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Benni McCarthy is following the path of the Lord in Cape Town

21 June 2017 - 08:01 By Archie Henderson
Benni McCarthy was unveiled as the new head coach of Cape Town City.
Benni McCarthy was unveiled as the new head coach of Cape Town City.

Benni McCarthy is the best thing to happen to football in Cape Town since the demise of Cape Town City and Hellenic

Both those teams played in segregated stadiums in a racially exclusive league, but their support transcended apartheid laws.

You needed only to have witnessed the crowds that congregated around midnight in Claremont's Main Road or Burg Street to know this.

People came in hundreds to buy the first editions of the morning paper for the match reports of a game they had just watched at Hartleyvale or Green Point. Very few were white.

Cape Town City, a creation of a few businessmen (the white monopoly capital of its day), missed a trick, however. They could have defied the government and declared the stadium open to all. Instead they fell back on the often convenient excuse of the Group Areas Act.

Since 1977, when City and Hellenic left the stage, there have been attempts in various guises to revive top football in Cape Town.

Santos, a remnant from the non-racial SA Football Federation, bravely carried the torch for a few years under Boebie Solomons. Seven Stars, a creation of entrepreneurial agent Rob Moore had a go, hiring a young Gavin Hunt as coach and a young McCarthy as a player. Hunt took them to promotion and later the club, along with Cape Town Spurs, morphed into Ajax Cape Town.

None captured the imagination the way City had done. Now John Comitis is having a shot with a reincarnated Cape Town City and he might just have made his most inspirational signing in McCarthy as coach.

Spotted at Norway Parks by soccer scribe Lennie Kleintjies, Benni's name was passed on to Moore. McCarthy helped make Moore rich and Moore made sure Benni got to play for Ajax in Holland, Celta Vigo in Spain, Porto in Portugal (where a young Jose Mourinho was making a name for himself at the time) and Blackburn Rovers. Forget West Ham where McCarthy and the virago Karren Brady fell out over Benni's weight.

Now Benni is home, having travelled a long way from Hanover Park on the Cape Flats where, on a Friday night, the locals say it becomes "Hand Over Park".

Benni also steps into the shoes of Frank Lord, who played 354 games in the English Football League for six clubs, including Blackburn. Lord not only coached Cape Town City, he sold it to the fans with a combination of remarkable football know-how and cunning marketing nous.

Like Benni, Frank was garrulous and Benni, like Frank, will soon have the local football press eating out of his hand, admittedly no hard task. Benni will have a stadium far removed from the decrepit Hartleyvale and a club far removed from the days when Connie Mulder, a relic of apartheid's failed attempt at state capture, could be an honoured guest.