Born and bred in the city of Johannesburg in 1977, South African legend Bradley Carnell started his career playing for Southern Suburbs and Robertsham Callies as a young boy with a big dream to play in the National Soccer League.
Carnell actually started his career playing as a goalkeeper before being converted to a left back. He attended the prestigious Park Town Boys High school in Johannesburg and regularly played at the district championships regularly under the guidance of former Southampton attacker Terry Paine, who nurtured his talent to ensure that he became one of the best defenders in the country.
At the tender age of 16 Carnell’s exploits were getting interest from big clubs all around Johannesburg, but it was Wits University through the influence of Paine that snatched him and gave him his debut at only 16 years old .
At Wits University, Carnell will always be remembered for his influence in Wits winning the 1995 BP Top 8 under coach John Lathan in a 1-0 win over Orlando Pirates with Nigerian striker Benson Otiti on target for the ‘Clever Boys’. Carnell alongside other youngsters such as Sipho Sephadi played the game of their lives against a Pirates side that went on to win the CAF Champions League later that season.
After 59 appearances with the ‘Clever Boys’ between 1993-97 Carnell having scored 7 goals for the club and leading them to winning the BP Top 8 and Coca-Cola Cup, he was signed by Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs.
The left back played only a single season with ‘Amakhosi’ in a season where they won the Telkom Knockout and were runners up to Mamelodi Sundowns. In that 1997-98 season Carnell played 13 games games for Chiefs before German side VFB Stuttgart came for signature in June of 1998. This was a big opportunity that the defender couldn’t pass as he signed for the German Bundesliga side.
It is at Stuttgart where Carnell’s star rose as he helped the club to qualify for the 2003-04 UEFA Champions League where they ended up beating Manchester United, Glasgow Rangers and Greek giants Panathinaikos to advance from their group as runners up to Manchester United. In that season the German side fell to English Premier League side Chelsea losing 1-0 in the overall aggregate score. For the next two seasons Stuttgart continued to play well qualifying for the UEFA Europa League later in the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons.
After a good five seasons with Stuttgart Carnell signed for Borussia Monchengladbach where he played 24 games in geo seasons scoring one goal. He arrived at a time where the German side was taking steps to improve their financial situation plans to build a state-of-the-art stadium called Borussia Park were underway. The German club wasn’t doing so well at this time and they hired Dick Advocaat who had guided Netherlands to a top four finish at Euro 2004. However, things didn’t go well for him as he later resigned due to a string of bad results and later Horst Koppel took over as interim coach.
At international level Carnell made his senior debut for Bafana Bafana in 1997 and missed out on being part of the squad that travelled to the 1998 AFCON in Burkina Faso and also missed out on South Africa’s first ever World Cup in France 1998.
In 2002, however, Carnell made the squad that travelled to Korea and Japan where South Africa was knocked out in the group stage of the competition.
After the resignation of coach Carlos Queiroz who had qualified South Africa for both the AFCON and World Cup in 2002, the great Jomo Sono was given the task of taking Bafana to the World Cup in Korea and Japan. Bafana Bafana had done well to get four points in the opening two games of the tournament with a hard fought draw against Paraguay and a 1-0 win over Slovenia and this meant South Africa needed only a point against Spain in the last group game. South Africa was three points ahead of Paraguay and with a good goal difference, the game was heated up with Spain twice going in front and South Africa twice coming from behind with Benni McCarthy and captain Lucas Radebe scoring for South Africa.
Horrendous goalkeeping errors from Andre Arendse led to Spain winning the game 3-2 and unfortunately for Bafana in the other game Paraguay beat Slovenia 3-1 scoring late in the game to have a better goal difference and going through. South African hearts were broken as they bowed out.
That would turn out to be Carnell’s last major tournament with the national team and in 2010 the left back retired from international football having played 42 games for his country.
In club football Carnell joined Bundesliga 2 side Karlsruher SC between 2005-09 playing a total of 93 games scoring 8 goals. In 2007 Carnell was an integral part of the squad that helped the team achieve promotion to the Bundesliga where they finished 11th in their first season back, but the next season they would be relegated back to the second division again.
It is at this point in his career when Carnell decided to join German side FC Hansa Rostock who were plying their trade in the second tier but he didn’t last long playing 19 games in the 2009-10 season as they were relegated to the Bundesliga 3 and the player decided to go back to his home country joining SuperSport United in the 2010-11 season.
At Supersport Carnell featured in a total of 12 games before hanging up his boots in the game 18 years after that memorable debut for Bidvest Wits as a 16-year-old boy.
Carnell then ventured into coaching where be has been an assistant at Orlando Pirates and also coached the University of Johannesburg in the Varsity Cup. In March 2017, he was announced as the new assistant coach of American Major League Soccer side New York Red Bulls and as of September 2020 he was appointed as the interim head coach of the club after Chris Armas left the club.
Carnell played his part in South African football as a player and now he continues to fly Mzansi’s flag abroad and for such contributions #FARPost says salute to you Bradley, legend!.
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By Prince Sobayeni