Sat, 18 Jan 2020

Cape Town - Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter says he used Thembinkosi Lorch sparingly at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) because he did not want the Orlando Pirates star to be overwhelmed by the pressure.

Lorch was the 2018/19 Absa Premiership Footballer of the Season and was expected to play a major role at 32nd edition of Africa's biggest tournament.

However, the 25-year-old only got to play twice.

Lorch played a key role in Bafana Bafana's last 16 encounter against host nation Egypt, where he scored the winning goal in the dying minutes of the game.

He also featured for 80-minutes in the quarter-final defeat to Nigeria.

"Football is about opinions. If you put together the 10 best coaches in the world and ask them to pick a 'World XI', none of them, probably, will be the same," Baxter told reporters.

"Because we've all got opinions about the game. If I criticise people for not having the same views as me, then I'm being a communist and I'm an obvious Stalinistic coach.

"I understand that people have those opinions, how those opinions are vented by maybe the media or by social media, they should know that they have an effect on the team.

"With Thembi Lorch, there's a massive difference playing for your national team and your club team. Even if you're the best player in your club and you get the Player of the Year Award, there's a massive difference."

Baxter added: "If you ask Tiger Woods what's the most difficult thing he's ever done, he'll say playing in the Ryder Cup...why? Because he's representing his country, it's not just him.

"And I think every top player needs to be introduced carefully into the national team, otherwise you throw them in, you break them and then we go, 'Ah, no. He couldn't play,' and we throw him away. Well, I don't do that.

"Thembi got a role when we played a way that I thought suited him, and he understood it and did well.

"In the second game, he didn't do so well because it was a different game and we substituted him. Now, it was not because he's a bad player.

"He'll continue to be an important part, but we have to make sure [he's protected] and I've got that responsibility, while the people on social media don't.

"I know theirs is a small angle while mine is a wide-angle, it doesn't mean I think they're all stupid, it just means that it's football and that passion and what we see out there is why we're in the game.

"The nights like Egypt is why we're in the game, because it's emotion, it's passion, it's an opinion.

"I don't think people are stupid for not having the same opinion as me, but when I explain my opinion, I expect them to say, 'Ah, yeah, we agree with you now' or 'We get what you're saying, but we still don't agree'...that's okay."

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