Orlando Pirates striker Benni McCarthy has decided to retire from football at the age of 35. Late last year there were rumours that he was going to go back overseas for his last season. It was also rumoured that he might join Kaizer Chiefs or Sundowns. However, all of this did not happen.
Benni announced his retirement on Thursday. He said he has been so blessed to have enjoyed a remarkable career that took him from the township fields of Nyanga Stadium, to winners’ medals in the Union of European Football Associations (Uefa) Champions League and World Club Cup.
Benni shot to fame in 1998 when he scored four goals in 13 minutes in an Afcon match between South Africa and Namibia. From then, he became the most respected striker in South Africa. He is currently the top goal scorer for Bafana Bafana. He scored 31 goals in 80 matches.
He has played for a number of teams in Europe and among South African players who have played overseas, he is considered the most successful. The teams he has played for overseas from 1997 to 2011 are Ajax, Celta Vigo, FC Porto, Blackburn Rovers and Westham United. In 2011, he returned to South Africa and played for Orlando pirates for two seasons.
Benni said: “I retire having represented my country at senior level 80 times and scored a record 31 goals. Two Soccer World Cup finals — in France and Korea/Japan — an Olympic Games and an under-20 World Cup will be memories that live in my heart forever. And to have come home to South Africa for a final chapter, and to have won the treble with Orlando Pirates (2011-12), was the type of finale that only dreams are made of.” McCarthy’s retirement came as a surprise. Many South African soccer fans expected to see him play at least one more season.