to the continental showpiece in June.
‘‘If we do not qualify‚ certainly‚ certainly‚ I will tell the FA (Safa) that you had better make sure that you really want me to carry on because I will walk if you want‚” the Briton said.
‘‘And all this nonsense about it will cost them (Safa) a fortune to get rid of me‚ you can ask the guy sitting next to me (Bafana team medic Dr Thulani Ngwenya)‚ it will not cost them a bloody fortune. It will never cost anybody a fortune.”
Baxter revealed that he walked away with nothing when Safa axed him as Bafana coach in his first spell in November 2005 after failing to guide the team to the 2006 World Cup as a rampant Ghana topped the pool instead.
‘‘I have only been sacked‚ I think……… close to being sacked was here and that was when I left the last time‚” he said.
‘‘Do you know how much I got that time? I had two years left on my contract (and I got) zero rand.
‘‘I told the FA as we sat in the meeting there and I looked across the table and they said ’coach your package’ and I said ’my package‚ give it to the kids’ and I walked. So it will not cost them a fortune to sack me. It will not.”
The forthright Briton continued that he could still quit the job even if Bafana secure the result they need against Libya next month and qualify for the Nations Cup.
‘‘Also‚ if I can’t do the job here‚ if I think that we are not moving forward in the pace we want because of certain things and I just can’t do it‚ I will also walk. Even if they want me to stay‚” he said.
Bafana are in second place in Group E with nine points behind leaders Nigeria‚ who have already qualified‚ and Baxter maintained that he would weigh up his options regardless of the outcome next month.
‘‘Of course‚ of course‚ if we do not qualify‚ I will put my hat in there and I will say (to Safa) listen‚ if you want me to go‚ I will go‚” he said.
Libya‚ who must win to take second place in the group behind Nigeria and deny South Africa qualification‚ cannot host the game in the North African country because of a long-standing FIFA ban and must find a neutral venue.
They are yet to confirm the venue and date of the crunch encounter and the only thing Safa knows is that it will be played on the weekend on March 22-24.
The security situation in Libya is considered dangerous with various rival factions and war lords battling for control over the country’s oil wealth. The Libyans have hosted their home games in either Egypt or Tunisia in recent years.
Baxter also thanked the Premier Soccer League for agreeing to accommodate the national team by moving some of their games ahead of this crucial match.