We will en­deav­our to change foot­ball in the Cape, vows new City coach Benni

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - ROD­NEY REINERS

IN 1976, in the era of seg­re­gated foot­ball, Cape Town City were crowned cham­pi­ons in the white- aligned Na­tional Foot­ball League (NFL).

The fol­low­ing year, 1977, in cir­cum­stances far re­moved, and to­tally dif­fer­ent, from the con­tented, clos­eted sur­round­ings within which City were op­er­at­ing at the time, Benni McCarthy was born. Per­haps, back then, when the world was dark with op­pres­sion, des­tiny was al­ready start­ing to pave the path that would even­tu­ally bring us to where we are to­day.

In the in­ter­ven­ing decades, there has been plenty of joy and pain, much to cel­e­brate and even more to lament.

So McCarthy’s ap­point­ment this week as the new head coach of City is a metaphor of what this coun­try has been through, and he’s a sym­bol of the re­silience of the South African psy­che.

Grow­ing up in im­pov­er­ished Hanover Park, as a foot­ball-mad kid, McCarthy

was al­ways re­galed about tales of the suc­cess of the old City, and also of the great pro­fes­sional clubs within his own com­mu­nity, like Cape Town Spurs, Glenville, Glen­dene, San­tos and Battswood. To­day, in charge of the new City, he is chuffed at the progress we have made as a na­tion.

The club he is in charge of now is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the en­tire coun­try. It at­tracts fol­low­ers from all races, cul­tures, creeds and com­mu­ni­ties. He is hop­ing that his el­e­va­tion as the club’s new coach will add to the team’s grow­ing cross-spec­trum ap­peal.

“It’s an op­por­tu­nity to unify ev­ery­thing, to put be­hind us what was there be­fore,” said McCarthy. “While our peo­ple may have been ex­cluded from this club be­fore, this is now a club for ev­ery­body, from all walks of life.

“I have been over­whelmed with the re­cep­tion I have re­ceived and the sup­port I am get­ting. I’m look­ing for­ward to it and keen to take Cape foot­ball for­ward. This is my first op­por­tu­nity as a head coach and it’s in my home town. For me, I love this game, it gave me ev­ery­thing I’ve got and just can’t be with­out it.

“I will work hard and, to­gether with the club, my tech­ni­cal staff, the players and the ad­min staff, we will en­deav­our to change foot­ball in the Cape.”

Fully aware the chal­lenge fac­ing him in his first job as a head coach, the 39-year-old for­mer Bafana Bafana striker gave some in­sight into his plans.

“City fin­ished third in the PSL last sea­son and that was an in­cred­i­ble achieve­ment,” he said. “They were amaz­ing and did a lot more than many would have ex­pected. This team has al­ready got some­thing go­ing, so, in look­ing for­ward, I want to add to that suc­cess.

“Firstly, we will def­i­nitely have to have a big­ger squad be­cause of next sea­son’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the CAF Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup. I’m not com­ing in to dis­rupt things, just tweak here and there, and bring in some re­in­force­ments where needed.

“I just want to add on to the team’s suc­cess and get them to achieve even more. Most im­por­tantly, I want there to be com­pe­ti­tion for places among the players be­cause that brings the hard work out in every­one.

“I still have to dis­cuss with the chair­man (John Comi­tis) how im­por­tant the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup ranks for the club. For me, on a per­sonal note, I want to win ev­ery­thing… If we are ca­pa­ble of mount­ing a chal­lenge on the con­ti­nent, then I want to go for it. Ev­ery game is an op­por­tu­nity to win, an op­por­tu­nity to prove your­self.”

One as­pect that al­ways dom­i­nates dis­cus­sions in lo­cal foot­ball con­cerns style, and how a coach sees his team play­ing. McCarthy, too, has been pestered with such ques­tions; new to the coach­ing game, what are his ob­jec­tives in this re­gard with City.

“The way I see my style of play is that I want my team to dom­i­nate games,” said the coach. “I know that there will be times when it will be dif­fi­cult, when we are on the back foot, but even then I want my team to con­trol the outcome of the game.

“Last sea­son, you saw that City used the game plan of suck­ing in the op­po­si­tion and then hit­ting them on the counter, so that al­ready is a mis­sile I have in my ar­se­nal. But, im­por­tantly, I want to go toe-to-toe with the big teams who are com­fort­able on the ball and love to have pos­ses­sion.

“I want my team to play good foot­ball when they can, but I know that some­times it will be tough, it will be ugly. It is dur­ing such times, though, that I still want them to get the re­sult. Be­cause, in foot­ball, it doesn’t mat­ter how, it’s al­ways the re­sult that counts, it doesn’t mat­ter how you get it. So I want va­ri­ety – I want to play at­trac­tive foot­ball, but at the same time I want the team to be just ef­fec­tive when they are on the back foot.”

The ma­jor stum­bling block to progress in South African foot­ball is the ab­sence of goals. There is a lack of com­po­sure in the penalty area and a dearth of top-class, qual­ity strik­ers. With McCarthy’s ex­pe­ri­ence as a for­ward who has scored goals across the world, in the ma­jor Euro­pean leagues and at in­ter­na­tional level, McCarthy be­lieves he can a play a role in try­ing to im­prove this area of the game.

“Ob­vi­ously, work­ing on the strik­ers is some­thing I will do at train­ing,” he said. “But the im­por­tant point is that players have to re­alise that a coach can only do so much at train­ing. At the end of the day, it’s up to them to put in the extra work. I re­mem­ber back in my play­ing days, I used to use my off-days to keep prac­tis­ing, to keep hit­ting tar­gets with the ball, to keep work­ing on my fin­ish­ing.

“Im­por­tantly, though, a team shouldn’t just rely on strik­ers to get goals, the en­tire team must be ready to score when the op­por­tu­nity comes. Look at City’s Le­bo­gang Manyama, he’s a mid­fielder, but he can get you more than 10 goals a sea­son. But goals, scor­ing and im­prov­ing strik­ers will be some­thing I will be very hands-on with at train­ing.”

With this be­ing McCarthy’s first stint in charge, there’s no doubt that he will need sup­port, ad­vice and guid­ance as he finds his feet as a coach. He can­not do this alone – the sink or swim ap­proach will be very detri­men­tal to City’s am­bi­tions.

It is with this in mind that club boss Comi­tis has stressed that the new coach will be given ev­ery sup­port from ev­ery­body at the club. The pri­or­ity is to make McCarthy’s tran­si­tion from player to coach as easy as pos­si­ble.

“I’m just glad to have found a coach who re­lates to me in am­bi­tion,” said Comi­tis. “Yes, he’s a new coach, but I can as­sure you that the en­tire club will be fully be­hind him in sup­port. He won’t be alone, we will make sure that he has ev­ery­thing at his dis­posal to make a suc­cess of the job.”

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