Santana evasive on Benni
Waving Bafana goodbye (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Where to for Benni McCarthy, South Africa's leading goalscorer and most accomplished striker - and also in many ways Bafana Bafana's biggest headache since the country's return to the international soccer arena in 1994.
This is an issue widely debated in local soccer circles since Bafana's Brazilian coach, Joel Santana, took what many believed an overdue step and omitted the Blackburn Rovers player from South Africa's provisional 30-man squad for next month's Confederation Cup tournament as a result of his ongoing penchant for representing South Africa when and how he felt like it.
The 31 year-old McCarthy, now it seems slowing down somewhat and past his peak, would appear to have little doubt on the issue and reportedly told a French media source earlier in the week that in view of his endless confrontations with Safa - with his omission from the Confederation Cup seemingly viewed as the final straw - his stormy, but at times illustrious international career was now over.
Notwithstanding this, Santana was evasive on Friday on the issue of McCarthy remaining a candidate for next year's World Cup and according to a SAFA release has warded off questions on the issue with the non-committal pronouncement calling on everyone to "focus on the 30 provisional candidates in line for Confederation Cup selection and support them in every way possible."
It would seem, therefore, that Santana may not have formed any final conclusion on the issue, with players who have breached disciplinary requirements like McCarthy and Mhabudi Khenyeza not totally out of the running for World Cup places.
Abundantly clear, however, is the requirement that messrs McCarthy and Khenyeza, who was withdrawn from the 30 possibles for the Confederation, will need to provide evidence they have mended their ways to make their way back into the Bafana picture again.
Anything less and McCarthy could be right in his assessment that his international career is over.