Benni wants to win every ti­tle

It’s been a cir­cu­lar jour­ney as new coach re­turns to his roots

CityPress - - Sport - PETROS AUGOUSTI sports@city­press.co.za Augousti is the international se­nior soc­cer ed­i­tor at Eaz­iBet

Benni McCarthy used to be a po­lar­is­ing fig­ure; get­ting un­der the skin of many as pub­lic opinion about him os­cil­lated. It may be early days, but “Benni the coach” is a dif­fer­ent breed from “Benni the su­per­star player”.

McCarthy has made a com­plete cir­cle in his foot­balling life, end­ing up back in the wel­com­ing arms of the Mother City. The new Cape Town City coach will en­ter his new phase as a 39-year-old rookie PSL coach, and one with huge boots to fill.

McCarthy went to Spain, Por­tu­gal and Eng­land be­fore re­turn­ing to his roots and his mother Doreen’s good ad­vice.

“If you treat some­one badly when you are at the top, then when you are go­ing down they will laugh at you,” says Doreen – all re­lated in a re­mark­ably crisp accent by Benni.

Most coaches of this PSL gen­er­a­tion are steeped in some vari­ant of an anx­i­ety per­son­al­ity dis­or­der, stem­ming from Carl Jung’s su­per ego all the way to Sartre’s ex­is­ten­tial angst.

McCarthy, the supreme goal-scorer and Eng­land’s sec­ond-most lethal hit­man a decade ago (24 goals in 2006/07), is no brash brag­gart or petu­lant prima donna. The vex­a­tious part of hu­man na­ture – the one that does not want suc­cess­ful peo­ple to be pop­u­lar – means pun­dits and fans alike of­ten wear blink­ers and have pre­con­ceived prej­u­dices.

It is this jux­ta­po­si­tion be­tween the real and the imag­ined that epit­o­mises the soul of McCarthy.

“I am very pos­i­tive this team has the po­ten­tial and will do well. I am here to win trophies. The growth of lo­cal play­ers ful­fill­ing their po­ten­tial is what ex­cites me and the cur­rent group I have in­her­ited here at Cape Town City have such an in­cred­i­ble vibe and hu­mil­ity that I did not ex­pect,” he says de­murely.

“I ac­knowl­edge whole­heart­edly what Muhsin [Er­tuğral] and Eric [Tin­kler] have done in as­sem­bling such a tal­ented team,” he adds.

“There is such a great mix of ex­pe­ri­ence and up­com­ing ta­lent … there are two or three play­ers no one has heard of be­fore who I could put into the first team,” he adds with a mis­chievous glint in his eye, like he may just do that when they take on Bid­vest Wits in their first league en­counter.

McCarthy’s birth names point to the di­chotomy of a spirit that has seen the most in­flu­en­tial player in South African soc­cer chron­i­cles be both a saint and a king.

Benni is a trun­ca­tion of Bene­dict, named af­ter the saint who mapped the path be­tween for­mu­laic in­sti­tu­tion­al­ism and in­di­vid­ual zeal.

His sec­ond name is never heard, but is in­ter­est­ing enough to make a com­par­i­son – Saul, the first king of Is­rael and Ju­dah, the leader who brought an end to tribal rule and created a hege­mony of state­hood.

The names, their mean­ings – are they not a per­fect fit for Benni McCarthy?

At this stage of the sea­son, he is the en­cap­su­la­tion of a per­son com­fort­able in his own skin – a coach who seems un­af­fected by the disin­gen­u­ous rhetoric writ­ten about him, a soc­cer leg­end who acts like an ev­ery­day soul de­spite be­ing in an in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic job.

He knows he will be judged on the suc­cess of his pre­de­ces­sor and for­mer Bafana team-mate Tin­kler, who left the team two months ago with a swathe of ad­mir­ers, a Telkom Cup ti­tle and a third-place fin­ish in the Absa Premier­ship.

Re­al­is­ti­cally, there is only one way a team can go af­ter such a breath­tak­ing de­but.

McCarthy is fully aware of the re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“I am not here to man­age a team, I am here to win the league, the MTN, the Telkom and the Ned­bank Cup. I also want to win the CAF Champions League,” he says, with a cool, dead­pan de­meanour.

The con­fi­dence of the nat­u­ral goal-scorer is still there. The swag is still on point. The ca­sual smile and san­guine dis­po­si­tion of a tamed preda­tor re­mains. McCarthy is young in coach­ing terms, but worldly-wise and knows that the glory fix­tures against Chiefs and Pi­rates are not the be all and end all of the league. He states that Wits and Sun­downs have bet­ter qual­ity play­ers and he sees them as the main ti­tle threat. He will have a front-row ticket as his side take on four ti­tle con­tenders in his first five games in charge.

“I be­lieve it is the best time to play Wits and Sun­downs; they have new sign­ings who will need time to set­tle into the clubs. If we can get through this first pe­riod, then...” his sen­tence trails off and it is al­most as if he has to tone down his con­fi­dence.

The for­mer Black­burn Rovers striker has rea­son to be con­fi­dent as he boasts one of the stronger squads in the coun­try, and, with his knack for find­ing suc­cess, he could be right on the money.

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PHOTO: GRANT PITCHER / GALLO IMAGES

HOW ITS DONE New Cape Town City FC coach Benni McCarthy shows his charges how it’s done dur­ing train­ing. He aims to sweep the ta­bles in terms of PSL trophies

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