Johannesburg - A war of words over Benni McCarthy is clouding the issue of whether Bafana Bafana's top all-time scorer will return to international duty after recovering from injury.
Bafana coach Gordon Igesund said on Monday he was "sick and tired" of reading stories around the enigmatic Pirates striker and his Bafana future.
"Once and for all, I want to bury the issue and silence the pro- and anti-Benni factions by stating categorically that he is not favoured any more or less than any of the other players in line for selection for South Africa's African Nations Cup squad for next year's tournament.
"Every player will be judged equally on his form and fitness levels and no one is going to get an easy ride into the side if he falls down in these departments."
McCarthy had the experience and skill, Igesund believed, to hold onto the ball up front as a striker.
"Bafana needs that kind of player, whether it is McCarthy or Sundowns' Katlego Mphela, who is also recovering from injury, or someone else.
"But should any player fail the test on the criterion of form and fitness, he'll be left out of the final reckoning. And this will apply equally to all the candidates."
McCarthy, recovering from a hamstring injury, took to social networking as he hinted at international retirement after a Sunday newspaper referred to him as "Fat Benni" on its back page.
"I'll make it real easy for the Sunday World, Gordon Igesund and everybody by taking myself out the picture, then no stress," McCarthy tweeted on Sunday.
Igesund said McCarthy was free to make his own choices, but he hoped the veteran striker would not make hasty decisions about his future.
"I just hope he has not been influenced by any of the misrepresented comments I was supposed to have made," Igesund said.
"I certainly never said anything derogatory about him at any time."