With City gearing up to take on Chiefs in a PSL fixture at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday (3pm kickoff), McCarthy revealed the reason behind his passion for Chiefs - and why, when he returned to South Africa, he finished his career at Orlando Pirates and not the club he followed during his childhood.
“Overall, though, I still have a soft spot for Chiefs,” he said. “It’s the club I loved as a child. Growing up I supported Chiefs. My dad was a massive Chiefs fan - and, as kids, if we didn’t support Chiefs, well, then we would have to find another place to stay.”
Because of this, it was obviously a bit of a surprise when McCarthy joined Pirates in 2011: having just returned to South Africa after a stellar career in Europe with clubs like Ajax Amsterdam, Celta Vigo, Porto and Blackburn Rovers, there was frenzied speculation as to where McCarthy would finish off his career. Chiefs, his boyhood love, seemed to be the obvious choice in the minds of many. Not so, said the current City coach, and he explained why.
“Initially, after leaving England, I was going to go to play in the USA,” said McCarthy. “I was training at Ajax Cape Town to stay fit. But because I had never seen a Soweto derby, I went up to Johannesburg to watch the game, and that was where I met Pirates chairman Irvin Khoza. We had a chat and he persuaded me to sign for Pirates.”
But that was not the whole story: McCarthy also admitted that his decision to join Pirates was inspired by the disrespect displayed towards him by Chiefs.
“I guess what happened the night before was also important,” he said. “I was at a restaurant and Bobby (Motaung) was at the same place. Afterwards, there were all the rumours that Chiefs were trying to sign me. But Bobby’s comments were that I was finished, I was past my best, that I was washed up and that I wasn’t a big fish anymore. So I always had that in the back of my head, which is why I was happy to sign for Pirates - to show Chiefs how washed up I was; I would show them what a big fish looked like. I guess still now you can say that whenever I play against Chiefs, even as a coach, they know I will be out to try to hurt them.”
Motaung’s words would, of course, come back to haunt him as McCarthy went on to score on his debut for Pirates and he subsequently also inspired the Buccaneers to the treble that season.