Benni hails new generation
Johannesburg - Despite lacklustre past soccer performances, Bafana Bafana all-time great Benni McCarthy believes this generation is "stronger" than squads from over a decade ago.
"The generation we have now is stronger from what I can remember when we were more successful," said McCarthy, who scored of South Africa's first-ever goal at the World Cup in 1998 in France.
"The [players today] are faster, stronger, more athletic.
"I admire the likes of [Andile] Jali and [Oupa] Manyisa, [Thulani] Serero, George Maluleka - and those are just a few names that I've mentioned."
The 34-year-old former Porto (Portugal), West Ham United (England) forward is in the sunset of an illustrious career at Orlando Pirates.
He aided the side in defending their Premiership title and win a successive treble of trophies in his first season back.
"If I was an agent, I'd send them to Real Madrid, Barcelona [both Spain], Chelsea [England]," said McCarthy.
"How come some are they still playing in our league?"
Bafana are on another re-building phase after disastrous failures in the 2010 and 2012 Afcon campaigns.
Having hosted the 2010 Fifa World Cup, the road to Brazil 2014 begins on Sunday with a Group A fixture against Ethiopia at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
"It's tough because we have the right ammunition, but maybe they have not been used properly [by coaches]," said McCarthy.
"That is why we have not being seeing success, it's about getting the right formula, then this generation can do things.
"Something is missing in the ingredients if you make a cake, take it out of the oven, and it collapses."
McCarthy, who spent 15 years in Europe, also spoke about the decreasing export of local talent and about those coming home early.
While it was a concern, McCarthy sympathised with the problems and strains players had to endure in another country.
The latest player to return is Bafana wingback Siboniso Gaxa, who has signed with Kaizer Chiefs for next season from Belgium.
"I don't know what the reasons for 'Pa' (Gaxa) coming back, but it takes courage to do that," he said.
"I can sympathise being in a situation where, if life becomes tough, you'd rather come home where you're loved than be unhappy and miserable in a foreign place.
"We have got to respect Gaxa's decision, he can still grow and do wonders for Chiefs, and get another chance for Europe.
"He's got his reasons, and I'm behind everybody."
In an overseas interview last week, former Chiefs' coach, Vladimir Vermezovic, labelled South African players talented but weak, lacking the needed "warrior" spirit.
McCarthy partly carried the same motion, while praising the hardships they endured that helped shape their careers.
The likes of Lucas Radebe, Mark Fish, Shaun Bartlett, Steve Komphela, John Moshoeu and Quinton Fortune were some of the country's most successful players abroad.
"We are a different breed because we came from hardships, and nothing that Europe threw your way was really hard," said McCarthy.
"I used to see people get shot in front of me [growing up in the Cape Flats, Cape Town].
"I'm all right. I'm a survivor, and know what hardships are.
"I went there for hunger and to make a great life for me and my family.
"Even though times were tough, you still pushed through, thinking: are things really tougher than where I come from?"