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Date: 27 May 2019

  South African - Soccer

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Pienaar's retirement-the pros and cons

[Posted 02 Oct 2012]
[By Editorial Comment]
Pienaar"s retirement-the pros and cons
Now former South African captain Steven Pienaar announced recently that he intends to retire from international football. His decision will surely unravel some questions and debates in South Africa and on the African continent.

Probably the first question to be asked is obvious-Why did Schillo choose to retire at such an early age of only 30? The Everton player appears to be at the peak of his career for club and is setting the Barclays English Premier Soccer League alight with dazzling performances in a Toffees shirt.

South Africa is on a building phase as they prepare to host Africa in the Africa Cup of Nations 2013 to be staged in a few chosen cities in the Southern Africa nation. Pienaar is clearly the highest profile player for Bafana Bafana and he was expected to lead the Gordon Igesund revolution.

His absence will therefore be sorely missed by South Africa.

There are theories regarding why Pienaar could have retired so early, with some accusing the English premiership for not being tolerant to international assignments for England-based soccer players. The speculation goes that it could be Everton who have have exerted pressure on Pienaar to retire.

There is no evidence as yet to conclude that Everton are guilty of wrongly influencing the player to turn his back on his nation at a time when his presence was probably mostly needed, in a system used by Igesund which favours attacking midfielders .

Yet there are others who would even, strangely so to some, welcome the retirement of Pienaar for different reasons.

It has been argued that Schillo has not translated his club form to the national team and has never demonstrated his abilities in a Bafana shirt. At some point Schillo was in imperious form for Everton, as he currently is, but would be off colour in Bafana colours.

There were even debates as to whether the captaincy had not affected Pienaar's performance in South African colours. Suggestions were even made to strip Pienaar of his leadership role and allow him to focus on delivering the goods for Bafana Bafana.

While losing a player of Pienaar's calibre is always bad news for any nation, maybe Pienaar's absence will bring out a new player to shine in the middle of the park.

Reneilwe Letsholonyane has been in superb form for Kaizer Chiefs lately, and he is the kind of a player who is at home as a central attacking midfielder, as much as he can hold the fort in the middle of the park.

Thulani Serero, despite his latest injury, has raised his hand to take over the former captain's role. There is also another player who can easily become South Africa's play-maker,  Belgium-based Daylon Claasen.

Claasen lights up the stage each time he dons on the gold and green of Bafana. Simphiwe Tshabalala is also another potential play-maker and has done better in Bafana colours, arguably out-performing the big profile Pienaar on most occasions.

The verdict is: Pienaar has thus far not proven to be an indispensable element in the Bafana Bafana team, and even in his absence, South Africa could even make wonders AT the AFCON 2013 finals on home soil.

The performance of the team under Igesund in the past two matches is testimony to the fact that the philosophy of the new coach is not to rely on the exploits of one star player.

Team work will likely be the driving force behind Bafana under Igesund. Already one can tell that the team is producing new combinations in every department, save for the strike force at this stage.

In defence, Itumeleng Khune is getting back to his best. Siyabonga Sangweni and Bongani Khumalo are building a good understanding. In midfield,  Dean Furman of Oldham Athletic, in England is fast becoming very influential as the hard man, supported ably by Crystal Palace's Kagisho Dikgacoi.

The strike-force has not yet clicked and is a department under construction. Various combinations will be tried. It will be interesting to see how Israel-based Dino Ndlovu will fit into the new team that Igesund is building. He could be supported by Malmor's Tokelo Rantie who is on fire in Sweden.


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