If the Chinese proverb that a journey of a thousand
miles starts but with one step is to be believed, Benni McCarthy's appointment
as assistant coach at Belgian club Sint-Truiden VV (real Dutch name
Sint-Truidense Voetbalvereniging), must be hailed as a massive positive blow
for South African football.
His appointment might just prove to be a major step
for the local game.
And it is so ironic that McCarthy - who was regarded
as an enfant terrible during his playing days for his unconventional and controversial ways -
should be the one who paves the way.
Many a time, I have pointed out that the fact that we
do not have South African coaches plying their trade in foreign countries, says
a lot about how low the standard of our domestic soccer is.
This is except Shakes Mashaba and Mlungisi Ngubane who
once had stints in Swaziland and Namibia, not giant football nations you will
Well, despite his wayward ways, McCarthy was no slouch
on the field of play. He has a lot to show for his exploits on the soccer field
such as the fact that he still remains Bafana Bafana's - our nation soccer team
- all-time leading goal-scorer with 32
goals to his name and is the only South African player who boasts a Uefa
Champions League medal.
Since hanging up his boots, McCarthy has been hard
studying different football methodologies and last year wrote for a Uefa B
He has been in consultation with top European coaches
including the all-conquering Portuguese José Mário dos Santos Mourinho Félix - popularly known as just José Mourinho - and has worked with different clubs such
as Scotland's St Hibernian in his quest for coaching knowledge.
Even on his
appearances on Supersport as a football analyst, he has not only shown great
maturity but a deep understanding of the game of the pigskin.
After his appointment to this position where he is
Irishman Chris O’Loughlin a former assistant at Orlando Pirates who also worked
at SuperSport United while here in South Africa, McCarthy said: “ I have a lot
of experience in international football and I’m happy to pass that on to the
young players at St Truiden. Especially the players with a different cultural
background. I know what it’s like as a youngster to play football in a foreign
Besides this I was highly impressed by his comment that: “I want to
understand my players on a personal level. That’s what helps coaches get
positive results out of their players. Tactics always comes in later in game
situations. As a coach you need a team that will play for you, otherwise you
He said these are some of the
aspects of the game he has learned from Mourinho.
He has also shown ambition by
saying he would like to contribute towards helping the club win the
championship next season. They currently lie fourth after seven matches this
McCarthy's appointment comes
at a time when South African Premier Soccer League clubs have shown an
unprecedented belief in homegrown coaches. At the moment 13 out of the 16 clubs
in the elite league are coached by locals, including the top three sides Kaizer
Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns.
Maybe, just maybe as the
Chinese saying goes, McCarthy's appointment could prove to be that crucial
first step to cover a thousand miles for South African football.
S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading
sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of
the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is
currently City Press Sports Editor.
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