Johannesburg – I have to hand it to AmaZulu and Cape Town City for believing in local coaches.
But it was not surprising that Usuthu and The Citizens appointed former Bafana Bafana legends Benedict “Benni” Mc- Carthy as head coach and Aaron “Mbazo” Mokoena as assistant coach, respectively, because they are in a league of their own as far as club and international careers go.
Both could be said to be coming with lesser experience in the coaching stakes, although McCarthy had already tasted what it’s like to lead a PSL club when he coached his home team Cape Town City for two seasons, winning the MTN8 in the process. Mokoena, on the other hand, does not come with any professional club coaching credentials, although he has been coaching in the amateur ranks.
Both played with aplomb for Blackburn Rovers in England with McCarthy making a lasting impression as a striker while Mokoena marshalled the defence between 2005 and 2010. The duo boasts impeccable football credentials, carving a niche for themselves and becoming household names with their daring and courageous displays at top European clubs and for Bafana.
That said, it was inevitable for them to be duly rewarded for their enormous contributions of putting the country on the world football map. Forget the Bafana fallout, marked by running battles between McCarthy and Safa, when he picked and chose the matches he wanted to play.
Who can forget his international debut marked by scoring four goals for defending champions Bafana against Namibia in the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Burkina Faso in 1998?
Despise him if you dare to, but on many fronts targetman McCarthy is viewed as an iconic figure as he is still Bafana’s alltime leading goal scorer with 31 strikes.
At Porto, he was coached by the “Special One”, Jose Mourinho when he won the Uefa Champions League in 2004.
On his return from abroad, he won a treble with Orlando Pirates. McCarthy made his coaching debut with Cape Town City in 2017.
Although he lasted only two seasons, the young coach was sacked as he is known for not mincing his words.
Equally so, Mokoena is a football icon in his own right, having captained Bafana in a number of Afcon finals and at the 2010 World Cup on home soil after becoming the youngest player to represent the country at Under-23 level in the Sydney Olympic qualifers in 1999 at the age of 18.
At the Olympics, his team beat a Brazil side 3-1 teeming with young stars. Cape Town City roped in Mokoena as assistant coach to his former coach Jan Olde Riekerink at Ajax Amsterdam in Holland.
His no-holds barred hard-tackling approach earned him the nickname Mbazo, the Axe. Still on coaching music chairs during the silly season, Chippa United boss Siviwe Mpengesi recalled Dan Malesela as head coach for a record fourth time.
“He is like an abused girlfriend who keeps on returning to an abusive lover,” remarked one of my colleagues.
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