No Benni for Bafana Bafana

The final Bafana Bafana squad who’ll play in the Football World Cup has been announced…and it doesn’t include South Africa’s all-time top goal scorer Benni McCarthy.

McCarthy’ exclusion from the final 23-man squad has shocked football fans around the world, making it bigger news than those who have been included.

Although the South African football team’s coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, declined to give exact reasons for why striker Benni was chosen to be dropped as part of the five who had to be excluded to meet the FIFA stipulation of a 23-man squad, most fans were speculating that it was Benni’s excess weight that was his downfall.

In fact some fans – who haven’t been that happy seeing Benni living in a luxurious mansion in England where he plays for West Ham United – have gone so far as to make a lot of “fat” jokes over the internet, with one football fan tweeting: “KFC to introduce the new Benni McCarthy 24 piece bucket meal. For those times when 23 is just not enough.”

Coach Parreira (who hails from Brazil) had apparently put Benni on a strict fitness programme in the hope he would lose enough kilos to play in the World Cup.

His failure to do so seemed to leave Parreira quite heavy-hearted, which was evident when he  made the announcement today of which players were being left out. He said he “would have loved to have all these players in the team” when the competition kicks off on June 11.

Parreira added that “we took into consideration the physical condition of the players and team dynamics in determining the final names. I have told each of them to keep their heads up. Being part of a team means understanding that you either start, come in as a substitute or don’t play at times. What is important is for them to understand the bigger picture, which is putting the interest of the team first.”

In a statement, 32-year-old McCarthy said that while he was disappointed, it didn’t come as a surprise and that he was still part of the team if not the squad. He recognised how difficult the decision was and said “the final squad is a tough call for any coach to make” and that he was “sure it was not made without heartache”.

“I am proud to have been given the privilege to have been capped in the South African national squad, unfortunately this time it was not to be,” said McCarthy.

The final South African World Cup squad:

Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune, Moeneeb Josephs, Shu-aib Walters

Defenders: Aaron Mokoena (captain), Siboniso Gaxa, Bongani Khumalo, Anele Ngcongca, Tsepo Masilela, Lucas Twala, Mathew Booth, Lance Davids, Siyabonga Sangweni

Midfielders: Teko Modise, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Steven Pienaar, Thanduyise Khuboni, Kagiso Dikgacoi, Macbeth Sibaya, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Surprise Moriri

Strikers: Bernard Parker, Katlego Mphela, Siyabonga Nomvete