Benni sends gentle reminder
Johannesburg - Orlando Pirates striker Benni McCarthy gave Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane food for thought this weekend with a title-clinching brace.
Ignored when the squad was named for 2014 Soccer World Cup qualifiers against Ethiopia and Botswana during June, the 34-year-old striker struck twice during the second half of a 4-2 Durban triumph over Golden Arrows.
Pirates finished two points ahead of fellow Sowetans Moroka Swallows after a thrilling run-in to the richest national football championship on the continent with the winners banking R10 million.
Alarm at the failure of South Africa to score - they hit only four goals in six games during an ill-fated 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign - has triggered calls for veterans McCarthy and Siyabonga Nomvethe to be recalled.
Under-pressure Mosimane took partial heed by bringing 20-goal leading Premiership scorer Nomvethe, another 34-year-old who plays for Swallows, back after two years in the international wilderness.
But the failure of the coach to also include McCarthy brought a swift rebuke from Augusto Palacios, the 59-year-old caretaker coach who guided Pirates to a second consecutive title after taking over in mid-March.
"Benni might have had his differences with some national football association officials in the past, but he has been a reformed character playing at Pirates this season," stressed the former Peru midfielder.
"I have found him to be a model footballer who is disciplined and trains hard. It is all very well saying South Africa must find players for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but first you have to get there."
Former South Africa coach Ted Dumitru sides with Palacios, telling the Mail and Guardian: "There is nobody (in South Africa) close to the playing intelligence of Benni and that counts even though he is 10kg overweight."
Cape Town-born McCarthy, whose goals helped Porto lift the 2004 Champions League and won league titles with the Portuguese club and Ajax Amsterdam, has been involved in a battle of the bulge for several seasons.
He was fined by then English Premier League club West Ham United after failing to meet weight-loss targets and when the Hammers freed him last year, the Buccaneers lured Benni with a reported $40 000-plus salary.
His 10 South African Premiership goals this season - an average of one every three games - may have disappointed some critics, but the striker plans to carry on and score many more for a Soweto club formed 75 years ago.
"I will keep trying to score as football is my greatest pleasure," said the man who hit a record 31 international goals in 79 appearances before being discarded by hosts South Africa ahead of the 2010 World Cup.
Should South Africa flop against Ethiopia and Botswana in World Cup ties in Rustenburg on June 3 and Gaborone six days later, calls for Benni to be brought back can only intensify.