Thursday, 23 May 2013

Did Mbazo save Baxter from the axe: exclusive interview with Bafana Bafana's most capped player, Aaron Mokoena

Bafana's most capped: me and Aaron "The Axe" Mokoena

WHEN Stuart Baxter leads Kaizer Chiefs out at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday afternoon to reclaim further glory for South Africa’s biggest football club, Aaron Mokoena will be smiling broadly.

It was the record-breaking international defender who might just have saved the British boss’s bacon early in the season when times were hard.

Mokoena, the former Ajax, Blackburn and Portsmouth centre-back now at Bidvest Wits, told me this morning: “I love Stewy. When he was Bafana Bafana coach a decade ago he made me his captain. I knew then he was a top manager. He had all kinds of plans but they wouldn’t back him.

“So when things were getting difficult for Stuart early in the season, I made a call to Jessica Motaung (daughter of club owner Kaizer and the AmaKhosi’s marketing director). I told her ‘Give Baxter some time, he will come good.’ Now here he is, on the verge of winning the double.”

So did Mbazo save Baxter from the axe? The opening 4-1 defeat against Mamelodi Sundowns, coming on top of questions over the man from Wolverhampton’s CV, may well have led to serious trouble. But after Mokoena’s call, Chiefs went from strength to strength, crushing AmaZulu in their opening PSL clash and going on to win their first championship in eight years.

On Saturday Gavin Hunt’s SuperSport will attempt to derail Baxter’s bid for the double but Mokoena grins: “I’ve got to go with Chiefs. I know they’ve been on a poor run on the finishing stretch (two defeats and four draws in their last six saw Platinum Stars and Orlando Pirates snapping at their heels until the final week) but  they’ll be up for it.”

Mokoena himself, aged 32 and with a record 107 South Africa caps to his name, has seen it all. A 15-year career which started at Jomo Cosmos and swept across Holland, Germany, Belgium and England may not end in back South Africa.

Mbazo, who played 23 times for fourth-placed Wits this season reveals: “I’m actually flying to the USA next week, there have been inquiries – but I may stay at Wits for one more year.”

With Hunt reported to be heading to Wits, Mokoena reveals: “There are big things happening at the club. Antonio Habas was a great coach at the start of the season – very tough, but I like that – Clive Barker was a good caretaker. But next season we might be up there, serious contenders.

“Whatever happens, I’ve loved it. Amsterdam, Blackburn, Portsmouth… I used to commute from Wilmslow in Manchester to the south coast of England every day!

“And my favourite story is that one you wrote before the World Cup, about my mum dressing me up as a girl to protect me during the Boipatong troubles when I was a kid.

“But now? The traffic in Johannesburg! I was twenty minutes late for my chat on eTV Sunrise this morning, even in a Hummer!”

Sold a dummy: me and Chester Missing at eTV Sunrise this morning!


  1. Chill Mbazo chill... You saved nobody none alright?

  2. smh nigga wants to retire under Baxter... Sweet talking his way to Chiefs... His call can't have made any difference