Former Bafana Bafana and Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar retires from professional football

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Pienaar returned to South Africa at the start of the current campaign to join Bidvest Wits, but he was released towards the end of 2017

Former Bafana Bafana captain and Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar has officially retired from professional football. 

The 35-year-old announced the decision to call time on his playing career on SABC TV show, Sport At 10 on Wednesday night. 

Pienaar couldn't hide his emotions as he bid farewell to South African football fans. He also thanked all the teams he played for during his 18-year long career.

"From day one... the love and everything. I know sometimes, you [the fans] were happy when we won games. Looking back, we let people down a few times. I don't know what to say to you guys [the fans], but I know the love and I appreciate wearing the [Bafana Bafana] jersey," Pienaar said on the SABC TV show.  

"And also to all the clubs that I have worked for or that gave me the opportunity to wear their jersey, I'm really grateful. It's been a long [journey]; a lot of ups and downs throughout my career, but like I said, I really appreciate your love, and thanks for everything. God bless you," he concluded. 

Asked about his future plans, Schillo played his cards very close to his chest, saying he will make an announcement in the next few months. 

Pienaar began his professional career with Ajax Cape Town in 1999, before moving to Europe to sign with Ajax Amsterdam in 2001. 

He made a name for himself during his five-year stint at the Eredivisie giants between 2001 and 2006, scoring 15 goals in over 90 official appearances for Ajax. 

During his time with Ajax, Pienaar won two Eredivisie titles, two KNVB Cup titles and two Super Cup titles. 

He was snapped up by Borussia Dortmund in 2006, but Everton came knocking for his services a year later following a series of impressive performances in the Bundesliga. 

Pienaar spent four consecutive seasons at Everton between 2007 and 2011, before moving to London to sign for Tottenham Hotspur. 

However, things didn't work at Spurs, and he went back to Everton for a second spell.

Following his release from Everton at the end of the 2015/16 season, Pienaar reunited with David Moyes at Sunderland, but the club later relegated from the Premier League.  

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He returned to South Africa to sign for Bidvest Wits, who terminated his contract barely six months into its existence after struggling to replicate the form that made one of the most respected players in the world. 

On the international stage, Pienaar, represented Bafana 62 times between 2002 and 2012. He named Bafana's captain soon after the 2010 Fifa World Cup, taking over from former Blackburn Rovers defender Aaron Mokoena. 

However, he retired from international football months before the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) on home soil.

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