Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter admits that building a strong relationship with South African players abroad could prove ‘vital’ to the national team in the future.
The 65-year-old coach recently jetted off to France to visit the like of RC Strasbourg forward Lebo Mothiba, Keagan Dolly of Montpellier, Amiens midfielder Bongani Zungu and Guingamp’s Lebogang Phiri.
Baxter says he used his trip to France to check up on the progression of Zungu, Dolly and Phiri as they continue to mend their way back to full fitness following their injury setbacks.
‘I was visiting some of the clubs that have got our injured players,’ Baxter told TimesLIVE.
‘And I went to Strasbourg to see Mothiba, talk to his coach and see how they use him.
‘I was in France and visited Dolly, Mothiba and Zungu.
‘Phiri [at EA Guingamp] was injured and not playing, so I didn’t get to see him this time around.
‘I wanted to see Lebo Mothiba’s club because I think he’s going to be an important player for a long time for South Africa.
‘I went to Montpellier and met their physiotherapist and got an update on Keagan’s injury. I met Bongani Zungu’s sporting director at Amiens.
‘Then I got on the train and travelled two-and-a-half hours to Strasbourg, just to watch Lebo Mothiba train and sit with his coach [Thierry Laurey], and sit with his president [Marc Keller] and ask,”Are you happy with everything, what can we do for you?”
‘It was good. And I think that relationship we have there is going to be vital going forward.
‘I don’t think Strasbourg will be his final destination, I think he’ll move on. But at the moment he’s delighted with Strasbourg and Strasbourg are delighted with him.’
The Bafana mentor stated that on his travels back to Sweden during the Christmas break he will visit a few South African players, including the likes of Luther Singh and Thabo Cele, who will be in Portugal during that time.
‘When I go back [to his home in Sweden] and celebrate Christmas, on the way back to SA I’m going to go and visit a few of the younger players like Luther Singh and Thabo Cele in Portugal.
‘I’ve got to get around and figure out how we can turn these young guys into players we can use for Qatar [the 2022 World Cup].
‘I’ve got to see how they’re progressing, if are they having any problems at the club that we need to know about?
‘How do the clubs see their development, do they see them as a No 9 or a No 10?
‘I think we need to cooperate on that and the clubs need to be viewed more as a partner and as a friend.
‘I’ve tried to do it with the South African clubs, and now I need to get around to the European clubs, because very often they can be the stumbling blocks,’ he concluded.