Benni McCarthy seen here after scoring against Liverpool in the Premier League. Photo: Reuters

If a great playing career does not guarantee a successful coaching job, then Cape Town City fans will do well not to place too high an expectation on Benni McCarthy.

Granted, it definitely earns you the respect of the players who will hang on to every word you say given your achievements.

But having shone on the pitch does not always equate to success on the bench.

The examples of star players who couldn’t translate their genius into coaching abound. My hero, the great Diego Maradona, sucked as a coach. Ditto for World Cup winning German captain Lothar Matthaus, England’s Bobby Charlton and Paul Gasgcoine.

He will no doubt disagree, but our very own Jomo Sono has had more success as a talent scout than a coach, following his illustrious playing career.

Damn, even the great Marco van Basten and his Dutch teammate Ruud Gullit couldn’t cut it in the dug-out.

Why then does John Comitis – the City boss who this week unveiled McCarthy as his team’s new coach – expect Benni to be any different? The answer is pretty simple, really. Benni IS different.

From very early on in his playing career, sometime before he turned professional – Benedict Saul McCarthy was always prepared to go the extra mile, to do what the others wouldn’t dare. An incredibly driven individual he is.

And that, more than his natural talent, was the reason the lad from Hanover Park went on to scale heights not many would have expected of anyone from the rough upbringing of the Cape Flats.

Matshelane Mamabolo.

Back in late 1995, a young McCarthy was among the young players discovered in the Safa/Sasol Vision 2000 and went on to form a part of the South African Under-20 side that was coached by Shakes Mashaba. That side teemed with incredible talent.

There was the immensely skilled Junaid Hartley, the brilliant midfielder Patrick ‘Ace’ Mbuthu, as well as the prolific scoring machine Daniel Matsau, to mention but just three.

In the bigger scheme of things, McCarthy was an ordinary player among potential superstars. But he was driven and keen to make a success of his career, and when the team returned from a successful Africa Youth Championships in Morocco in 1997 with silver medals dangling round their necks, it was McCarthy who had impressed the international scouts.

Ajax Amsterdam had signed him, and a brilliant career was about to start.

Unlike Steve Lekoelea – a much more talented player who later was McCarthy’s teammate in the SA Under-23 side – McCarthy quickly grabbed the chance of going to play overseas.

Surely I need not mention how his career in Europe panned out?

Benni McCarthy is welcomed by Cape Town City chairman John Comitis. Photo: Phando Jikelo, ANA Pictures

For years during his time with Bafana, many of us vilified him as not being patriotic, and wanting to pick and choose matches.

Yet the truth behind it was that he was standing up for what he believed were his rights against an association that tended to treat the men in suits better than the players.

Whereas players much more senior than him and some who were even captains sucked up whatever bad treatment they got from the association, Benni stood up and voiced his disapproval. He knew his worth, and demanded he be treated as such.

Not even when they accused him of being overweight in England was Benni distracted, and he typically hit back – even harder.

That he has gone on to acquire top coaching qualifications so quickly after finishing his playing career talks about the drive within him.

Sure, it cannot be taken for granted that because he was a successful player, he will make a great coach.

However, it is very clear that he has all the necessary ingredients to make it. He is passionate about the game, he loves winning, he’s honest, and he stands up for what he believes in.


Saturday Star

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