The ex-Bafana Bafana star talks about his joy of getting revenge against the Brave Warriors. Former South Africa forward Benni McCarthy says his four goals against Namibia at the 1998 Africa Cup of Nations finals were inspired by the grudge he held against the fellow Southern Africans whose supporters had taunted him earlier.
A first-half 14-minute goal blitz by McCarthy saw Bafana Bafana beat Namibia 4-1 to complete their Group C campaign in style on their way to the final of the tournament held in Burkina Faso. But a few weeks before, South Africa had been stunned 3-2 by Namibia in a Cosafa Cup qualifying round match in Windhoek, in what was McCarthy’s full national team debut after making his maiden appearance against the Netherlands in June 1997.
During that match in Windhoek, McCarthy was inundated with “banana” chants which angered him before plotting his revenge in Burkina Faso. “But for me, it was more of a grudge match because I made my debut coming on as a substitute against Holland, under Clive Barker, when we lost 2-0 at FNB Stadium [in June 1997], with a cameo for a few minutes,” said McCarthy as per Sowetan Live.
“I had a pretty special game [Cosafa match against Namibia], with an assist for ‘Chippa’ [Phil Masinga], but unfortunately we lost. And I remember the celebrations of the Namibians because they had beaten us. And the whole stadium sang this song, taunting ‘Banana Banana’.
“That game was just the curtain-raiser for the Afcon for us. And I said to myself, ‘If I’m in that Afcon squad then I’m going to make them eat their words, those bastards’.” South Africa drew 0-0 with Angola in their Afcon opening match, before a 1-1 draw with Ivory Coast, making their final group match against Namibia a decider.
McCarthy had missed the Ivory Coast match due to injury. “We needed to win against Namibia, so I just told Jomo [Sono then Bafana coach] that I would take an injection because I really wanted to play, and I wanted to shove those ‘Banana Bananas’ that they called us down their throats,” McCarthy said.
“Come the game I was psyched up. I had a nice strapped ankle and I genuinely couldn’t feel the pain. As the game went on that was the only thing in my mind — ‘Banana Banana, Banana Banana’. And every goal that went in I kept singing to myself, ‘Banana Banana, Banana Banana’. “The game finished, and I had scored the four goals, which was incredible and I was so jubilant.” To make it sink into the Namibians, McCarthy then declined to exchange his shirt with the Namibian players after the match.
“And shame, even now when I think about it I was a bit of an a**hole to the Namibian players at the end because every one of them came up and wanted my shirt,” McCarthy said. “And I said, ‘I ain’t giving my shirt to you — you were singing Banana Banana’. So that was for me what was behind that performance. Just getting them back for calling us Banana Banana.”
The former FC Porto and West Ham United man then finished the 1998 Afcon tournament as joint top goalscorer with Egypt’s Hossam Hassan, each having managed seven goals with Bafana losing the final to the Pharaohs.