The South African football public has been way too lenient towards AmaZulu head coach, Benni McCarthy! I know this has everything to do with what the former Bafana Bafana striker has done for our football, putting us on the international map and being the only SA footballer with a UEFA Champions League medal, among other things.
The Bafana all-time leading goalscorer has influenced our football on so many levels. He’s now adding to the list of former players who have earned their stripes in the coaching ranks, making it fashionable to trust young and up-and-coming local coaches. In his young coaching career, Benni already has silverware under his belt and continues to broaden his horizons by getting the much-needed coaching badges. He remains relevant even past his playing career, making a name for himself in the coaching fraternity. It comes as no surprise that he’s been receiving so much love because he’s earned it all. He’s got Usuthu finishing second on the log, for the first time in PSL history, and earned them a place in the CAF Champions League. His achievements as both a player and a coach are well-documented. You can’t take any of those away from the 43-year-old mentor. Having said that, it is his behavior on the touchline that is worrisome! Just last week, against SuperSport United, the former Bafana striker had a lot of unprintable words to share with the opposition bench. This wasn’t the first time that his touchline antics stole the show as social media went abuzz about his outbursts more than the game itself. Some were laughing with a ‘what’s new?’ expression, while others condemned his actions.
You see, Benni, as I’ve already mentioned, has done a lot for South African football, but that doesn’t give him a licence to do as he pleases. He’s not above the law and should never be treated with kid gloves. As a professional coach, he should be held in the same high standards, principles and morals as everyone else. There’s a lot of disrespect, from the Mother City-born mentor, towards the opposition when things aren’t going his way. There’s a lot of big-time Charlie attitude towards his opponents. There is seemingly a sense of ‘I’m bigger and better than you,’ ‘I’m richer than you,’ ‘I’m more popular than you,’ ‘I’ve achieved far more than you in my career,’ and this level of disrespect has to be condemned. Unfortunately, even those who are in a position to call McCarthy out continue to laugh at his outbursts and even joke about his touchline misbehavior as if it is funny. Had it been someone else doing these things, the very same people laughing now would have a lot to say and see it as the misbehaviour that it is. Why is it ok when Benni is doing it and wrong when it is someone else? Some even go as far as calling him a passionate coach, in an attempt to justify his unbecoming behavior. You tell me, who is not a passionate coach? Who doesn’t have any emotions towards the game?
Just because Jomo Sono and Manqoba Mngqithi, for instance, don’t scream and shout on the touchline doesn’t mean they are emotionless. They just know how to control their emotions because they know there is a time and place for them to express their emotions. They choose not to do it in front of the cameras. Before the game, in the change room, at half-time and after the final whistle, these two coaches aren’t the same people that you see on the bench during the game. Yes, it does come with age and experience, but the bottom line here is that Benni shouldn’t be treated with kid gloves, someone has to call him to order! If it is wrong when Gavin Hunt, for example, does it, let it be wrong when Benni does it as well. If it is wrong for Luc Eymael to disrespect his opposite number, for instance, let it be wrong when Benni does the same thing. Let us not hide behind the stupid passion excuse because it doesn’t hold water. Poor conduct shouldn’t be tolerated against anyone because there’s no place for it in the game. To those who call Benni passionate and unwittingly encouraging him to continue with his disrespect towards his colleagues and opposition, why is this passion so selective and convenient? If you’ve been watching enough DStv Premiership football, you will know that Benni’s unbecoming conduct is only reserved for a select few. Why is that the case? What happens to Benni’s ‘passion’ when AmaZulu play Kaizer Chiefs and Stuart Baxter is the opposition coach? What happens when they are playing Swallows FC and Brandon Truter is his opposite number? What happens when Hunt is the opposition coach? What happens when Manqoba or Pitso Mosimane is the opposition coach? Where does this ‘passion’ disappear to? Why is this disparaging behaviour reserved for certain individuals?
This has been going on for years, yet, because it is Benni, no one seems to care enough to call him out because he’s our golden boy! We continue to laugh it off. This can’t carry on unabated because if it does, then we must know that we are creating a monster in Benni McCarthy because he’s slowly becoming a loose cannon. We can’t have that! Benni is a likeable fella and I have a lot of respect and time for him, but, unlike many, I’m not going to keep quiet when he’s putting the game into disrepute. I’m never going to shy away from telling it like it is, that he needs to be called out, because the best form of respect, I believe, is honesty. Those who choose not to be honest with him are actually doing a disservice to him and the Beautiful Game. Coaching isn’t just about the 90 minutes, there’s more to it than that. You’ve got to earn the opposition players’ and coaches’ respect through good conduct. Emotional intelligence is one of the most important tools for any leader, especially coaches who have to react to situations timeously, thinking on their feet. It would be a pity if this was to be misconstrued as a personal attack on Benni’s character because it comes from a good place.
There was an incident that Mamelodi Sundowns senior coach, Steve Komphela, was praised for when he ensured that sanity prevailed and calm was restored after McCarthy had what appeared to be an altercation with Mosa Lebusa during a throw-in scenario, where Lehlohonolo Majoro was also involved. Much as Komphela acted correctly, I didn’t commend him for his actions because it is not his job to calm opposition coaches down. What happens when Steve chooses to keep quiet? He has a coaching role to play at Sundowns and that’s his priority. Secondly, as a Sundowns player being pushed around by an opposition coach, I expect Steve to have my back, so to speak. I’m not insinuating anything here, but, as a streetwise guy, I don’t expect my ‘teammate’ to be ‘neutral’ when I’m under attack. It doesn’t work like that.