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A kid from the Cape Flats who went on to win a UEFA Champions League medal and then came home to coach his city’s Premier League team.
But Benni McCarthy’s journey is no fairy tale. Hard work, self-sacrifice and learning life lessons along the way are what paved his path to football stardom and financial security.
“Too many people think that I’m a footballer and that’s it, but there’s so much more,’ the former Cape Town City FC coach says in an exclusive video interview with club sponsor, financial services provider DirectAxis.
He talks about what it was like growing up in Hanover Park, what it took to get to the top and what he has learnt about not just living in the moment but thinking ahead.
“We used to play cricket, football and tennis, but there was always a lookout in case cars we didn’t know came into the area. If there were cars we didn’t recognise, we’d run for cover,” he says, adding that he has lost friends to shootings.
A firm father, who made sure he stayed out of trouble and a mother who taught him that you don’t get anything without working for it, laid the foundations for his success.
“Without my mom I would have been a casualty of the Cape Flats.”
It was her belief in hard work that saw him start training harder. He began road running to build fitness and stamina and practice with the bigger, senior players to improve his game.
It paid off and aged 17 he got his first big break when he was signed by then first-division club, Seven Stars.
A strict manager made sure he stayed grounded and as importantly kept tight control of the purse strings.
“I got good advice from him. He taught me that you can’t just live for today, you have to think about tomorrow. Don’t forget about where you come from and invest right.”
He recalls not even being allowed to buy a bicycle he wanted.
“Everybody wants the fancy car, to be on social media and to wear fancy clothes but give no thought to where you want to see yourself financially in 10 years’ time.
“You don’t have to fit in. Be you and be consistent over the years.”
Thinking ahead to what he’d do after retiring as a player, combined with his mom’s work ethic and investing in himself, saw Benni embark on his coaching career.
“It’s very hefty on the pocket to do your courses, but so worth it.”
Working through the courses he achieved a UEFA Pro coaching qualification, the football equivalent of a masters’ degree and one which allows a coach to manage any team in the world.
Typically, he didn’t waste any time celebrating, because he got a call from Cape Town City chairman, John Comitis, offering him the Cape Town City coaching job and didn’t hesitate.
Since becoming the Cape Town City coach in August 2016 he’s tried to pass on some of the lessons he’s learnt, including some simple but important financial advice: “Make sure you’ve got enough to meet your needs. Save a bit and invest.”