Pienaar: “South Africa Must Create A Family Unit”
Steven ‘Schillo’ Pienaar is one of South Africa’s most influential midfielders. The 26-year-old started his career at Ajax Cape Town, before moving to Dutch side Ajax Amsterdam (2001-2006) and German outfit Borussia Dortmund (2006-2007).
Last season, Pienaar was loaned by Dortmund to English Premier League club Everton, where he had a good season resulting in a three-year contract with ‘The Toffees’. He has played 34 internationals for South Africa.
MTNFootball.com speaks with Pienaar on Everton, Joel Santana and Bafana’s matches on the road to the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ (South Africa automatically qualify for the 2010 World Cup as host nation, but Bafana Bafana participate in the qualifiers as they have to qualify for the 2010 MTN Africa Cup of Nations).
MTN: South Africa convincingly beat Equatorial Guinea 4-1 in the second qualifier for the 2010 World Cup. You played well, receiving a thunderous applause from the crowd when substituted just before the final whistle...
SP: The win was good for our confidence, since we lost 2-0 against Nigeria the week before. The applause from our fans was nice and it felt good.
Bafana coach Joel Santana had asked me to play on the left side, but with the freedom to pop up behind the strikers, interchanging with Teko Modise, who was positioned on the right. We got that freedom to move around because we had two defensive midfielders behind us, Macbeth Sibaya and Kagisho Dikgacoi. The tactics worked nicely.
MTN: You've already mentioned the loss against Nigeria. What went wrong?
SP: We played well in the first 10 to 15 minutes, really pushing forward and creating a few opportunities. Nigeria scored basically out of nothing and thereafter most of our players were sitting too deep. It was only Delron Buckley, Surprise Moriri and me who kept going forward, but we played in isolation. Accordingly, Nigeria scored their second goal just before half-time, which should not happen at this level. It killed the game.
MTN: How do you feel about Bafana’s new coach Joel Santana, who recently replaced Carlos Alberto Parreira?
SP: Parreira was the best Bafana coach I ever played under. I liked the way Parreira wanted us to play; a combination of a good passing game, starting from the back, and allowing the players the freedom to play. Parreira was like a father to us. Santana has just arrived.
He’s firm on discipline and believes in hard work. Santana likes to play good soccer and he believes in the players and we believe in him. Our goal is to qualify for the 2010 MTN Africa Cup of Nations.
MTN: South Africa failed to reach the second round at the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana...
SP: Soccer is about small margins. Modise’s goal against Angola was wrongly disallowed for offside. We should have won that game instead of drawing. We should also have defeated Senegal in the last group match, instead of drawing.
If we had reached the second round, you never know what could have happened from there. However, that did not happen and that’s football. The margins between success and failure are sometimes very small.
MTN: South Africa is presently down in 68th position in the FIFA Rankings. Why so low?
SP: I don’t worry about those rankings. For example, if we played against Swaziland every week and win, we would be much higher up. However, as a group, we do lack a bit of experience at the highest international level. Look at Nigeria, even their bench players play for top sides in Europe.
However, we can compensate for this lack of experience by playing as a unit, we must create a ’family unit’. If we can do that, we can achieve success.
MTN: How do you look back on your first season at Everton?
SP: It was always my dream to play in England and I really enjoyed myself last season. Everton coach David Moyes believes in me. Moyes likes to play with two defensive midfielders and three in front. That’s why I was positioned mostly on the left side, but I had the freedom to come inside and move around. We were close to reaching the FA Cup final. Maybe we can succeed next season. That would be fantastic.
MTN: You played in Holland (for Ajax Amsterdam), Germany (Borussia Dortmund) and now in England (Everton). How do the different the styles of soccer played in these countries compare?
SP: In Holland it is all about passing, triangles and little space, while in Germany soccer is still played in an old-fashioned 4-4-2.
German soccer is also very physical. In England, the pace of the game is incredibly high, it is running for 90 minutes. It is great playing in the English Premier League and I feel happy.
MTN: Next up are two qualifying matches against Sierra Leone, first away, then at home. What are you expectations?
SP: Sierra Leone lost 1-0 at home against Nigeria last weekend. It will not be easy. It would be great if we can get six points from our two matches against them.
MTN: Are your thoughts already with the 2010 World Cup?
SP: That is still very far away and I don’t think about it. Right now I am concentrating on my next game.