Thursday, 14 July 2011

Pienaar lands in Johannesburg, McCarthy returns from Disneyland. Which one's Mickey Mouse?

The two most recognisable faces of South African football nearly crossed paths at Heathrow Airport in London on Wednesday night – Steven Pienaar on his way to Johannesburg and going places, Benni McCarthy on his way home from Disneyland and going nowhere.

While Bafana Bafana captain Pienaar is looking forward to three Vodacom Cup games with Tottenham Hotspur, South Africa’s record goalscorer McCarthy is desperately seeking a club to extend his career.

At 33, Benni appears to be quite relaxed about his future. According to Ed Aarons, the British journalist who worked in South Africa, this is what his agent Rob Moore said about Benni’s quest for a future: "I spoke to Benni and he’s just got back from Disneyland with his family, but Benni just wants to take a bit of time to decide his next move.”

Cast out of West Ham after scoring precisely zero goals in 18 months of argument about his weight, Benni is apparently sought after in the United Arab Emirates and America’s MLS, where old professionals never die, they just play that way.

Alternatively, we hear Ajax’s Cape Town branch are keen on bringing McCarthy back to the mother city after a goal-happy 12-year career in Europe which took in Celta Vigo, Porto and Blackburn before the disastrous £2m move to the Hammers.

Hopefully he’s left Mickey Mouse behind and is currently working hard at pre-season training, though exactly where and when that happens remains open to question.

And Pienaar? He turned up at Oliver Tambo International yesterday full of beans, ready to take on Kaizer Chiefs in Polokwane on Saturday after admitting to being an Orlando Pirates fan when he grew up in nearby Westbury. Spurs play Pirates at Nelspruit’s Mbombela Stadium on Tuesday.

Pienaar is the new face of South African football. Presentable, hard-working, eager to please. With the Luca Modric-to-Chelsea row growing by the day, he will use the Vodacom Challenge as a perfect opportunity to prove his worth to boss Harry Redknapp, who signed him from Everton for a bargain £2m in January.

He twittered this week: “It’s always amazing to play back home. I can’t wait. I supported Pirates as a kid before I moved to Ajax Cape Town.”

Prior to that, Pienaar offered his views on the Rainbow Nation’s hosting of last year’s World Cup to FIFA, saying: “Many people, especially in Europe, thought that we couldn’t manage a World Cup in our country. At the end, we all proved them wrong.

“The world celebrated a fantastic World Cup on the African continent, with crazy supporters and the unforgettable sounds of the Vuvuzelas.

“The future will show us if we can keep up the spirit from the World Cup, but I am convinced that we can do it. I think a World Cup in my country was a fantastic opportunity for us and the African people to make a strong statement on ending discrimination.”

Yup, Pienaar isn’t afraid to be political. He added: “Growing up in South Africa, a country that for many years suffered under racial discrimination, I kept myself busy with football and tried not to think about apartheid around me. It was a tough time in South Africa and many innocent people suffered under apartheid in my home country, but we have to forget about the past and build on our future.

“Nelson Mandela is our ‘Father of the Nation,’ and he played a major role in trying to put an end to discrimination in South Africa and the world. Even when he was in jail, he never gave up fighting for freedom or for our rights. He showed us that we all have to fight for a better life, for freedom and for an end to discrimination in the world.

“Sport is the best thing to unite people. Nelson Mandela taught us how sports can change people’s minds and bring them together as a happy family. I remember the Rugby World Cup in our country when he brought our nation together. Sports can change people’s minds and prejudices not only in South Africa but around the whole world.”

Spot on Schillo. Perhaps it’s time big Benni tried to change people’s minds and prejudices.

Now read Ed Aaron's superb blog on McCarthy:

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