BENNI McCarthy's weight problem and lack of fitness could have been the main factors that cost him a place in the 2010 World Cup final squad announced by coach Carlos Alberto Parreira yesterday.
McCarthy has now assured Bafana Bafana that he will throw his weight behind the national squad as the South Africans try to make ground at the quadrennial spectacle that kicks off in eight days.
Even without Bafana's leading goalscorer, Parreira said: "We respect everybody (in the tournament) but we have no fear."
The West Ham forward responded to the announcement through his publicity agents, saying that while he was disappointed, his exclusion did not come as a surprise.
McCarthy said he recognised how tough it was for any coach to make such a decision "and I'm sure it was not made without heartache".
"All the players who made the national call-up should be proud. We did not fail, we just didn't make the final 23.
"We are still a part of the team," he said.
McCarthy did not shy away from discussing his much-talked-about fitness.
"My fitness level came into question after weeks recovering from my knee injury but the coach still believed in me, as did I and the rest of the team, and I am grateful for that," he said.
In the end, Parreira based his selection for the final squad on technical ability, physical conditioning and discipline, as well as team dynamics.
Parreira said these principles formed the basis of his shock axing of McCarthy and four other players.
But many an eyebrow was raised when expected casualties such as Anele Ngconcga, Shu-Aib Walters and Lance Davids were retained, while McCarthy, Bryce Moon and Rowen Fernandez had to make way.
As the shock exclusion of the three, and to some extent that of the Mamelodi Sundowns duo of Innocent Mdledle and Franklin Cale, continues to reverberate throughout the host nation, the Brazilian likened the pain of letting them go to that of "splitting our family".
"Having lived with these players for months and them putting in hard work, dedication and commitment, it is heartbreaking," Parreira said.
However, each player failed to fulfil at least one of the criteria.
"We are certain the five were very unhappy, but they know that the process was fair and honest," Parreira said. "We might be proved wrong later, of course, but we were fair.
"We wanted a balanced team and I have instilled counter-attack, speed and compactness.
"Look at the way Barcelona play. They play well because they possess all these principles."
lSee pages 30 and 31 for the full Bafana squad