Baxter would back his Bafana players if they abandoned a game in response to racist abuse

17 April 2019 - 14:37
By Sazi Hadebe
South African national mens soccer team coach Stuart Baxter with Thulani Seraro and Hlompho Kekana during the South African national mens soccer team training session at Steyn City School on November 13, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images South African national mens soccer team coach Stuart Baxter with Thulani Seraro and Hlompho Kekana during the South African national mens soccer team training session at Steyn City School on November 13, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Stuart Baxter says he would follow his Bafana Bafana players off the pitch if they elected to abandon a game in response to racist abuse during a match.

Bafana star Bongani Zungu recently experienced the ugly spectre of racism in the game when his Amiens teammate Prince Gouano was racially abused during the French club's 0-0 draw against Dijon.

The match did continue and was played to a finish but it once again highlighted the ugly side of the beautiful game.

Baxter‚ who is likely to include Zungu in the African Nations Cup-bound squad in June‚ said he would back his players if they faced a similar situation.

“To start with‚ I cannot comprehend a society that condones that sort of thing‚” said Baxter.

“I’m not going to say it’s social problem… it’s our football problem.

"I think it is a football problem.

"What football does is polarise and it is very clannish. It is not only racial‚ it’s also homophobic.

“I hate it. This is the human race‚ the only race I want is the race for the Afcon. I want to talk about that but when people are this badly behaved‚ then we have to talk about it.”

Bafana will face 1992 and 2015 champions Ivory Coast and 1976 winners Morocco in Group D of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Egypt.

Southern African neighbouring country Namibia make up the fourth team pulled from the pot for Group D in last week's draw in Cairo for the competition that runs from June 21 to July 19.

Baxter said the failure to mete out harsh punishment to abusers at stadiums is one of the reasons football the world over has failed to stop the scourge of racism in the game.

“I think that punishment has to be greater‚” the Bafana coach said.

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“I am not one of those who will say put them against the wall and flog them‚ I don’t think that helps.

“But I certainly think that if someone does that in the name of Chelsea FC‚ for instance‚ and if he sees Chelsea having points taken away or playing behind closed doors‚ it will be a little more self-managed.

“People around the world will be like‚ ‘Hey you shut up! We had points taken from us.’

“The penalties that have been dished out are not great enough and I’ve got no real understanding of the people who do that.

"I can’t say that this is what they are looking to achieve.”

But the question begs: what would the Bafana players do if they found themselves in this kind of situation?

“I heard another player‚ who played for me in England‚ he said that everybody should walk off the field in solidarity‚" said Baxter.

“I don’t think that I would take the lead on that.

"The player would have to tell me what he wants to do.

"If the majority of my players want to walk off the pitch‚ I would walk with them.”