Johannesburg - The new Bafana Bafana mentor opted to take on South African Under-17 coach Molefi Ntseki and his Under-20 counterpart Thabo Senong as his assistants.
Owen Da Gama, who guides the fortunes of the Under-23 national team, was the departed Shakes Mashaba’s deputy.
Knocking on his door
You see, Da Gama committed a cardinal sin when he voiced his availability for the then vacant position of coach that had been advertised by his employers.
At the time he made these proclamations, the South African Football Association (Safa) had already compiled a short list of prospects.
Da Gama should have kept his trap shut because he was already part of the set up. If Safa felt he was ready to take over full time, it would have come knocking at his door.
It’s called patience.
His utterances were tantamount to shooting himself in the foot as no incoming coach would have been comfortable working with somebody with designs on his own new job.
Before “Rubber Doll” – a good coach, I must add – pronounced his availability, he insinuated that he had been sidelined by Mashaba.
This happened when his answers to questions about his selection seemed to deviate from Mashaba’s methods – Da Gama had selected players who were on form and even called up some who had been sort of banished from the national team by his predecessor.
Teams – whether the players themselves of those who are part of the technical complement – usually abide by their decisions made together.
There is a widespread tendency in football coaching for the new broom to have a go at the ones who came before them.
This also happens in different spheres of life, for example when a new manager comes in and wants to change the way things are done just to prove a point. This works sometimes, but usually backfires.
My advice to Baxter, who is also a good coach with proven credentials, would be to forget about what Mashaba did and how he approached things, and be his own man focusing on the future.
A few days ago Baxter somewhat fell into that trap when he spoke about Thulani Tyson Hlatshwayo’s appointment as the Bafana skipper.
He was asked if he was going to rotate the armband like Mashaba did.
His answer sounded like a dig at Mashaba: “The captain’s armband should be valued, not rotated and moved across 16 players. So this is permanent”.
So I say Baxter should not bother himself with what Mashaba did – whether it was right or wrong – but rather concentrate on the job at hand and carve out a niche for himself.
Mashaba did cheapen the armband and really made a mockery of the Bafana captaincy, but that is water under the bridge and none of Baxter’s business.
I do agree with his choice of captain and the notion that the national team should have a permanent skipper because it augers well for stability within the team.
But Baxter cannot afford to take potshots at Mashaba because this will derail him.
Journey has begun
He must heed the wise advice about the reason a car’s rear-view mirror is smaller than the windscreen – he must focus on the future, not what’s behind him.
He has only done it once, but once is more than enough and it was unnecessary.
Going forward, Baxter has his hands full as he needs to get the team out of the quagmire it’s in.
Appointing Hlatshwayo is just a small part of the journey he has begun – as per the Chinese saying that a journey of 1 000 miles starts with one step.
We wish the coach all the best going forward. You have the nation’s support. Don’t disappoint us.
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