Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Stuart Baxter: the honest truth about Kaizer Chiefs and their coach

Your number's up: Kaizer Chiefs trio Baxter, Nkosi and Jessica Motaung
IT'S one thing to be 4-0 down after 37 minutes of your opening competitive game of the season. It's quite another to be a Kaizer Chiefs fan and hear that your coach, Stuart Baxter, has been economical with the truth.
When I spoke to Joe Mann on Metro FM's popular Sports Centre (now known as 083 Sports@6) last night, I was asked for my views on the opening weekend of MTN8 action and I dropped the bombshell: "Stuart Baxter lied about his CV, and I never thought he was a good choice to coach a big club like Kaizer Chiefs."
Of course, I didn't just talk about Chiefs. I pointed out how well Mamelodi Sundowns had played in their emphatic 4-1 thumping of the AmaKhosi at a packed Loftus Versfeld. How the oft-lamented Teko Modise had pulled all the strings - and how good debutant striker Edward Manqele looked.
Oh, I also questioned the penalties given and not given in Orlando Pirates squeaky 1-0 win over Bloemfontein Celtic, the efficiency of SuperSport United in their 2-1 win over Free State Stars and praised Moroka Swallows for producing the one result I predicted wrong - an emphatic 2-0 win over AmaZulu despite the recent departure of Gordon Igesund to Bafana Bafana.
But it was my critique of Chiefs which attracted the most responses, some of it abusive, on the social networking sites. It was a bit of a shock. I made my first appearance with Robert Marawa on Metro during the 2010 World Cup and have been chatting away with the great man regularly since, on television and radio.
So, am I, as some would have it an "air head" who, as another suggests "knows nothing about football"? Do I hate Kaizer Chiefs? Do I have a hidden agenda? Of course not. I am, as I told Joe on Monday night, a lifelong football player who played over 3,000 games, a coach, a referee, a lover of the game, particularly in South Africa where so many of my ilk deride "local football" as rubbish.
I never reached great heights as a player, though you will see pictures of me winning the FA Over 35s Christian World Cup on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/nealivorcollins/photos in 2010, aged 49.
As a youngster I was coached by England manager Roy Hodgson who told me I would never make it as a player, I was picked for Northern Transvaal schoolboys and South African Universities and trained with Umlazi Bush Bucks as young journalist in Durban. I was never good enough to make Clive Barker's first team, not with the title-winning side he and Lawrence "Big Bear" Ngubane had put together.
Then, as a conscientious objector and political exile, I spent 1985-2010 in England, playing two or three games a week in the local leagues as I learned my trade on the Mirror, Daily Mail and Sky TV.
I returned to South Africa for the England cricket tour and World Cup in 2010, fell in love with the place and a local lawyer - all over again and stayed to look after my doddery dad in Centurion.
I have no bias against Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates. Just huge admiration for the two giants of South African football. But if I see something wrong, something dodgy, I'll raise the issue. Unlike so many in the media here, I have no in-built fear of Irvin Khoza or Kaizer Motaung - or his son Bobby. 
In the UK, I have been told to "f*** off" late at night by Sir Alex Ferguson and was once confronted by a mob of angry Birmingham fans in North London. I have seen Millwall late at night, been to European games where riots have broken out. After those incidents, and many like it, you tend to do your job regardless of the insults. As long as you stick to what you believe to be the truth.
I tell it like I see it. And that's what I continue to do, though it has lost me many friends over the past two years in South African sports journalism.
When Baxter arrived, I wrote stories like these, some of which were re-published in local newspapers and websites.
But if it's the truth about Stuart Baxter you want, it's to be found here:
Written by the Johannesburg Star's Jonty Mark on May 11, I've given you the full story below. Robert Marawa had Bobby Mataung in the next day to discuss Baxter's lies. He couldn't - or wouldn't - explain the anomalies. Baxter has never explained the holes in his CV. And this is the man put in charge of South Africa's biggest club. So now it's your choice. Read what is written below. You decide if I was right or not. 

Embellishing your CV is hardly a new trait, but Stuart Baxter really ought to be a little more careful.
The new Kaizer Chiefs coach, in an interview with The Star on Thursday, did his best to make his time in between coaching Bafana Bafana and the Amakhosi look, shall we say, as effervescent as possible.
Baxter resigned from the Bafana job in November 2005, after failing to qualify the team for the 2006 Fifa World Cup. His return to South Africa and the Amakhosi came as a surprise to many, when it was confirmed last week.
Whatever Baxter said in meeting with Chiefs president Kaizer Motaung persuaded the Amakhosi chairman that the 58-year-old Englishman was the right man for the job.
Yet one hopes Baxter was not as generous with the facts as he was on Thursday. The Chiefs coach’s first strange claim was that upon leaving Bafana he “went to Japan for one year and won the title”.
Closer inspection reveals that in 2006, Baxter’s Vissel Kobe finished third in the Japanese second division, winning promotion to the top-flight through a play-off.
That’s a “title”?
Baxter then went off to Helsingborgs in Sweden, a country where he lifted the Allsvenskan title in 1998 with AIK Stockholm.
“When I went to Helsingborgs they were third bottom and we finished third.
“We also got to the last 16 of the Europa League,” said Baxter on Thursday.
Another swift check of the facts, however, and Helsingborgs actually finished fourth in the 2008 Allsvenskan, and reached only the last 32 of the 2007/8 Europa League (the Kaizer Chiefs statement on Baxter’s appointment this week also states that he reached the last 16).
These exaggerations extend to Baxter’s time with the Finnish national team, who he joined in 2008.
The Chiefs coach correctly noted that Finland had drawn twice with Germany in a decent World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign.
But the truth was once again loose as he went into their failed Euro 2012 qualification.
According to Baxter, Finland “got beaten 2-1 by Holland, lost to Moldova when we had Sami Hyppia sent off five minutes, in, and came back and drew with Hungary.
“It was very difficult to qualify. I said to the Finnish FA that I wanted to get back into club football, and spend more time with my daughter.” (Baxter’s daughter fell very ill when he was in Japan, one of the main reasons he went back to Scandinavia).
Well, Finland did lose 2-1 to Holland and did have Hyppia sent off in a 2-0 loss to Moldova (in the 36th minute, not the fifth), but they also lost 2-1 to Hungary.
It is difficult to believe how anyone could make this succession of mistakes accidentally, and has to cast Baxter in a slightly dappled light even before he has started his work with Chiefs.
No wonder, if he believes his own story, that the Chiefs coach says: “I don’t think I have to prove anything to anybody. I must just make sure the players enjoy training and the supporters enjoy what they are watching.” – The Star

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