CAPE TOWN – Citizens coach Benni McCarthy has unleashed yet another fine young talent on the PSL: Keanu Cupido.
The 20-year-old defender arrived at the Cape club at the beginning of the season from French side AC Ajaccio, but he wasn’t expected to see action so soon. But with City hamstrung by injuries McCarthy had no hesitation in throwing the youngster into the deep end.
McCarthy understands the importance of opportunity. He benefited from coaches who took a chance on his talent - and he forged a successful career. As a coach, McCarthy is doing the same: last season, he plucked Taariq Fielies and Craig Martin from obscurity and provided the duo with an opportunity to play.
Cupido has grabbed the opportunity with both feet and he has been impressive in the centre of defence. What’s more, he netted the winner in a 1-0 win over Maritzburg at the weekend, which qualified the Cape club for a place in the semi-finals of the MTN8.
City are back in PSL action on Saturday when they host Golden Arrows at the Cape Town Stadium (kick-off 6pm). McCarthy will monitor the progress of his injured players - but, such has been the impact of Cupido, the young defender is unlikely to be dropped.
“I was obviously surprised to be given an opportunity so soon, but, as a footballer, you always have to be ready,” said Cupido. “In this game, you never know what can happen, and you always have to be ready. Coming into the team was made easier, though, by the coach and the players. They gave me confidence, so, when I was on the field, I was never scared or nervous.”
Cupido, from Eldorado Park in Johannesburg, was a member of the South African squad which participated in the U17 World Cup in Chile three years ago. It was while he was at the Diambars Academy in Boksburg that the opportunity to go to France arrived.
City boss John Comitis explained how Cupido’s transfer came about: “We were looking to add some defensive cover to the team - because, with an injury or a suspension, then we would be a bit thin. We realised that Keanu, who was in France, may be available. Also, we have Richard Lovell as our head of development, and he had previously worked at the Diambars Academy, so he knew Keanu’s ability.
We brought the player down, Benni had a look, liked what we saw and we signed him. Initially, we were only going to start him off in the Reserve Team, but Benni wanted Keanu in the first team.”
Cupido, in fact, is quite chuffed to be in a team coached by McCarthy.
“For me, it’s a dream come true to have Benni as my coach,” he said.
“As a youngster, I watched him play, he was my role model. Now, to start my career with him as my coach, is really special.”