Benni McCarthy hangs up his boots

7 June 2013

South African footballer Benni McCarthy announced his retirement on Wednesday after a successful career that took him from South Africa to the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and England before he returned home to finish his career with Orlando Pirates.

McCarthy also earned 80 caps for Bafana Bafana during which he became South Africa’s all-time leading international goals scorer.

He was at his best in the Africa Cup of Nations in 1998, making his mark with a four-goal performance against Namibia, with those four goals coming in the space of only 13 minutes. He finished the tournament with seven goals and was named in the team of the tournament as South Africa made it to the final where they were beaten 2-0 by Egypt.

McCarthy was also a key player in the Bafana Bafana team that became the first South African side to play in the Fifa World Cup in 1998, and netted the team’s goal in a 1-1 draw with Denmark.


“I have been so blessed to have enjoyed a remarkable career that took me from the township fields of Nyanga Stadium, to winner’s medals in the Uefa Champions League and World Club Cup – the highest levels that a player can achieve in club football,” McCarthy said in a statement on Thursday.

“I retire having represented my country at senior level 80 times and scored a record 31 goals. Two World Cup Finals, in France and Korea/Japan, an Olympic Games and a u-20 World Cup Finals will be memories that live in my heart forever.

“And to have come home to South Africa for a final chapter, and to have won the treble with Orlando Pirates [in 2011/12] was the type of finale that only dreams are made of,” he said.

Surpassed expectations

“It has been a 17-year professional career that surpassed even my own expectations and I’ve been privileged to have played under many great coaches, including the very best, Jose Mourinho.”

McCarthy’s most successful club years were spent in Portugal with Porto and in England with Blackburn Rovers, but before he played for those teams he turned out for Ajax Amsterdam and Spanish club Celta Vigo, having started his career with Seven Stars in Cape Town.

In 2002, he starred for Porto, under Mourniho, while on loan from Celta Vigo, netting 12 times in 11 matches. When the Portuguese club sold fellow striker Helder Postiga to Tottenham Hotspur, Mourinho pounced and signed the South African striker to a permanent contract. McCarthy repaid that investment by topping the Portuguese League goal scoring charts the following season.

Uefa Cup, Champions League

He won the Uefa Cup with Porto in 2002-03 and the following season went on to lift the Champions League title with the Dragons. McCarthy played a crucial role in the team’s run, netting twice in a vital 2-1 victory over Manchester United in a round of 16 clash.

Those two European successes turned Mourinho into the hottest property in coaching and he was soon signed by big spending English outfit Chelsea.

McCarthy stayed on at Porto, scoring 34 goals in 74 matches, before being signed to a four-year contract by Blackburn Rovers in 2006.

English Premier League

It proved to be an inspired decision for the English club as McCarthy finished his first season as the second top scorer in the Premier League with 18 goals and 24 in all competitions. His league tally was bettered only by Didier Drogba and tied with Cristiano Ronaldo.

An injury early the next season and the arrival of striker Roque Santa Cruz led to fewer playing opportunities for McCarthy.

In February 2010, the South African signed with West Ham. Unfortunately, on his debut for the Hammers he suffered an injury that kept him out of action for six months. He ended up playing sparsely for the club and was released in early 2011.

McCarthy then returned to action in South Africa with Orlando Pirates where he finished his career at the age of 35.

He has indicated that he wishes to stay involved with football and will be working towards getting his coaching badges. He has previous experience working on television and hopes to do more TV work too.

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