Steven Pienaar recently announced his retirement following months of speculation regarding his future.
Pienaar who was most recently on the books of Premier Soccer League (PSL) club Bidvest Wits was released in December, only six months after making his highly talked about South African return. But while there had been some mummering of one last potential move on the cards, the 35-year-old officially called time on a glittering career on Wednesday.
The midfield dynamo made a name for himself ever since leaving South African shores where he would go on to play for some of the biggest clubs which included Ajax Amsterdam, Borussia Dortmund, Everton, Tottenham Hotspurs and in more recent times Sunderland. But it was Pienaar’s return to South African football which will probably be the only blot on what has been a rather stellar 18-year football career.
Nonetheless, with the South African and international football fraternity heaping praise ad sharing their memories of the former Bafana Bafana star, Goal looks at why Pienaar’s final stint did not go to plan.
While the Johannesburg-born playmaker left South Africa as a relative unknown in the early 2000’s, his return had many touting him to go on and be a resounding success. But the fact remained that Pienaar was no longer that same young and energetic player, and after many years of playing at the top level, Pienaar would struggle as he had to deal with a style of football which pushed him to his limits.
Granted that Gavin Hunt had attempted to use him sparingly, but perhaps the expectations of him joining a team that had already just previously won the league may have added a little too much pressure, and also that success may have not allowed Hunt to give Pienaar the freedom he usually thrives on.
It is also important to note that in his final season, his progress was often halted due to injury and an alarming statistic is the fact that he only made 28 appearances in his final three seasons in Europe, so to say the writing wasn’t on the wall would be an understatement.
However, this does beg the question whether or not his decision to return to South Africa in the first place was the right one? Pienaar’s desire to return to a country which has given him so much was apparent ever since his release from Sunderland, and even fans relished the opportunity to witness one of South Africa’s finest exports in action- a star who previously they were limited to only seeing strutting his skills on TV, so it would be unfair to describe his final cameo as a mistake.
Nevertheless, while Pienaar’s homecoming may not have been exactly what he had planned, he will still go down as one of the most decorated players the country has ever produced. The former Everton favourite has amassed over his career a variety of accolades which includes two Eredivisie titles, two Dutch Cup’s, Two Dutch Super Cups as well as an FA Cup runners up medal. His travels have also allowed him to play in the Uefa Champions League and the Uefa Europa League.
There can be so much to write about the former Bafana star who also earned 64 caps for his country, attending two Fifa World Cup’s in 2002 and 2010, albeit his only World Cup appearances came on home soil. Pienaar though would go on to hang up his boots in 2012, but despite his retirement will always be remembered as one of South African football’s favourite sons.