Mark Gleeson

Bring back Benni

2009-05-19 15:54
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson

No savvy player with a weak hand needlessly throws away a trump card if he wants to win the trick.

But Bafana Bafana, light on aces and kings, go into the Confederations Cup having dropped a valuable card from their hand.

Indeed, the team possesses just two potential match winners – Teko Modise and Benni McCarthy.

But the omission of the country’s all-time top scorer from the Confederations Cup next month is to effectively half the national team’s chances of winning.

More ominously it leaves the country with a threadbare attack and must be construed as arguably the biggest gamble any of the 15 coaches that Bafana Bafana have had at their helm has ever taken.

McCarthy might not have the form or shape he did at the peak of his game a decade ago but he still scores goals in one of the biggest leagues in the world. Indeed he found the back of the net just two days after Santana had dropped him from the preliminary squad for the Confederations Cup.

It brought his tally for the season for 10. He has now scored 36 goals in 94 games in three seasons in England, a tally of a goal every three games. The three seasons before at FC Porto he managed 46 goals in 86 games and for Bafana Bafana he has 31 goals in 78 caps.

These are stats that are hard to ignore, even if McCarthy has stretched the boundaries of the coach’s patience. As they say in the classics, beggars can’t be choosers.


Instead of McCarthy, our Confederations Cup hopes rest on the shoulders of some confirmed flops, like Katlego Mphela, who had the refreshing honesty on Monday to tell assembled reporters he was as baffled as they were by his inclusion in the Bafana Bafana squad.

Mphela’s season delivered three league goals for Mamelodi Sundowns since signing in August, which given the R2 million Patrice Motsepe paid for him equates to around R666 000 per goal.

Mphela was a player of great promise and incredible pace off the mark. I saw his Bafana Bafana debut in Mauritius in when Stuart Baxter was still coach and immediate predicted he’d be a new McCarthy. I was wrong.

Whatever your opinion about McCarthy’s past antics with the national team, there is no denying he should have a place in the squad. And to leave him out is to limit the chances for Bafana Bafana success.

To me, the issue of McCarthy’s loyalty, or indeed Mabhudi Khenyeza’s cultural diversions, are all secondary to the primary objective of achieving victory for Bafana Bafana.

Far too complicated

Coaches and commentators oftentimes make this simple game far too complicated. It does not need to be.

To my mind, the national coach’s primary duty is to pick the best team he can to win the matches. We are so starved of success, so desperate for some footballing glory that should we rarely care how many bogus hamstring injuries McCarthy has had or what family obligations have kept Khenyeza from joining up with the squad? What we should really care about is getting the best players into our national colours and our team on the road to victory.

But all this posturing, power plays and rules and regulations effectively serve only to tie the hands, or should that be feet, of the team.

The squad that Santana named earlier his month is a preliminary squad. He only has to announce his final 23 to FIFA a fortnight before the tournament. There is still time to rectify the folly and get McCarthy back.

Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24. 


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