Battle of the coaches
FOOTBALL, in its inimitable wonder, loves to throw up twisty tales of whimsy in duels filled with delicious irony. A case in point being the two coaches who headline tomorrow’s MTN8 final between Cape Town City and Super-Sport United at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban: Benni McCarthy and Eric Tinkler.
When Hanover Park’s McCarthy arrived at the Bafana Bafana squad in 1997, Tinkler was a senior member of the SA national football team. Already an established star on the European circuit, Tinkler’s advice to the emerging McCarthy would have been invaluable. McCarthy, of course, would go to enjoy a stellar career with clubs like Ajax Amsterdam, FC Porto, Celta Vigo and Blackburn Rovers.
On his return to South Africa in 2011, McCarthy finished off his career at Orlando Pirates. But during that year, when Pirates made it through to the Telkom Knockout Cup final, the coaches of the opposition team, Wits, were Roger de Sa and Tinkler. After that cup final, there was a highly publicised spat between the three, with McCarthy accusing Tinkler and De Sa of “disrespecting” him.
McCarthy would go to win the striker’s prize at the competition’s awards evening, and was quoted as saying: “Eric Tinkler and Roger de Sa are dead to me. I haven’t spoken to them since and I don’t intend doing so. They are non-existent in my life.”
Tinkler arrived in the Mother City last year to coach City and was instrumental in placing the new Cape PSL club on the path to success. When he left to join SuperSport this season, McCarthy assumed the vacant coaching position at City – and, now, as the quirky vagaries of football would have it, the two coaches will sit on opposing benches in tomorrow’s final.
Since 1997, when McCarthy and Tinkler first met at the Bafana squad, it would appear that it has all been leading up to this. The 2011 spat has been sorted. Tinkler spoke of the disagreement being “in the heat of the moment”; McCarthy stressed that “it was in the past”.
But those are just words: Rest assured, for both coaches, the memory is tucked away in an easy-to-retrieve crevice in the mind – and nothing will be sweeter with regard to an “I’ll show you” than victory in tomorrow’s final.