May 31, 2022


7 min read

Benny McCarthy Bafana Bafana all-time top scorer

Benny McCarthy Bafana Bafana all-time top scorer

Benni McCarthy during his playing days

Story highlights

    McCarthy is regarded as one of the best in Africa
    He was player of the 1998 African Cup of Nations tournament

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BENEDICT Saul "Benni" McCarthy born on November 12, 1977, is a South African coach and former footballer.

He was appointed head coach of the Durban based PSL team, AmaZulu Football Club on December 14, 2020 – a position he has since left. McCarthy is the South Africa national team's all-time top scorer with 31 goals

He is also the only South African to win the EUFA Champions League, doing so with Porto in 2003-04.

McCarthy was born in Cape Town and grew up in Hanover Park on the Cape Flats, an area notorious for its high unemployment rate and gang violence. He is the son of Dudley and Dora McCarthy and has two brothers and a sister. His older brother is Jerome McCarthy, a former professional footballer who played for Kaizer Chiefs and Manning Rangers, among others, while his younger brother Mark played football at Franklin Pierce University in the United States.

McCarthy began playing at a local side called Young Pirates, which was managed by his uncles. He then joined the youth structures of a local amateur club called Crusaders. At age 17, he was signed by first division club Seven Stars.

In 1997, he joined Cape Town Spurs, which two years later merged with Seven Stars to form Dutch club Ajax’s feeder team, Ajax Cape Town.

After a relatively successful 1998-99 season, he was sold to Spanish side Celta de Vigo for a transfer fee reported to be over €6 million, at the time the most expensive transfer for a South African player.

Although regarded as one of the best African players at the time, McCarthy never established himself as a regular choice for Celta's manager, Victor Fernandez.

After two poor seasons at the Galician club, club, he was loaned to struggling Porto in the 2001-02 season, where he soon rediscovered the form that took him to Europe.

After representing Bafana Bafana in the 2002 African Nations Cup, where his national side was eliminated in the quarter-finals, McCarthy returned to Porto, where he became the main force behind the team's recovery.

In 2002–03, McCarthy therefore returned to Celta, where he spent much of his time on the substitutes' bench as a squad player as Porto captured the Taca de Portugal, the Portuguese League and the UEFA Cup. When Porto sold striker Helder Postiga to to Tottenham Hotspur ahead of the 2003–04 season, Porto finally acquired McCarthy for a sum of €7.856 million, (later re-sold part of the rights to GestiFute and First Portuguese Football Players Fund.)

For the 2003-04 Primeira Liga season, he earned the Golden Boot award (with 20 goals in 23 matches) on the season's final matchday with a hat-trick, and was instrumental in Porto's run in the 2003-04 EUFA Champions League, which they won. He scored two goals against Manchester United to defeat them in the second round.

On July 25, 2006, McCarthy flew out to England to undergo a medical and probable contract signing to join Blackburn Rovers. Three days later, he signed a four-year contract with Blackburn for a £2.5 million transfer fee.

In the 2008-09 season, McCarthy appeared to be out of favour with new manager Paul Ince, as the club's strike force was strengthened with the arrivals of Carlos Villanueva and Robbie Fowler to join the already established Roque Santa Cruz, Jason Roberts and Matt Derbyshire. However, McCarthy answered these critics by scoring his first goal of the campaign – a 94th-minute equaliser in a Premier League match against Middlesbrough.

In all competitions for Blackburn, McCarthy scored 52 goals in 140 matches.

McCarthy completed a move to West Ham United for an undisclosed fee on transfer deadline day, February 1, 2010. He signed a two and a half-year contract that was due to run until the summer of 2012.

He was also offered a £1 million pay-off in exchange for terminating his contract prematurely. In April 2011, McCarthy left West Ham by mutual agreement after the parties agreed to terminate his contract. 

After leaving West Ham, McCarthy trained with former club Ajax Cape Town during the ABSA Premier League off-season. On August 2, Orlando Pirates confirmed the signing of McCarthy on a two-year deal, ending his 14-year spell in Europe.

McCarthy began the season by scoring on debut and vowed to score more goals.

He scored two goals in the final half-hour to help the Pirates defeat Golden Arrows 4–2 on May 19, 2012 to retain their Premier League title. He finished his successful season with 10 league goals, ending the campaign as the fourth leading goal-scorer in the Premier League, helping the club secure their second successive treble. Having already won a league championship with Ajax in the Netherlands as well with Porto both domestically and in Europe, McCarthy would make football history by winning the league championship with Orlando Pirates in South Africa. This meant McCarthy was the first South African footballer to win three league titles with three different football clubs on two different continents.

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Benny McCarthy Bafana Bafana all-time top scorer

McCarthy as a premier league coach

McCarthy announced his retirement from professional football on June 6, 2013, aged 35.

Along with veteran Egyptian striker Hossam Hassan, McCarthy was the joint top scorer in the 1998 African Cup of Nations in Burkina Faso with seven goals, including four in 13 minutes against Namibia. In addition, he was named Player of the Tournament.

The 1998 FIFA World Cup in France was the first time South Africa's national football team had reached the later stages of the competition, and McCarthy was one of their key players. After a 3–0 defeat against eventual champions France, South Africa played their second match against Denmark. Trailing since the 13th minute, McCarthy tied the game at 1–1 in the 52nd minute and gave South Africa a chance for qualification after a 1–1 draw. However, the third match also ended in a draw, against Saudi Arabia, which left the South Africans in third place and eliminated from the competition.

The 2002 World Cup saw history repeating for the South Africans. After a 2–2 draw against Paraguay and a 1–0 victory over Slovenia, McCarthy's 30th-minute equaliser in the last match against Spain was not enough, as South Africa eventually lost 3–2 and finished with another third place in the group stage.

There was often conflict over McCarthy's lack of participation in national team matches (whose interests often collide with his club's) and he actually retired from international matches after the 2002 World Cup. However, he returned to the national team in 2004 and eventually set the record for most international goals for South Africa; McCarthy's strike in the second half of a 3–0 win against Paraguay in a 2008 friendly eclipsed the previous record of 29 goals held by Shaun Bartlett.

McCarthy was omitted from the final South African 23-man squad for the 2010 World Cup, which was held in South Africa.

On June 13 2017, McCarthy was unveiled as the new Cape Town City head coach, replacing Eric Tinkler.

McCarthy would complete his EUFA Pro License while coaching City, and would win his first silverware as a coach in 2018 when he guided City to the MTN 8 cup. On November 4, 2019, McCarthy was dismissed as head coach of Cape Town City after just two wins in 18 games.

McCarthy replaced Ayanda Dlamini as the new Amzazulu FC head coach in December 2020. He took the club to a 2nd place finish in the DStc Premiership, a record high for AmaZulu in the modern era of the game in South Africa.

As a result, AmaZulu qualified for the preliminary rounds of the 2021-22 CAF Champions League.

McCarthy would lead Amazulu to the Group Stages of the 2021-2022 Champions League in their debut season before exiting the competition. Wikipedia

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