To kick off Bet Central nostalgia Wednesday, we roll back 25 years ago, when young Benni McCarthy announced himself to international football with a dazzling performance against Namibia. Despite carrying an injury, the 20-year-old striker scored four goals in the match to set his international career alight.
Benni McCarthy Announces Himself to International Football
Till today, Benni McCarthy’s footballing career achievements still attract anyone reading. McCarthy is widely regarded as the best South African striker of all time. In his prime, McCarthy had great pace, power and accurate finishing. The way he announced himself in national team colours still leaves everybody talking about his individual brilliance.
During the time Bafana Bafana were taking part in the 1998 African Cup of Nation (AFCON) in Burkina Faso, the coach at the time Jomo Sono included a wonder kid by the name of Benni McCarthy. At the age of 20, McCarthy had already been seen as the next superstar to dominate the game in future. It was that time McCarthy had already obtained a career-changing move to Ajax Amsterdam from Cape Town Spurs. Things were looking bright for a man born in Hannover Park, a township in Cape Town.
Bafana Bafana were drawn in a group consisting of Angola, Ivory Coast and Namibia. Playing the opener against Angola, Bafana drew the match. During that match, McCarthy was supposed to receive the marching orders for stomping on a player after being tackled badly. Before the referee could make a decision, Sono decided to substitute the striker which prevented him from getting the red card. Then in the second match, McCarthy missed a match as he had a swollen ankle and his side managed another draw.
With Bafana arriving the final match against Namibia under immense pressure to either deliver a victory to book a passage to the knockout stages or will crash out of the tournament, the worry inside the camp was growing as McCarthy remained doubtful whether he will take part in the match or not. Failing to recover in time, he instructed the coach he would take an injection in order to assist his nation to qualify for the next round. To him, the match was more of a grudge match and had a point to prove.
Prior to the tournament, both nations had faced off in a COSAFA Cup match that Namibia were hosting with Bafana losing 3-2 in Windhoek. But in McCarthy’s mind, revenge was not based on a scoreline. During that loss, the Namibian fans mocked Bafana, with the whole stadium singing a song, ‘Banana Banana’. So that memory stuck to McCarthy’S head.
Four goals in 14 minutes (8th, 11th, 19th, 21st) by McCarthy at Stade Municipal in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, tore the gut out of Namibia in a 4-1 victory to South Africa. His brilliant performance on the day got the football fraternity talking about how good is he. Bafana were through to the next phase and had a good run which ended up finishing as runners-up, losing 2-0 to Egypt in the final. There was no stopping for him as he went on to score a total of seven goals during the tournament to be named a joint goalscorer with Egypt great Hossam Hassan overall.
His splendid performance earned him a place in the Team of the Tournament. Despite having a great tournament in Burkina Faso, McCarthy went on to flourish on the international football level. His 31 goals in 80 appearances still make him the highest goalscorer of all time. But those four goals against Namibia are what set his international career alight.