From zero to hero. Amiable, articulate Stuart Baxter is
leaving South Africa after a contrasting second stint of coaching in the
country at the right time to continue his nomadic soccer career with Turkish club
This is the view of wily, former Peruvian Soccer World Cup star,
long-time PSL coach and current Orlando Pirates Director of Development, Augusto
Palacios, about the 61-year-old British-born coach who transformed the
vindictiveness and vitriol hurled in his direction when he coached Bafana
Bafana 10 years ago into the idolatry and respect he achieved while helping
glamour club Kaizer Chiefs to two Premier League and other titles in a
three-season spell from 2012 to 2015.
"Look at it this way," says Palacios about the
departure of Baxter from Chiefs which surprised a good many.
confounded in the best way possible all his detractors in South Africa who blamed him for Bafana not qualifying for the
World Cup finals in Germany in 2006 and
even went as far as to suggest he operated under the direction and whims of
player agent Rob Moore in his selection of teams."
Anyone who knew how the upstanding Baxter valued and
still values his integrity scoffed at the mere suggestion he would sell his
soccer soul for the benefit of Moore and the players he controlled.
But soccer ignoramuses run rampant in the local media and
many came to believe the libel with which some scribes labelled Baxter, but who
ironically - and in some instances because of their affection for Chiefs - have
tended to perform a somersault and praise him to the heavens after he helped
Amakhosi to revive their fortunes and compile another tidy amount of
"Baxter has achieved just about all he could in the
three years with Chiefs," says Palacios, "and with the loss of a
number of prominent and key players, it will be tough for the Naturena club to
maintain its momentum in the coming season.
"Whether this was Baxter's line of thinking, I'm not
sure. But it would make a lot of sense to me. As for the reports I have seen in
the media that he had some differences with Chiefs general manager Bobby
Motaung and this influenced his decision, I know nothing about that."
There was also the misleading information from the
rumour-mongers long before it was
announced that Chiefs and their coach were parting ways that troubled and
confused SAFA were poised to appoint Baxter to the long overdue post of
national technical director and also utilise him at the helm of development.
Talk of somersaults. Was it not SAFA who had
unceremoniously shown Baxter the door in 2005 and turned on their own coach
instead of supporting him?
Anyway it's in Turkey and not the troubled,
bribery-accused corridors of SAFA's headquarters at Soccer City in Crown Mines
where Baxter will be displaying his wares in the immediate future.
But don't rule out a third term in the country some time
in the future for the football wanderer who played in six different countries
as a competent, if not dynamic midfielder and then went on to gain a greater
degree of prominence and success as a coach at different times in England,
Portugal, Japan, Finland, Sweden and, of course, South Africa.
As for Chiefs, one cannot imagine that someone as
level-headed as club supremo and founder Kaizer Motaung can be happy to see
Baxter go after he transformed the club's talent into a professional,
methodical and successful combination.
Baxter's recently-announced successor, Steve Komphela, is
a smart cookie as is befitting a qualified schoolmaster, not overlooking either
that he played for Chiefs and captained Bafana during an extended soccer career
in which he has impressed while coaching an extensive number of PSL clubs -
most recently Maritzburg United - and South African Under-23 and Under-20 teams
with growing maturity.
But Komphela has a hard act to follow and some will claim
that the only way Chiefs can go right now is in a downward direction.
Never take over a team that is riding on the crest of a
wave, is a well-worn maxim for soccer
coaches. But they tend to ignore this when confronted with a plum offer - and
sometimes even confound the doubting Thomases.