THE RISE AND RISE OF BENNI MCCARTHY
Benni McCarthy has taken the next step in an incredible career in football after being unveiled as coach of Cape Town City. The game has taken him places he would never have dreamed of and he has set a number of benchmarks for South African players. KICK
A 17-year-old Benni McCarthy signs for lower league Seven Stars, owned by Rob Moore and coached by Gavin Hunt, having been spotted playing for local Hannover Park side Crusaders FC. He would score 39 goals in 49 games with Stars.
McCarthy came to national prominence when he nets two goals away at Kaizer Chiefs while on loan at Cape Town Spurs, part of a tumultuous rise that would see him top-score at the African Youth Championship and with the Player of the Tournament award, join Ajax Amsterdam and make his Bafana Bafana debut against The Netherlands. He also plays in the Fifa Under-20 World Cup.
Scores four goals in 13 minutes against Namibia at the African Nations Cup as Bafana Bafana go on to lose in the final, though he picks up the top-scorer and Player of the Tournament gongs. The same year he scores South Africa’s first ever World Cup finals goal in a 1-1 draw with Denmark, and helps Ajax to the Dutch League and Cup title.
After scoring 20 goals in 35 starts for Ajax, Spanish LaLiga club Celta Vigo pay €6-million for McCarthy. He battles to establish himself at the club and in four seasons scored 19 goals in 43 starts, but spends a lot of time on the bench.
He spends the second half of the 2001/02 season on loan at Portuguese side FC Porto, where he excels under Jose Mourinho, netting 12 goals in 10 starts. But the club cannot afford to purchase him outright from Celta Vigo and he goes back to Spain. Also that year, he becomes the first South African to score at two World Cup finals after netting against Spain in South Korea/Japan.
After one season back in Spain, FC Porto find the money to buy McCarthy from Celta Vigo for €7.856-million. He finds his scoring touch immediately, winning the Portuguese league Golden Boot after
scoring 20 goals in his first season, and helps the team to an unlikely victory in the Uefa Champions League. He scores two goals against boyhood idols Manchester United in the second round to oust them from the competition – a game Sir Alex Ferguson still battles to forget.
McCarthy doesn’t quite rediscover his magic with Porto after Jose Mourinho leaves for Chelsea at the end of the 2003/04 season, and things are compounded when his old Celta Vigo boss Víctor Fernández, with who he had previous run-ins, takes over the Portuguese club. He pushes for a move to English Premiership club Everton as a replacement for Wayne Rooney, but Porto does not sell and it wasn’t until 2006 that he fulfils his dream of playing in England when he joins Blackburn Rovers for £2.5-million. He leaves Porto as a league champion again after 55 goals in 109 starts.
Finishes second top-scorer in the Premier League in his first season at Rovers with 18 goals behind Didier Drogba, which would be the highlight of his four-season stay at Ewood Park that saw him net 52 goals in 105 starts.
Scores his 31st and final goal for Bafana Bafana in a friendly against Ghana in October. He remains the leading scorer in national team history, two ahead of Shaun Bartlett’s tally of 29.
McCarthy’s last overseas club becomes West Ham United, who he joins in 2010, but it proves ill-fated as injury and subsequent weight gain keeps him sidelined. Within a year, he accepts a £1.5million pay-off to leave, having made only two Premier League starts and 14 appearances in all competitions, without finding the back of the net.
McCarthy returns to the PSL to play for Orlando Pirates, where he wins the league title, MTN8 and Telkom Knockout in his first season.
McCarthy wins an 80th and final cap for Bafana Bafana, but his appearance against Brazil in Gordon Igesund’s first match in charge of the national team lasts just 11 minutes before he is forced off with injury. His national team career lasts 15 years, longer than any other Bafana player.
Retires from playing, though he later makes a guest appearance for Scottish Lowland league club Whitehill Welfare FC in a preseason friendly match versus a Hamilton Academical XI in 2014. McCarthy was living in Scotland after marrying Scottish model Stacy Munro that same year.
McCarthy joins Belgian side Sint Truiden as assistant coach under Cape Town-raised coach Chris O’Loughlin. Together they steer the newly-promoted club to 13th in the 2015/16 Belgian league, but just one point above the relegation zone. Both depart at the end of the campaign.
Joins Cape Town City as head coach on June 12, his first job leading a technical team. Sends media sparks flying, once more.
(Below) McCarthy enjoyed life more off the pitch than on it in Spain.
(Above) McCarthy was the Premier League’s secondhighest goalscorer in 2007.