Ten years on from the biggest day in South African footballing history, Benni McCarthy reflects on a bureaucratic decision which cost him one of the biggest moments of his illustrious career.
On June 11, 2010, Bafana Bafana faced Mexico in the opening game of the FIFA World Cup without one of its best players.
McCarthy was at Blackburn Rovers at the time, but failed to make the final squad on ‘disciplinary reasons’ after coach Carlos Alberto Parreira claimed the striker had brought girls to the hotel.
The former Ajax Amsterdam, Celta Vigo and FC Porto man denies this, saying the Brazilian coach just wanted to make a point.
“I think it was to get back at me,” he recently told the South African Football Journalists’ Association (Safja). “If you remember, there was a time when Alberto said he wanted to have a three-month training camp in Brazil and he wanted to convince the European players.
“The first trip they made was to Blackburn Rovers to see myself and Aaron [Mokoena], but the president of the club said there was no way in hell that they would let myself and Aaron go for three months and miss the season.
“We were still very much in the thick of things, and I was flying at Blackburn at the time. So Alberto said if I put pressure on the club they would let me go and I must tell the club that I want to go to this training camp.
“I said ‘Listen, my bread and butter gets paid by Blackburn and if they tell you no then it’s no’. I can’t go put pressure on the club and then they put me out the door. Is SAFA going to pay my wages? Is SAFA going to give me the life that I worked so hard to get? No. If I am out of a club then I don’t make the national team squad.
"So I couldn’t fight them, they were the priority. I told him there’s nothing I could do about it and he felt I wasn’t complying. So when the time came I didn’t make the World Cup squad. The excuse they gave the nation was that I had brought girls to the hotel – were they out of their minds or what?”
As it turned out, Bafana managed just three goals at the World Cup - two against a disjointed and infighting French team - and crashed out at the group stages.