“Now that he is a coach, he is able to cherry-pick the best traits from those managers he worked with as a player"
Benni McCarthy has made rapid progress as a coach. In just two seasons in charge of Cape Town City, he has steered the team to two Cup finals, and they finished fifth on the PSL standings last season.
To take things even further, last week he received his Uefa Pro Licence, the highest coaching qualification in Europe.
McCarthy, the coach, is most certainly on the rise. But all of the above, of course, is on paper. If you want some insight into the inner, more tangible, workings of McCarthy on the training field and in the dressing-room, with regards to how he prepares and motivates his squad, then the people to ask are his two assistant coaches: Vasili Manousakis and Rayaan Jacobs.
“Benni’s strengths are his knowledge of the game,” said Manousakis. “He can draw on the football experience he picked up from playing at the level that he has. He’s tasted all kinds of football and he’s played under world-class managers; he’s been with the SA national team, where he’s played all over Africa. You cannot buy that type of experience. You can’t teach him anything about being in a football dressing-room.
“Now that he is a coach, he is able to cherry-pick the best traits from those managers he worked with as a player.
“Most of all, though, his biggest asset is his desire to succeed. He is a born winner. It’s probably something he would have had when he first went overseas as a teenager and told himself ‘I’m gonna make it’. He is the very same now – he never gives up.
“Ask any of his players, he just hates to lose. Whether it’s a training game or a five-a-side kick-around, he wants to win.
“Even in gaining the prestigious Uefa Pro Licence, it would have been the same attitude: when he puts his mind to something, he goes out and gets it.”
Jacobs said: “He’s an honest coach, he speaks from the heart and all his messages are packed with emotion and desire. It’s clear to see why he made it as a player – he has a winning mentality. At training, he strives for excellence and gets upset when players don’t give 100 percent.
“He has his vision on how football must be played and he strives for continuity in his preparation.”
But coaching is not just about what happens at training. It’s also about personality, understanding and empathy – and it’s about how the coach relates to the people around him. McCarthy, from his days as a player, understands the need for inclusivity.
“It is a privilege to work with Benni,” said Manousakis. “As a member of the technical staff, I can tell you that he gets to know us as people. He wants to know who you are. He is interested in you, your family, your kids, and he’s very good at picking up when anybody around him is not feeling well; he notices behavioural changes. As a coach, he is smart, he is sharp.
There was McCarthy the player and, now, there’s McCarthy the coach. But there is also McCarthy the celebrity. How does he cope with all the adulation?
“He may be a South African legend, but he is extremely compassionate,” said Manousakis.
“He always has time for pictures and a chat with fans. He never