De Sa defends veteran Benni
Johannesburg - Orlando Pirates coach Roger de Sa has lashed out at media reports after veteran striker Benni McCarthy was again criticised for his fitness level at the weekend.
Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund told Sunday World that McCarthy, sidelined with a hamstring injury, needed to "get fit" if he was to make the national squad for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) starting in January.
The newspaper ran the headline "Shape Up Benni - Igesund" on the front page and "Get Fit, Fat Benni" on the back.
"I've never received a phone call from anyone at SAFA asking me how Benni is until I saw the paper today(Sunday)," said De Sa after his team's 0-0 draw in their Premiership match against AmaZulu at Orlando Stadium on Sunday.
Igesund was quoted as saying he did not know how long McCarthy would take to recover from injury, but he pointed out the striker had only eight weeks to regain a spot in the national team for the AFCON tournament.
"My concern is not AFCON. Benni's been injured for six weeks since I've been at the club," said De Sa.
An emotional McCarthy, who has long been criticised for his weight and fitness, took to social networking as he hinted at international retirement.
"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.
McCarthy, 34, injured his hamstring after coming on as a replacement in Bafana's friendly international against Brazil in Sao Paulo in September.
"We've got to be very careful because a hamstring at that age is a very sensitive injury and it is quite a bad tear," said De Sa.
"We did some tests and he's still has a little bit of healing to do.
"We have to go day by day, because if he has another rupture, we set him back another seven, eight weeks and we don't want to do that.
"We'll rather maybe extend his recovery by a week or two and be sure he's back."
De Sa was unsure when McCarthy would be fit to play.
"We've tried to get him right, treated him, taken him to gym. We're working on him every day," he said.
"We work on him so he can play for Pirates. If he performs for Pirates, I'm sure they'll call him up if he's good enough, but Afcon is the last thing on my mind."
De Sa said McCarthy had begun contact training on Saturday.
"Benni played on Sunday for about 20 minutes in a training match, so that was a start.
"He is training every day - he was at the gym this morning - so hopefully this week we can put him through a bit more training."