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Benni McCarthy

Benni McCarthy South African footballer

South African footballer
Benni McCarthy
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro South African footballer
Is Athlete Football player Association football player
From South Africa
Type Sports
Gender male
Birth 12 November 1977, Cape Town
Age: 42 years
The details


Benedict Saul "Benni" McCarthy (born 12 November 1977) is a South African former footballer who was last contracted to Orlando Pirates in South Africa.
McCarthy holds the record of international goals for a South African. He is Bafana Bafana's all-time top-scorer with 32 goals.

Early life

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 other clubs,while his younger brother Mark played football at Franklin Pierce University in the United States.

McCarthy started 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 1st division club Seven Stars. He is managed by ExtraTime S.L.


Seven Stars and Ajax

Playing for Seven Stars, the 18-year-old McCarthy scored 1 goal in 29 games in the 1995–96 season, followed by another 12 goals in 20 matches, which earned him a transfer to Cape Town Spurs which two years later merged with Seven Stars to form Ajax Amsterdam feeder team Ajax Cape Town.

In 1997, after an impressive showing at the African Youth Championship and FIFA World Youth Championship in Malaysia, he joined the Dutch side, where he scored 9 goals and was crowned champion in his first season. After a relatively successful 1998–99 season he was sold to Spanish side Celta Vigo for a sum reported to be over €6m, at the time the most expensive transfer for a South African player.

Celta Vigo

Although regarded as one of the best African players at the time, McCarthy never established himself as a regular choice for Celta Vigo's manager, Víctor Fernández. After two poor seasons at the Galician club, he was loaned to struggling FC Porto in the 2001–02 season where he soon rediscovered the form that took him to Europe.

At Porto he played under the then newly appointed coach José Mourinho for an underperforming team that since winning the European Cup in 1987 had never been quite good enough to challenge for the top honours in Europe. However, that would soon change.

After representing Bafana Bafana in the 2002 African Nations Cup, his national side were knocked out in the quarter-finals, McCarthy returned to Porto where he became the main force behind the team's recovery. He helped them to third place in the league and automatic qualification for the UEFA Cup by scoring an impressive 12 goals in only 11 matches, but Porto's finances did not allow them to keep the player, despite the desire of both sides to continue.

So, in 2002–03 Mccarthy returned to Celta Vigo where he spent a lot of time on the bench as squad player while Porto captured the League Cup in Portugal and the UEFA Cup. When former teammate Hélder Postiga was sold to English side Tottenham Hotspur in 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.)


On his return, McCarthy not only found club morale was at its highest for years, but that Porto now had a highly organised team with some of the best Portuguese players. He grabbed the Golden Boot award (with 20 goals in 23 games) on the final day with a terrific hat-trick, and was instrumental in Porto's superb run in the 2004 UEFA Champions League, which they won. Notably, he was responsible for scoring two goals against Manchester United to defeat them in the second round.

When José Mourinho left and was (shortly) replaced by Italian coach Luigi Delneri, McCarthy considered leaving for the FA Premier League, but the two years left in his contract posed a problem. When the Italian coach was fired and replaced by his former Celta coach Fernandez (of whom he said he would rather quit playing than be coached by again) he tried to pressure Porto to sell him to Everton, who needed a replacement for Wayne Rooney.

Porto refused to sell and despite Fernandez praising McCarthy and describing him as a world class striker, rumours continued to rage about which Premiership club McCarthy would move to, with West Ham United and Blackburn Rovers being mooted as possible destinations. Blackburn Rovers were in talks with Porto but could not agree a fee. However, he stayed with the club and was rewarded with winning another Portuguese national championship with FC Porto in the 2005–06 season.

Blackburn Rovers

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

After a disappointing performance in the side's 3–0 defeat to Portsmouth F.C., McCarthy found the net on his debut at Ewood Park against Everton on 23 August 2006. McCarthy further endeared himself to Rovers fans, scoring a goal on his European debut for the club in a 2–2 against FC Red Bull Salzburg in the UEFA Cup, and scoring another in the return leg. He finished second top scorer in the Premier League in 2006–07 with 18 league goals (24 goals in total).

The following season got off to a bad start for McCarthy when he was stretchered off in the opening day win against Middlesbrough F.C.. McCarthy was out of action for a few weeks and found first team opportunities limited, largely because the form of new striking arrival Roque Santa Cruz. Despite being limited to largely substitute appearances, McCarthy did find the net a total of eleven times in all competitions.

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, he 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 Rovers, McCarthy scored a total of 52 goals in 140 matches.

West Ham United

McCarthy completed a move to West Ham United for an undisclosed fee on transfer deadline day, 1 February 2010. He signed a two and a half-year contract that was due to run until the summer of 2012. He made his Premier League debut for West Ham United against Burnley at Turf Moor in a 2–1 defeat on 6 February 2010 where he sustained an injury that would keep him out for six weeks. In February 2011 having played just 326 minutes of football, making only three starts and failing to score any goals for West Ham, McCarthy was left out of West Ham's 25-man squad for the rest of the 2010–11 season. He was also offered a £1 million pay-off in return for tearing up his contract. In April 2011 McCarthy left West Ham by mutual agreement, with a £1.5million pay-off, after agreeing to terminate his contract with West Ham. He made only two Premier League starts and fourteen appearances in all competitions scoring no goals.

Orlando Pirates

After leaving West Ham United McCarthy trained with Ajax Cape Town during the ABSA Premier League off-season. On 2 August Orlando Pirates confirmed the signing of McCarthy on a two-year deal ending his fourteen-year spell in European football. On signing McCarthy said, "I'm thrilled and delighted and hope I can show my appreciation by coming in and playing good football and hope to score as many goals as possible to put the team where they belong". McCarthy began the season by scoring on debut and vowed to score more goals.

McCarthy scored two goals in the final half-hour to help the Pirates defeat the Golden Arrows 4–2 on 19 May 2012 to retain their Premier League title. McCarthy finished his successful season with 10 league goals, ending the campaign as the fourth leading goal-scorer in the Premiership, helping the club secure their second successive treble. Having already won a league championship with Ajax Amsterdam in the Netherlands as well a FC Porto in Portugal both in Europe, McCarthy would make football history by winning the league championship with Orlando Pirates in South Africa. This meant that McCarthy is the first South African footballer who has won 3 league titles with 3 different football teams on 2 different continents.

McCarthy, who is affectionately known as Big Brother by the Orlando Pirates faithful, was handed a red card for dissent in the MTN 8 secondleg semi-final played on Saturday 25 August 2012, after he charged Franklin Cale after a reckless challenge on Daine Klate. This incident lead to protesting fans whom, in their view, Cale was equally guilty in the incident and should have also been shown the red. McCarthy announced his retirement from professional football on 6 June 2013, aged 35.

Whitehill Welfare

On 13 July 2014, McCarthy made a guest appearance for Scottish Lowland league club Whitehill Welfare FC in a pre season friendly match versus a Hamilton Academical XI, scoring in the 14th minute and providing an assist for Whitehill Welfare player Kerr Dodds to score in the 20th minute. McCarthy has a connection with the club through one of the Whitehill players, John Hall.

International career

McCarthy made his full international debut in a friendly against the Netherlands on 4 June 1997.

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 (then at Ajax) was one of their key players. After a 3–0 defeat against future World Champions France, South Africa played their second game against Denmark. Trailing since the 13th minute, McCarthy tied the game at 1–1 in the 52nd minute and giving South Africa a chance for qualification. However, the third game also ended a draw (against Saudi Arabia), which left the South Africans in third place and eliminated from the competition.

The Korea/Japan World Cup saw history repeating for the South Africans. After a 2–2 draw against Paraguay and a 1–0 victory over the Slovenians, McCarthy's 30th-minute equaliser in the last game against Spain was just not enough. 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 games after the 2002 World Cup. However, he returned to the national team in 2004 and now holds the record of international goals for a South African. 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.

Prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup McCarthy announced his support for the Gun-Free World Cup campaign being run by International Action Network on Small Arms. He said: "This World Cup will be the biggest in football history and the fact that it is taking place in South Africa is a chance for us to show the world everything that is good about our country. It’s great that guns will be banned from stadiums – it’s going to be a fantastic party, and guns have no place in that."

After struggling with his fitness and facing criticism at home for being overweight,

McCarthy was omitted from the final South African 23-man squad for the 2010 World Cup which was announced on 1 June 2010.

Club career statistics

(correct as of 08:20, 20 December 2010)
Club Season League Cup Europe Total
Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists
1997–98 16 9 - - - - - - - 16 9 -
1998–99 19 11 - - - - - - - 19 11 -
Total 35 20 35 20
Celta Vigo
1999–00 31 8 - - - - 5 3 - 36 11 -
2000–01 19 0 - - - - 4 4 - 23 4 -
2001–02 2 0 - 1 0 - 1 1 - 4 1 -
2002–03 14 2 - - - - 5 3 - 19 5 -
Total 66 10 1 0 15 11 82 21
F.C. Porto
2001–02 11 12 - - - - - - - 11 12 -
2003–04 29 20 - - - - 12 4 - 41 24 -
2004–05 22 11 - - - - 9 3 - 31 14 -
2005–06 23 3 - 1 0 - 4 1 - 28 4 -
Total 85 46 1 0 25 8 111 54
Blackburn Rovers
2006–07 36 18 1 6 3 1 8 3 0 50 24 2
2007–08 31 8 1 3 1 0 4 2 0 38 11 1
2008–09 28 10 3 5 3 1 0 0 0 33 13 4
2009–10 14 1 1 5 3 0 0 0 0 19 4 1
Total 109 37 6 19 10 2 12 5 0 140 52 8
West Ham United 2009–10 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 0 0
2010–11 6 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 8 0 0
Total 11 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 13 0 0
European Career Total 306 113 6 23 10 2 52 24 0 371 147 8

International goals



  • Ajax
    • Eredivisie: 1997–98
    • KNVB Cup: 1997–98, 1998–99
  • Celta Vigo
    • UEFA Intertoto Cup: 2000
  • Porto
    • Portuguese Liga: 2003–04, 2005–06
    • Portuguese Cup: 2005–06
    • Portuguese Supercup: 2003–04, 2004–05
    • UEFA Champions League: 2003–04
    • Intercontinental Cup: 2004
  • Orlando Pirates
    • Premier Soccer League: 2011–12
    • MTN 8: 2011–12
    • Telkom Knockout: 2011–12
    • Carling Black Label Cup:2012


  • SJPF Player of the Month: January 2004, May 2004, October 2004
  • Portuguese Silver Ball: 2003–04

Personal life

In 2004, McCarthy married Maria Santos from Spain. They have three daughters: Minna, Mya and Allegra. In 2007, they separated. In May 2014, McCarthy married Scottish model Stacey Munro. Together, they have one daughter, Lima Rose.

In popular culture

In 1998, McCarthy collaborated with South African kwaito music group TKZee in "Shibobo". The song released in the run-up to the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France samples greatly on "The Final Countdown" by Europe and features McCarthy rapping part of the lyrics. He also appears in the football-themed music video for the song. Sales of the single topped the 100,000 mark in just over a month in South Africa, making "Shibobo" the fastest and biggest selling CD single by TKZee or other South African recording artists. The song was also a hit in other African music charts. The song enjoyed a comeback in a re-release in 2010–2011.



  • 1998: "Shibobo" by TKZee featuring Benni McCarthy

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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