Thursday, 6 June 2013

South Africa's greatest footballer Benni McCarthy retires at 35: the full statement here, updating as we go

Winner: Benni McCarthy won the Champions League with Porto

BENNI McCARTHY, South Africa’s greatest modern footballer, has retired. The 35-year-old released this statement through his agency last night. Orlando Pirates chairman Irvin Khoza says he knows nothing about the news so this story may yet have some legs.

We can debate the controversies and the torrid final season all we want, but the fact is, the man from humble roots in Hanover Park, Cape Town, went on to play in Holland, Portugal (where he won the Champions League with Jose Mourinho), Spain and England (where he was Blackburn Rovers' top scorer, second only to Chelsea's Didier Drogba). He won the League Championships with Ajax, Porto and Pirates, the only South African to win titles in three countries. His $8m move to Spain's Celta Vigo in 1999 remains the nation's highest fee.

Final fling: Benni at Pirates
His return to South Africa late in his career was widely lampooned after he was fined for weight gain during a disastrous spell at West Ham, but his goals propelled the Buccaneers to a second-successive treble.

He was there when it mattered, using those years of experience to pop home the vital goals and he took the Soweto derby by storm with a brace. On the last day of the 2011-2012 season, it was Benni who scored the two goals which put paid to Golden Arrows and clinched the title for caretaker coach Augusto Palacios.

I wrote this after the derby for The New Age, accepting McCarthy still offered great value for a reputed R6m annual wage which made him the highest-paid player in the country: Benni's absence this season - due to injury and age - was the principle reason behind the double-winning success of arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs. A couple of incidents of goal-poaching from Big Benni might well have made 2012-2013 a very different story.

And now he's gone. There is disbelief from Pirates fans today, and Dr Khoza himself seems mystified amid reports of McCarthy being prepared to play for another season following a tweet from his agent Rob Moore saying just that on May 28.

On the website, where fans vote to decide which player should represent their team in the pre-season friendly between Orlando Pirates and Soweto rivals Kaizer Chiefs, Benni has a team leading 224,999 votes from a hopeful Ghost. But popular demand will count for nothing if King Benni has abdicated.

Here are the words from McCarthy himself at the end of a career which sees him hang up his boots as South Africa’s only Champions League winner and Bafana’s top goal scorer:

“I have been so blessed to have enjoyed a remarkable career that took me from the township fields of Nyanga Stadium, to winner’s medals in the Uefa Champions League and World Club Cup - the highest levels that a player can achieve in club football.

“I retire having represented my country at senior level 80 times and scored a record 31 goals. Two Soccer World Cup finals, in France and Korea/Japan, an Olympic Games and a u-20 World Cup Finals will be memories that live in my heart forever.

“And to have come home to South Africa for a final chapter, and to have won the treble with Orlando Pirates, was the type of finale that only dreams are made of.

“It has been a 17-year professional career that surpassed even my own expectations and I’ve been privileged to have played under many great Coaches, including the very best, Jose Mourinho.

“Football has been good to me – it has provided special moments and in the process, has enabled me to have been in a position to have improved the lives of my family members. For that, I am most grateful.

“I’d like to thank so many people for making so many aspects of this journey possible. My family has always been a tremendous support, especially my mom, Dora, and my late father, Dudley. I trust that I have made them proud in some small way.

“Sponsors, like Nike, who have been there for me for the past 15 years and I appreciate that. And finally, my mentor and business manager, Rob Moore, who has walked along this road with me since I joined him in 1995 as a 17-year-old.

“Football is my life. I have played the game and I love the game…….it’s in my blood. For the next chapter, I’d like to concentrate on getting my Coaching Badges and at the same time, be part of a club where I can get practical experience. I’d also like to do some television work because I enjoy that aspect of the game as well.”

I'll be updating this story through the day - and you can follow the live situation on my twitter timeline at


  1. Neal, jou ma se poes.

  2. unexpected but sad news indeed. The man is indeed our greatest football superstar in the most complete sense of the word. Came back home when he was written off and disproved all his critics and had us falling in love with him again. Go well Bro! and hope you stay in the country and continue to contribute to our football. Good one as always Neal. Looks like you beat-off all your haters and detractors with a comprehensive and solid tribute to the man when the story was still red hot. Well done mate.


  3. i have never forgiven him for showing us the middle finger in his pomp. pirates fan or not he acted like a diva when he was riding the high wave of the epl. all of a sudden his stock(or rather stomach) drops we must all pretend that the squad couldn't have done with a benny in his prime during the downward spiral that bafana went on over the years. im more than happy for pienaar. he gave us many years of loyal service and im still happy to call him my kaptein and celebrate his successes with everton despite his retirement from international football. he's a great south African. stevie played in the same league and he made it back, sometimes late but he always put his country 1st. cant say the same for benny.

    good riddance to bad rubbish I say. even if he had scored 100 goals for pirates id loath him. but, he didn't. his finishing has always bin impressive but him being 15kg overweight and playing for one of the continent's biggest clubs was a humbling, if not depressing, reflection on south African football. it is embarrassing to see a sea of black and white in a packed soccercity chanting his name while he bulged out his shirt while he walked to the opposition box on a counter after defending a corner, completely out of breath.

    we need to relook at our standards. not only in terms of football. yes, his return added something to south African football. but he should never have bin allowed to. i'll cheer a one legged steven pienaar any day of the week in this country but benny can go fly a kite. he got paid by the kilo-lol, thank you de sa- and he can go have all the burgers he wants with that pretty penny but he must just not be on damn football pitch! not here! not after letting us know exactly what he thinks of us and our useless bafana bafana!

  4. It is so sad to hear about the retirement of this great football player. I think that his every fan will miss him a lot and wish to get him back in the game.

  5. BENNI MCCARTHY was a great football player from South Africa. He has retired in the age of 35. He had given many gorgeous performances for their country in the soccer.

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