PUMA Football caught up with former Bafana Bafana captain Steven Pienaar for a Q&A.
PUMA: The past season has been very challenging – more battles with injuries and then the relegation of Sunderland -where do you draw your strength from in such trying times?
Steven Pienaar: By far the most disappointing season of my career, a season where I also battled lots of injuries.One obviously draws strength from the fact that there are people that count on you, who believe in you, and you don’t want to let them down.
Having experienced the set up at Sunderland, what are their strengths and do you think the club has what it takes to bounce right back up to the Premier League?
Sunderland is a massive club with great support so they have all the tools to come back to the PL. They need to get in the right players with the right attitude and drive. I have no doubt that they can bounce back immediately.
What did you enjoy about playing and living in the city of Sunderland?
I lived 30 minutes outside of Sunderland so I was not actually in the city -I went there daily for training and of course matches. When in the city you feel the impact the club has on the people there, how everyone lives their lives around the club. It was an unforgettable experience to be part of the club.It’s a pity things did not eventually work out for us this season.
You had a year contract with Sunderland. What is your plan for the season ahead?
I am still to decide on my future but in the next month it will be much clearer.I would like to continue for the next 2 years – despite the injuries of the past season I feel I can still go on.
Is moving back to South Africa to playprofessional football an option?
Yes of course. I have been away for a long time, left RSA as a youngster and never experienced SA football, so it would be great one day to play in my home country.
What are the most important aspects for you when signing with a club?
Obviously, the club has to have good structures, good facilities where players train and play. The club has to have massive motivation to win and be successful, otherwise, what is the point. It is also important that you feel needed by the club’s coach.
What is it about South Africa that makes you want to return?
As mentioned, I have been away for so long and have barely had time with close family apart from the occasional off season. To come back and be close to my loved ones and see my older daughter grow up would be great.
Have you secured yourself financially for the future based on your earnings playing abroad for so many years?
The most important thing is to get my kids the right education so they can have a great future.
What are your highlights from playing in Holland, Germany and England?
Winning the championship with Ajax was massive for me, one of my football highlights. Also, to play in the Champions League with such an exciting young team was a great experience.Playing for Borussia Dortmund was huge for me too, they are one of the two best teams in Germany. I had a great football experience there.In England, I enjoyed been part of Everton, Spurs and Sunderland, so it has been a memorable journey.
Which PUMA boots are you playing in these days and why do they suit your game?
evoSPEED, I still enjoy them to this day. They are lighter and have been doing a great job for years
What has kept you loyal to PUMA and how have you benefited from the relationship?
I have been with PUMA for a long time and have been well taken care of by PUMA – both internationally and locally – so our relationship is very good.
You have hosted your annual community development tournament every year for more than a decade. Will you be pitch side again at the Westbury Oval and Union Stadium over the Youth Day weekend in June?
Yes of course. The tournament is my pride and joy so whenever it’s on, I always make the time to be there.
Why is hosting the tournament so important to you and why do you host it at the Westbury Oval?
The tournament is important because it gives youngsters a chance to be out there on the fields to do what they love most and showcase their talents. There have been youngsters who were scouted on these fields and went on to play professionally – so we are on the right track and effecting change where possible. The tournament is hosted at the oval because that is where I grew up playing football as a youngster. It is the most central, if not the only ground in the area.
This year has 160 teams entering, ranging from u8 to senior teams. The senior winners will get R100 000 with the runners up R50 000. Besides the prize money, why else do you think teams keep entering your tournament?
They get new PUMA kits every year so that should be one of the great incentives for them to keep coming back. They also get to interact and socialize with their peers and showcase their talent every year.
Your advice to young footballers making their way in this wonderful game?
Football is tougher than people think, it is very competitive and demanding. So when you decide to do this, give everything. Work harder than the next player, and be coachable.
Picture: Maritz Verwey