Top 10 South African Footballers of All Time – Part 5

3rd. Mark Fish (CB)

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A no-nonsense defender who is best remembered for his time in the English Premier League with Bolton Wanderers & Charlton Athletic. Having started his career as a striker, his association with Roy Mathews at Jomo Cosmos resulted in his conversation to a central defender. Upon spending the first two years off his career with the Cosmos, it was his move to Orlando Pirates that helped improve and cement himself as one of the best in the country.

In his three seasons with the Pirates, Fish helped the club to 1994 National Soccer League title & 1995 CAF Champions League. Fish’s exploits with the Pirates helped him grab the attention of many of Europe’s elite, a phase which culminated in Fish signing with Lazio. His stint in Italy only lasted a year with the South African International soon moving to the comfort of the English Premier League.


His move to the English Premier League in 1997 with Bolton Wanderers made him the highest paid player at the club at the time. Not along after his move to the Wanderers, Fish gathered almost a cult-like status in the city[1] and was a mainstay in the Bolton defense during his three seasons with the club. After making more than 100 appearances for the club, Fish finally bid adieu to Bolton, joining manager Alan Curbishley at Charlton Athletic.

Fish would spend a total of 5 seasons with the club playing an instrumental role at the center of defense. Following his time with Charlton, Fish had a short loan period with Ipswich Town, however, a severe ligament brought his career to a grinding halt.

International Career

In a span of more than a decade from 93 to 2004, Fish was a crucial part of the South African National side making a total of 62 appearances. Having represented South Africa during the 98′ World Cup, the high point of his international career came in 96′ when he starred in Bafana Bafana’s AFCON Championship win, even being named to the eventual Team of the Tournament an accolade he won once again in 98′ when South Africa finished as runners-up. Since retiring, Fish has played an ambassador role for the game in his country.

2nd. Lucas Radebe (CB)

Another no nonsense defender who made a name for himself in the English Premier League, Lucas Radebe was arguably the most talented of South Africa’s golden generation during the 90’s. Having started his career with amateur football clubs such Diepkloof Wolf Wanderers and ICL Birds, Radebe was brought into professional football by none other Patrick Ntsoelengoe who signed him on to the Chiefs. Upon his professional debut for the club in 89′, Radebe remained with the club for a total of 5 years till 94′ making more than 100 appearances for the Chiefs during that time.

He was so influential during his time with the Chiefs’ that when rumors emerged linking him to rival club in 92′, he was shot at in public to stop him from leaving. In total Radebe won a total of 2 NASL titles (91 & 92), 3 MTN 8 Cup titles (91, 92 & 94) & the Nedbank Cup in 92 while with the Chiefs’.

Leeds United’s Heart & Soul

During the summer of 94′ Radebe made a surprise move to the Premier League joining Leeds United. Although Leeds were not originally interested in the player, they brought him on only to appease his Chiefs’ team Chippa Masinga who was part of the deal. Even though Radebe struggled to settle in at the club during his first couple of seasons, his form turned around upon the arrival of George Graham as the clubs’ manager. In total Radebe would go on to feature in a total 11 seasons for the club making more than 250 appearances during that time.

His legacy in the English game was cemented during the 1998/99 season after being appointed as the captain of the Peacocks, thus becoming the first black South African to lead an English side. While he couldn’t win any silverware with the club, he did help them to a series of top 4 finishes whilst being the captain of the unit. During the final years of his time with the club, Radebe was plagued by numerous injuries and had to subsequently call it a day on his career in 2005.

International Career

Up and until his retirement, Radebe was the most capped South African International with a total of 70 appearances for the national side. During his 11 year stint with the national side, Radebe captained the South African national team in two successive World Cups (98′ & 02′) and also featured in a total of 3 AFCON Championships( 96, 98 & 2000). Similar to his former defensive partner Mark Fish, Radebe has played an ambassador’s role for the sport in his country, being once of the most vocal voices as the country won the bid to host the 2010 World Cup.

1st. Benni McCarthy (CF)

Even though he was not one of the most technically gifted footballers the country has produced, McCarthy was a tenacious striker that won the applauds of his peers both domestically and in Europe. McCarthy had the humblest of beginnings, starting his career playing in the troubled neighborhoods on Cape Flats. His first real break came at the age of 17 whilst he was playing for an amateur football club, the Crusaders. Having been scouted by the Seven Stars FC during his time with the Crusaders, McCarthy was offered a professional contract with the club at the age of 18.

The striker had an immediate impact at the club featuring heavily during both his seasons with the club. His performances eventually caught the eye of Ajax Cape Town’s parent club – Ajax AFC. McCarthy got a hold on silverware in his every season in Europe, playing more than a helping hand as Ajax won the 1997/98 Eredivisie title, he was also part of the squad that won two successive KNVB Cup titles in 1997/98 & 1998/99.

European Success

In what came as a surprise McCarthy was sold off by Ajax during the summer of 99′ to Spanish side Celta Vigo for a fee of 6€ million. The move made McCarthy the most expensive South African player at the time. McCarthy’s stint with Celta Vigo did not go as expected, though he did feature regularly during his first season with the club, even playing a starring role in their 2000 Intertoto Cup triumph, the striker lost his place upon struggling during his second season with the club. Falling out with Celta’s manager at the time Victor Fernandez also didn’t help his cause as he was loaned out to FC Porto during the 2001/02 season.

McCarthy became an instant hit at Porto, scoring 12 in 11 games during his loan spell and helping the Portuguese unit to UEFA Cup qualification. Despite his successful stint with Porto, McCarthy had to return to Celta for the 2002/03 seasons as the Portuguese club were unable to permanently sign the player. The Reunion eventually occurred, as Porto with all their new found wealth made McCarthy one of their priority signings ahead of the 2003/04 season.

Porto’s investment paid dividends as McCarthy played a key role in helping Porto to the Primeira Liga title & the UEFA Champions League during the 2003/04 season. His 20 goal tally in the league helped him to Golden Boot and his Champions League triumph made him the only South African to have won Europe’s top prize till date. McCarthy remained as influential as ever during his final two seasons with Porto but with the arrival of his former boss Victor Fernandez as Porto’s manager, McCarthy pushed for an exit and eventually ended up with Blackburn Rovers in the English Premier League.

The Premier League & Retirement

McCarthy once again excelled in his first season with a new club, helping Rovers to a top half finish scoring a total of 18 goals during the campaign. He would go on to feature for a total of 4 seasons with the club, featuring more than 150 times in all competitions and scoring more than 50 goals in the process. Following his exit from Rovers, McCarthy joined West Ham United but could never reciprocate his form at Porto or Rovers. After a couple of poor seasons with Hammers, McCarthy went back to South Africa where he would finish his playing career with the Orlando Pirates.

International Career

Benni McCarthy’s international career spanned a length of 15 years during which he accumulated a total of 79 international caps. McCarthy to this day remains South Africa’s leading scorer in international competitions with a tally of 32 goals. In total McCarthy featured in a total of 2 FIFA World Cups’ (1998 & 2002) and 3 AFCON Championships (1998, 2002 & 2006). The striker scored in both his World Cup appearances, his goal during a 1-1 draw against Denmark helped Bafana Bafana to their first ever point in the World Cup finals.

His most memorable moment with the national team came during the 1998′ AFCON Championships where he scored 4 goals in a single game vs Namibia. Though South Africa could only finish 2nd in the tournament, McCarthy was named as the tournament’s’ MVP. Since retiring from the game, McCarthy has taken up the mantle of coaching and is currently the manager of Cape Town City FC. McCarthy rightfully deserves his name at the top of South Africa’s greatest players and it truly was a career that exceeded anyone’s’ expectations[2].

Review the Full List Here – Top 10 South African Footballers of All-Time Part 1

External Resources

[1], South African Legend who became a star in England

[2], Benni McCarthy Retires from the Game