'Family issues' force McCarthy to miss vital games

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The Independent Football

The South Africa coach Joel Santana has confirmed that striker Benni McCarthy will miss their opening four African Nations Cup qualifiers next month.

The pair met in Johannesburg yesterday after the Blackburn forward failed to turn up for the team's opening training session on Monday. No details were given for the reasons behind McCarthy's withdrawal, but the player cited "family issues" for his decision.

The 2010 World Cup hosts are preparing for a tough opening qualifier against Nigeria in Abuja at the weekend.

Santana said: "I had a frank, but good discussion with Benni and listened with full attention to what he had to say. I appreciate the situation that he has explained and therefore fully understand the personal circumstances that he finds himself under."

However, the Brazilian warned McCarthy a similar situation in the future will not be tolerated. He added: "Benni is one of the best players in the world and that cannot be ignored. The door has been left open to him for the future, but it will also be up to him.

"I put our position very clearly to him that we want this to be the last time we have to talk about him. We have important games now that we want to focus on. I have just arrived in South Africa and have a job to do."

Last year McCarthy, who has a history of disciplinary problems, was talked out of an 18-month international exile by South Africa's previous coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira.

After helping the country qualify for the 2008 African Nations Cup late last year, he was surprisingly left out of the squad for the tournament in Ghana as Parreira opted for a number of younger players with a view to the 2010 World Cup.

Speaking after yesterday's discussion with Santana, the 30-year-old said he was grateful to the new coach for releasing him.

He said: "I have great respect for coach Santana and appreciate that he understood my current family issues. I must say that I'm a little bit disappointed that I won't feature in any of the four qualifiers but then I understand that the coach does not want me to disrupt his camp.

"On the other hand, it gives me an opportunity to address my personal issues and I hope I will be called in future."

Apart from missing the game against the Nigerians, McCarthy will also sit out both ties with Sierra Leone and the clash with Equatorial Guinea.