Cavin Johnson: What made former Bafana Bafana captain Steven Pienaar very special

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The 59-year-old speaks on why Schillo was one of the best players

Legendary South African midfielder Steven Pienaar has retired from professional football after two decades in the game

A coach, who discovered the former Bafana Bafana midfielder in the streets of Westbury, Johannesburg has said the player’s decision to retire must be respected.

Now in charge of AmaZulu, coach Cavin Johnson said the player took the right decision considering his age.

Pienaar announced his retirement a fortnight ago after representing a number of clubs in Europe and in the South African Premier Soccer League.

After he was discovered by Johnson on a dusty football field in the early 1990s, the coach revealed that he laid the right foundation for the youngster as he went on to join the Transnet School of Excellence.

After his stay with the school of Excellence, he joined Ajax Cape Town as a 19-year-old in 1999 and went on to make a name for himself at (Ajax) Amsterdam, Borussia Dortmund, Everton and Sunderland before his return to Bidvest Wits last season.

Although he stayed for six months with the reigning PSL champions, he decided to hang up his boots last month after 20 years as a professional footballer. 

“We both come from the same background and we both know what the area is like,” said Johnson to IOL.

"Not necessarily a poor or gang-infested area, but where you need to help each other to get to the next level. We helped each other,” he said.

“The time had come for him, and anybody in his position would have done the same. It was going to happen whether we like it or not,” said the coach who led Platinum Stars to the Caf Confederation Cup group stages last season.

“He turns 36 this month and it was the right time. All the respect goes out to Steven. He had a very good innings.

“We spoke as often as we could, but as the person I am, I always left him on his own so that he could find his feet to make sure he became an adult. But he was able to do that when he was in Cape Town already,” he continued.

Speaking about the man known as Schillo after Italian legend, Salvatore Schillaci, the former Mamelodi Sundowns youth coach added that Pienaar’s solid development made him one of the best.

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“The thing that made Steven stand out from the rest of his peers was that he had a solid development programme,” added the Usuthu boss.

“A development programme that did not only believe in football, but believed in his social background, charity, and that made him aware of what he has to do and where he has to go if he wanted to become a professional footballer,” noted the 59-year-old.

“The reason Steven was so good at Everton was because of his spell at Ajax Amsterdam. You just have to look at Steven's critics and the players at Ajax. It was probably the best group he ever played with,” concluded the coach.

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