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November 06, 2009

Whatever term you use, Benni’s back

Photo courtesy Chris Kirchhoff

Brilliant, brash, fat, troublemaker, clinical, excellent, a natural finisher, the hope of the nation or just a bit of a knob ... whatever term you use, the fact of the matter is that after eight months in the cold, in which he missed 13 matches including the entire FIFA Confederations Cup, Cape Town-born striker Benni McCarthy is back in the Bafana Bafana squad.

Last appearing in a loss to Chile in Polokwane in February, Benni now returns to the international squad for a friendly against Japan on November 14.

For an avid football fan, the Benni situation is as clear as Friedrich Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals, though easier to spell.

On the one hand Benni is South Africa’s all-time leading goal scorer with an impressive 31 goals in 75 appearances for our beloved home nation. He has a CV that includes a number of top European clubs. A Dutch Eredivisie medal with Ajax Amsterdam in 1998, a Uefa Champions League Medal with Porto in 2004, and second highest English Premier League goal scorer for the unfancied Blackburn Rovers in the 2006-2007 season with 18 goals, just two goals behind the prolific Didier Drogba and one in front of Cristiano Ronaldo.

On the other hand, Benni has not been picked up by any of the top clubs in Europe, despite his incredible record. He’s started just three matches for Blackburn this season, despite his incredible record, and spent eight months not playing for a side who desperately need(ed) someone, other than their goalkeepers, who understands what the back of the net looks like ... despite his incredible record.

Perhaps it’s summed up best by assistant Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane in today’s Star newspaper.

“He’s a senior player and we’ve brought him back to see if we can still count on him and trust him. His record speaks for itself. He’s the country’s leading scorer and a top player.” 

Can we trust him? Will he bring back some much-needed firepower to Bafana Bafana? And, perhaps most importantly, will Benni’s relationship with Safa, his teammates, coach Carlos Alberto Parreira and anyone else you care to mention last long enough for him to play a significant part in next year’s FIFA World Cup? Only time will tell.

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