Coach Benni…Doing It Right
Last week we saw how South Africa’s most successful footballer, Benni McCarthy, had begun his foray into management, and I for one am delighted at the way he’s going about it all.
Benni is Benni. He’s won numerous league titles and domestic cups galore in Holland, Portugal and South Africa, as well as, of course, the UEFA Champions League. If there is a South African legend out there that could feel that his name alone should secure him a coaching job, Benni would be that guy.
The 37-year-old is loved in South Africa, for the most part anyway. He’s Bafana Bafana’s record goalscorer and on his day was genuinely world-class. I think the term ‘world-class’ gets thrown about a little bit too much these days, but at one stage in his career, he was up there with the best in the business.
Like I mentioned earlier, Benni could be like some other coaches and demand a job on the back of his big name. But he hasn’t. Benni left for Europe and started his coaching badges not long after his retirement from Orlando Pirates. He started at the bottom with his B License, completed that and then moved on to his A License. Once he has that, he’s planning to do his Pro License, the highest coaching qualification available.
While doing his badges, Benni spent time in Scotland and Belgium learning about his next career path out on the training ground. He worked with Neil Lennon at Celtic and Yannick Ferrera at Sint-Truidense VV, so as to give himself some practical knowledge of what was to come next in his life.
It was while working in Belgium with STVV that Benni worked with former Pirates assistant, SA born Chris O’Loughlin, who told me at the time that he was really impressed with how he’d handled himself with the players and the situation at the club, as they battled for promotion to Belgium’s top-flight.
As assistant, Chris played a large role in the club’s promotion last season and was recently made head coach of STVV after Ferrera left to join Standard Liege. Also at 37 years of age, it’s nice to see such a young coach doing so well for himself after boosting his own knowledge at clubs like Pirates, SuperSport United and AS Vita in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Benni has left a permanent mark on Chris from his short spell while doing his badges, and I don’t think I have to tell anyone that I had a big smile on my face when I got the call telling me that Benni was being brought in as Chris’ number two.
The first time I met Benni was a few years ago at a Nike event in Soweto. Obviously I knew Benni, but he had no clue who I was and I was a little bit nervous about introducing myself. However, after hearing my Yorkshire accent while I was talking to someone else, Benni took it upon himself to start asking me questions. He calmed my nerves in an instant.
In this day and age, it’s difficult to find anyone – let alone someone of Benni’s stature and success – who genuinely cares about others. He took time to find out some bits about me and I will always appreciate that. That level of personablity, when applied to players, could make the difference between being a good coach and a great one. And during his unveiling as STVV’s assistant, Benni McCarthy is just a very difficult guy to dislike.
I have a lot of respect for Benni and the way he is going about his coaching career. We have seen plenty of great players who make poor coaches, and poor players that make great coaches, so to assume that you deserve to coach because you could play is misconstrued.
Benni is taking the time to start from the bottom. He’s doing his badges, he’s taking on an assistant role and he’s looking to work his way up the ladder of coaching success. Shaun Bartlett is another coach taking a similar route. Sadly his first success as a head coach at Golden Arrows, where he promoted the team to the PSL, ended up getting him fired.
At his first press conference, Benni said, “I’m hoping that we can, this season or next season, become champions of Belgium. If I didn’t think that was possible then I wouldn’t come. As a player, I always wanted to win. I played for clubs that wanted to become champions.”
Benni has a winner’s mindset. He is a born winner. However, he’s not leveraging the fact that he won things as a player as a way to become a coach. If he’s half as successful on the bench as he was on the pitch, then we may have a future Bafana head coach on our hands.
Benni’s in the technical area, and he’s bloody well earning it.
Soccer Laduma Journalist