McCarthy charms at press conference after mid-week snub

2010-05-21 00:00

BENNI McCarthy and the SA Football Association yesterday pulled off a slick PR move to quell what might in essence have been a storm in a tea cup anyway, when the striker faced the media yesterday to answer questions on a mid-week media snub.

So often petulant and defensive, yesterday McCarthy charmed the media with a display of humility, even in the face of criticism about his weight issues that might have been a tad unfair.

Comments from Bafana fitness trainer Francesco Gonzalez that McCarthy is currently not at a right fitness level to be part of a World Cup squad were blown out of proportion, including a headline labelling the West Ham striker “Benni boep”.

McCarthy did not see the humour in the situation and on Wednesday did not pitch up for a scheduled media session.

Safa CEO Leslie Sedibe said the association had kept to its word on engaging McCarthy on the issue, though he attempted to sidestep what seemed a patent snub by saying McCarthy had been “unable to make” the interview.

And McCarthy, in and out of the team over the past decade after disagreements with the media and Safa, wowed the press conference with uncharacteristically humble responses.

“The whole thing that I have been reading that I think I’m the team, or that I’m different — I’m just an individual that’s part of a group and I’m no-one without a team,” McCarthy said.

“… I’m just one man who can bring something to the team and be part of the success we are trying to achieve,” he added.

Not finished yet, McCarthy said he believes Bafana can do very well at the World Cup without him.

“If I’m part of the squad, brilliant. And if I’m not part of the the group that gets selected, those are the players that are going to represent the country. And I’m a South African, so that makes me part of the country as well and they’ll represent me too. And hopefully they would make me proud as much as they would make each and every one in this room proud.”

McCarthy even resisted the temptation to say he had been unfairly criticised on the weight issue.

“Not one bit. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. I just keep on working hard and if the people that monitor these issues are happy and see progress, those are the ones I report to. Outside that it’s just everyone’s opinion,” the striker said.

McCarthy became injured soon after a move to West Ham three-and-a-half months ago, then on his return warmed the bench.

Asked what his own opinion is on his fitness, McCarthy replied: “When I came here it was a bit tough to acclimatise, especially after coming back from injury.

“… I’ve been here for a week and the training I’ve done has been exceptionally hard and you start to feel a difference. Now I go on the pitch and I’m starting to feel that I’m catching up very quickly with everybody else.

“The likes of Teko Modise and Siphiwe Tshabalala weren’t on their best form before the training camp in Brazil. And now they’re in peak condition and it’s starting to show.

“Honestly, I was stunned by the way that we played against Thailand. Every player ran their socks off and played the football that South African people know we can play.

“And hopefully by May 31 my levels will be higher and my confidence will come back, and hopefully I can give the same performance.”

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