I don't need Bafana Bafana to be inspired about playing young players: Benni McCarthy
Benni McCarthy says he doesn’t need to be inspired by anyone, including a Bafana Bafana coach, to start believing in young players.
The AmaZulu FC coach was responding to a question on what he thinks of the new Bafana coach Hugo Broos’s decision to blood new and young players in the senior national team.
Broos’s team are on top of Group G after collecting four points in the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers, having played an away draw in Zimbabwe on Friday before registering a 1-0 victory against Ghana at home on Monday.
McCarthy, who made his debut for Bafana as a 19-year-old in June 1997 in a friendly against Netherlands, said giving young players a chance comes naturally to him because he too was trusted by coaches at club and international level when was still young.
The Usuthu coach was part of Jomo Sono’s Bafana squad that represented SA as defending champions at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Egypt in 1998. He finished as joint top goalscorer with seven goals alongside Egypt's Hossam Hassan.
McCarthy announced himself to the world with four goals in 13 minutes against Namibia in that Afcon, in which he was named Player of the Tournament, despite SA failing to defend their title as they lost to Egypt in the final.
“I don’t need Bafana Bafana to motivate me (to play and believe in young players),” said McCarthy. “I’m the living example of somebody who gives young players an opportunity.
“I was dying (when he was still a young player) for an opportunity and too many coaches looked past the fact. They were saying he was too young, too skinny, he’s too small, he’s that and that. But people didn’t know my circumstances, you know.
“They don’t know what I’m going through in my life. Just because I’m 16 or 17 it doesn’t give anybody a right to judge me, because they don’t know what I’m going through in my life.
“So if you give me an opportunity, maybe I’m better than someone who is 30, because of my circumstances. And there was one person who took that gamble and he gave me an opportunity and look what happened.
“But for me, I knew that if I’m given an opportunity I knew what my capabilities were and what I could do.”
McCarthy went on to have a very successful career at Bafana, where he’s still the all-time leading scorer with 31 goals. He also had a great time in Europe, where his biggest highlight was winning the Uefa Champions League with Portuguese side Porto in 2004.
“I was given that opportunity because one person believed in me,” added McCarthy.
“Now I’m having the opportunity today to have so many players’ fate and future in my hands. Why not give them the opportunity. Now if I see a player, irrespective of the age, if I see what he does in training then I give him the opportunity.
“I throw him in. At the end of the day it’s a yes or a no. It’s simple. In life you are going to find out. If you give young players an opportunity then it comes with responsibility, and if he fails it may be because he wasn’t ready, but I could not tell because I don’t live inside that young player’s body.
“He’s the one who determines how badly he wants it, so I give opportunities to players and they show me if they deserve it. I give them because that’s how we learn.
“If it’s a success than good, not just because it’s me who benefits. The player benefits because he will be able to look after his family and create a career.”
McCarthy said what has happened with Broos at Bafana should help the country in the coming years.
“It’s a massive boost (what Broos has done with Bafana) for SA, because now we’ve got new emerging talent coming that Bafana are going to benefit from. Young players, if they want the opportunity, they've got to show that they deserve it.
“It’s not because you’re young and now I must just give you the opportunity. You have to show me that you want it as much as the senior players.
“You've got to enjoy what you do, that’s why I give young players a chance. But they also have to stand up and be counted.”