MNINAWA NTLOKO: Is greenhorn Benni ready to coach Bafana?
While the Cape Town City manager has backing from many quarters, he still has much to learn
The last few days have felt like déjà vu, haven’t they? Perennial heartbreakers Bafana Bafana once again do not have a coach and, as has become the norm, we are back in familiar territory and speculating on who will accept a cursed seat that has often been likened to sitting on a bed of hot coals.
The incessant speculation is a favourite pastime in these parts and the ink had barely dried on Stuart Baxter’s resignation letter when several names were linked to the job.
Cape Town City coach Benni McCarthy seems to be one of the more popular choices and, in fact, was linked to the job while Baxter was still contemplating whether to quit.
Hell, McCarthy is so ahead in the race for the job that John Comitis, his boss at City, gave him his blessing days before Baxter had even got it into his head to tell his SA Football Association (Safa) employers to go fly a kite.
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“I have never stood in anyone’s way and I will definitely not stand in Benni’s way‚” Comitis said. “As long as you want to be with me‚ we will work together. If it comes‚ it comes, and we will deal with it because we are professionals.”
Many others have come out to bat for the former Bafana striker and he remains a popular choice even among the fans.
Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane, himself a favourite for the job, elected to rule himself out of a return to the Bafana fold and gave his backing to McCarthy.
Mosimane insisted he had unfinished business with Sundowns and was not about to go anywhere near a poisoned chalice he knows all too well.
He can’t have forgotten his incident-riddled 23-month reign in which he managed 16 official matches — winning six, drawing seven and losing three.
‘‘Benni has a good name, like Aliou Cisse of Senegal and Djamel Belmadi of Algeria who have played football in Europe and they are big names in these countries,” he said.
“I don’t know if Benni wants [the job] but John Comitis has said that he would allow him to go if the opportunity arises.”
This all sounds good in theory, but the question remains: is McCarthy ready for such an undertaking?
He is still on a learning curve, as this is only his third season as a head coach.
City is the only club he has coached, and while success came early when he led them to the MTN8 in 2018, he is still wet behind the ears. He is still learning the tricks of the trade and he himself recently said he’s set his sights on first winning the domestic league title.
He has a Uefa Pro coaching badge and plans to return to Europe at some stage to perfect his craft.
And once he’s satisfied, the idea is to then return to SA and seriously pursue the Bafana coaching job.
The Bafana coaching gig is not for the fainthearted. Mosimane himself once said the job came too early for him.
And while he took advantage of the early opportunity and used it to hone his craft, the pressure from his employers at Safa, the fans and the media nearly ruined the celebrated coaching career the world has come to know.
Who knows what could have happened had Mosimane cracked under the enormous pressure he faced every day?
Others were not so lucky and their careers never recovered after they were consumed by the Bafana curse. Can we risk doing that to McCarthy so early in his career?
Sure, he has many people backing him right now, but what happens when the wheels inevitably come off? Who will pick up the pieces?
I have no doubt in my mind that McCarthy will coach Bafana one day, but I don’t think it would be fair to dump the weight of expectations on him at this delicate time of his young career.
Let him develop at his own pace and when he’s ready, he will be the first to raise his hand.
He has not done that yet, and perhaps he should be given the space to make his own decision.