Benni: My heart is with Bafana
Benni McCarthy (Gallo)
Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana striker Benni McCarthy, cleared the air with the local media on Thursday and said he was fully committed to Bafana - whether or not he makes the final 23-man squad to play at next month's Soccer World Cup finals.
But the English-based striker said at age 32 he was still hungry and desperate to help Bafana during the first World Cup finals on African soil.
"Whether or not I play in the World Cup is up to the coach (Carlos Alberto Parreira), but if I do not make the cut, then the team will go on to achieve success without me.
"I am an ordinary person with some football skills. I hope to be in the final 23 and I am working hard to achieve that goal and I believe I will be at my best by the cut off date of June 1.
"In the meantime, I am working really hard to regain my fitness and confidence," said McCarthy.
According to FIFA rules, all 32 World Cup coaches must name their final 23 players for the tournament by June 1.
McCarthy, the " bad boy" of South Africa soccer, was widely criticised in the media when he failed to attend a scheduled press interview at the players' hotel in Sandton on Tuesday.
Speculation was McCarthy was upset with the media who questioned his weight and fitness.
Members of the media met with South African Football Association CEO Leslie Sedibe on Wednesday, where Sedibe asked the media to back off McCarthy and "give him a break."
To his credit Sedibe reacted to media complaints and after meeting McCarthy over supper on Wednesday, it was decided the striker should face his critics.
Said McCarthy: "I am not scared of anyone, that is why I am only too happy to talk to you guys. Everyone has an opinion and I respect that.
"What happened on Tuesday was I was told late I was down to do media interviews, but I had other personal issues to deal with and asked the interview to be rescheduled. But the next day everything blew up in my face."
The West Ham United striker, however, said he was not upset with the media: "I am a grown up and can take a punch on the chin. I do not expect better treatment than anybody else, but I do not see why it should always be Benni this and Benni that... "
On getting into shape for the global showpiece, McCarthy said he has worked hard during the week. "I struggled with my fitness when I was injured in my first game for West ham when I was out for eight weeks and battled to get back into the first team.
But I am fully committed to Bafana and want to play in the World Cup for my country. I am determined to do anything to achieve this goal. But should I not make the cut when the coach names his 23 players there will be no hard feelings.
"I am a proud South African and I will support Bafana if I am dropped. If I am in the final 23 it will be brilliant, because my heart is with Bafana and always will be."
McCarthy claimed he did not understand what all the fuss was about. He also said that he was not upset with Bafana physical trainer Francisco Gonsalves who was quoted in the Brazilian media as saying McCarthy was overweight and in poor shape."
"I get on well with the trainer and work with him every day and looking at the condition of the other players, makes me keen to work ever harder."
Parreira said McCarthy would not feature in the next two friendly matches against Bulgaria on Monday night at the Orlando Stadium or against Colombia at Soccer City next Thursday night, but he would play in the match still to be confirmed on May 31.
"Benni arrived last week and was not in an ideal condition physically. We are working hard to get him fit and I will allow him more time to get into shape and he will play on May 31.
"I have a friendly lined up where I will integrate the overseas based players. After that match I will decide if Benni stays or goes."