Former Kaizer Chiefs winger and captain Siphiwe Tshabalala has opened up about the difficulties he went through during his time with Turkish side Erzurumspor BB.
After leaving the PSL for Europe at the age of 33, Shabba admits it was completely different when he first arrived at Erzurumspor, especially from a tactical point of view as the club relied more on physical battle than playing the ball.
"That side was completely different because when you play on Sunday, during the week you just train and you don't have tactical sessions - no organisation from defence to attack. You just go there and fight to play," Tshabalala told the South African Football Journalists Association.
"That was really difficult for me in that regard and me being a ball-player, obviously, I wanted the ball, I wanted the team to play but it was difficult, it was more about your physique, you needed to be strong.
"So I struggled, that's why in the beginning I didn't get to play but it also came to a point where I was not happy that I'm not given an opportunity to do what I love, which is to play. I was doing well at training, giving my best, I was the best player at training and then come game time, I'm on the bench, other players [teammates] are surprised and I'm surprised as well.
While Tshabalala admits it was a dream come true to get the opportunity to ply his trade abroad, he admits it was difficult not playing week-in, week-out.
"This was a dream I was praying for all along and eventually, it came through. So, it was a blessing that came with burdens as well. I had to learn to live with that and continue to lift myself and stay positive in that difficult situation - hoping I will get a chance."
According to the Soweto-born legend, his lack of game time at Erzurumspor worsened when the club made coaching changes - and he questioned a lot of decisions made by the technical team after he found himself still on the bench come match days.
"Toward the end, there was one incident where the new coach came in. We played Alanyaspor, he [the coach] changed everything. I was on the bench, I didn't play. I worked hard at training and he came to me and said, 'I really like your style of play, you're going to help us a lot and I think you are ready to play now'," he recalled.
"I was in the team from Tuesday until the day of the game and then when the team was announced, I was on the bench. It came as a shock because the guy who took my place broke his hand, he couldn't play, they told him that he would be out for three weeks and suddenly this player is in the team, he didn't play well, we lost and I was disappointed."
"But I told myself if I play, it's okay, if I don't play, it's still okay and after that, he gave me a chance and I enjoyed myself. I had the most touches on the ball, the most forward passes. I intercepted passes and even made an assist but it was too late [to help the team beat relegation]," he said.
Shabba said he was willing to go back to Turkey and honour his contract with Erzurumspor even after they got relegated but they couldn't reach an agreement when negotiating new terms for his contract.
"After that, they called Jazzman [Mahlakgane] and they told him they want me to come back and build a team around me but we must renegotiate now because of [the relegation]. I was willing to go back and play, but when I arrived there, things were different, in fact, things were worse. The negotiations just went South.
Furthermore, the former South Africa international revealed at times he was unpaid for three months at Erzurumspor.
"It was difficult that side. Sometimes you would go for three months without a salary. You can't leave your own comfort, work in a foreign country and still don't get paid and don't get to play. It built me mentally and I learned from the situation and I just decided to terminate and that's how I left," said Shabba.