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Last Updated: Friday, 2 April, 2004, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
SA coach ready for challenge
By Osasu Obayiuwana
BBC Sport

Stuart Baxter
Baxter said the SA job is the toughest challenge of his career

New South Africa manager Stuart Baxter has declared that he has no illusions about the difficulties of the job he has accepted.

The Englishman is the most recent foreigner appointed to manage the Bafana Bafana since the 2002 departure of Portuguese Carlos Queiroz, who is now managing Spanish champions Real Madrid.

"I have no illusions about the importance of this job short term," Baxter told BBC Sport in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

I have no illusions about the importance of this job
South Africa manager Stuart Baxter

"If I don't have a successful short term, there probably won't be a long term."

Baxter is Bafana Bafana's eleventh coach in a decade but he said that he will not allow the South African Football Association's (Safa) high turnover of managers to distract him from his immediate task of restoring the country's football reputation.

"I really don't think I should focus on the fact that South Africa has had many coaches in recent years.

"That would make me anxious and could result in me doing a bad job and getting sacked."

"Carlos [Queiroz] did a good job but the South African FA made decisions in the past that they've not been happy with.

"I think Safa would want to move on and not repeat the mistakes they've made [in the past]," Baxter said.

Reversing South Africa's position in the global and continental rankings is a top priority for the coach who is taking up his first job in African football.

"Let's face it, South African football is in decline.

"In 1996, they were number one in Africa but at the moment, they're number seven, not in the world, but in the African continent. This is totally unacceptable."

Restoring ties

Repairing the relationship between Safa and the country's European-based players is a key factor in Baxter's plan for the national team.

In particular, Baxter hopes that striker Benni McCarthy, who has shown excellent form with Porto in the Uefa Champions League and the Portuguese championship, will resolve his differences with Safa and resume his international career.

Problems with former South Africa manager Shakes Mashaba over reporting for engagements led to his decision to stay away from the Bafana Bafana.

Benni McCarthy has been in impressive form for Portuguese club Porto
Baxter plans to soothe things with McCarthy

"A player like Benni McCarthy would be important for any [national] team," Baxter argued.

"The situation with Benni is not one that was built over one or two evenings but a period of time.

"I hope to take some of this tension away and help Benni make a decision with his heart."

With South Africa's opening match against Cape Verde - in the joint qualifiers for the 2006 Cup of Nations and World Cup - fast approaching, Baxter said all hands must be on deck to start the campaign on a winning note.

The game will be played on 6 June.

"The [short] time for preparation is not ideal. But this should focus everyone's mind on the task at hand."

South Africa appoint Baxter
24 Mar 04  |  African
Bartlett calls for SA stability
01 Apr 04  |  African

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