Absa Premiership

Boardroom fights, clashing egos - How things unravelled for Benni McCarthy at CT City

2019-11-04 13:08
Benni McCarthy (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - From being regarded as South Africa's brightest prospect as a head coach, Benni McCarthy now finds himself unceremoniously sacked by Cape Town City.

McCarthy received his marching orders on Monday, bringing to a grinding halt what has been an unprecedented period of success for Cape Town City in his first stint as manager.

During McCarthy's time at the club, he secured the Citizens' second trophy in their short history as they emerged as serious Absa Premiership title contenders while playing perhaps the most exciting football in the league.

We all shouldn't forget the impact McCarthy had at the club and not let his final few months diminish his legacy during his stay in Cape Town.

How though, could a relationship that brought together a talented coach and a visionary club unravel so quickly?

Sport24 has it on good authority that the decision by the club to part ways with McCarthy is rooted in a series of hostile bust-ups behind the scenes with McCarthy and owner John Comitis amid a long-standing feud over how to take the club forward in search of success.

For McCarthy - the most decorated footballer in South African history - success meant winning titles.

For Comitis, though, success meant establishing a new club for the football community in Cape Town and playing an exciting brand of football in a new state-of-the-art stadium.

This led to a clash of two major egos between the self-made McCarthy and billionaire Comitis - and there was only ever going to be one winner.

The two share a well-documented history with Comitis playing a crucial role in McCarthy's transfer to Ajax Amsterdam.

The move proved beneficial to all involved with McCarthy going on to become a Champions League-winning player and Comitis forming Ajax Cape Town.

Initial success

Comitis pulled off an inspired move - both football-wise and in elevating the profile of Cape Town City - when appointing McCarthy who was residing in Scotland at the time.

It led to immediate success when, in only his second season in charge, McCarthy lifted the MTN8 trophy during the 2018/2019 campaign, improving on the previous season's runners-up spot.

The Citizens also quickly emerged as genuine league title contenders while playing perhaps the most exciting brand of football.

At the end of the 2018/2019 season, fans were calling for McCarthy to move to glamour clubs like Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs and some were even hinting he might coach the national team.

Boardroom disharmony

However, cracks soon started appearing in the relationship between McCarthy and CT City - even as early as his second season in charge - with constant disagreements over the immediate future of the club.

McCarthy, seeking immediate success, wanted backing in the transfer market to build a squad capable of securing a league title and competing with the top sides.

Comitis, though, always had a broader vision for the club and wanted to rein in the initial big spending with an eye on long-term success and by building the club's own brand new stadium.

Behind closed doors, a frustrated McCarthy could often be heard openly doubting his own future when discussing the club's plans, often remarking "if I'm still here next season".

Clashes behind the scenes

The two often clashed over potential signings with matters escalating to breaking point over the re-signing of former captain Robyn Johannes.

McCarthy's irritation with the club's signing policy spilt over in a post-match interview when discussing the possibility of enticing Johannes back to the club.

"The chairman is the one it's his club, it's his money, so he makes the decisions. I'm just here to coach the team.

With CT City desperately needing to reinforce a leaky defence - to balance an attack-minded team - all parties involved were keen to reunite with Wits open to a deal.

There was however one obstacle before securing a deal to bring back Johannes: John Comitis.

Comitis felt slighted that Johannes - the club captain at the time - had left on a free "behind his back" when signing a pre-contract with Wits. This too after former head coach Eric Tinkler had abruptly departed for SuperSport United.

According to sources, Comitis decided to exact revenge by faking an interest in re-signing Johannes with the aim of getting the player out of his contract at Wits, then later pulling out of negotiations which would leave the player in no man's land without a club.

Johannes was later indeed released from his existing contract by Wits, only to secure a deal to newly-promoted Stellenbosch FC instead of City.

This was the point of no return for a furious McCarthy in his relationship with the club as he needed a defender and enjoyed a close bond to Johannes.

Ertugral to replace McCarthy?

Soon afterwards, rumours started to emerge that a deal had been struck for McCarthy to replace Kaitano Tembo as SuperSport United head coach.

Both men are in the final year of their respective contracts and it is believed that Muhsin Ertugral has been roped in by CT City to replace McCarthy.

Tembo has just recently won the MTN8 trophy with SuperSport which raises a doubt as to SuperSport wanting to replace him, and instead tie him to a new deal.

These rumours - with SuperSport understood to have a long-standing interest in securing McCarthy - could be seen as the biggest contributing factor to City's poor start to the 2019/2020 season.

With doubts hanging over McCarthy's future, this could have resulted in his squad losing motivation and resulted in a steep drop in form.

Ertugral recently shared a video on Instagram that he was "back home" sparking rumours that he was in line to take over as head coach at CT City.

Comitis pulls the plug

Comitis now seems to have decided to beat McCarthy to the punch and avoid being publicly mugged off again by a player/coach for a better offer.

With McCarthy managing just two wins in his last 18 games in charge, Comitis had all the ammunition needed to pull the plug on an irreconcilable relationship that was only ever heading in one direction.

Neither party, though, comes out as a winner in this heavyweight clash of egos with perhaps the stature of soccer in Cape Town taking the biggest blow.


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Tuesday, 26 November 2019
Mamelodi Sundowns v AmaZulu, Loftus Versfeld Stadium 19:30
Highlands Park v Wits, Makhulong Stadium 19:30
Orlando Pirates v Polokwane City, Orlando Stadium 19:30
Wednesday, 27 November 2019
Stellenbosch v Kaizer Chiefs, Cape Town Stadium 19:30
Bloemfontein Celtic v Cape Town City, Dr Molemela Stadium 19:30
Maritzburg United v SuperSport United, Harry Gwala Stadium 19:30
Chippa United v Black Leopards, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium 19:30
Baroka FC v Golden Arrows, Peter Mokaba Stadium 19:30
Saturday, 30 November 2019
Polokwane City v Bloemfontein Celtic, Old Peter Mokaba Stadium 15:30
Cape Town City v Highlands Park, Cape Town Stadium 18:00
Black Leopards v Golden Arrows, Thohoyandou Stadium 18:00
SuperSport United v Stellenbosch, Lucas Moripe Stadium 20:15
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