Pienaar: The inspiration behind the rise of Dolly


ca dolsy

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Ajax midfielder Keagan Dolly is expected to make a major impact on the PSL this season

Rodney Reiners

football writer

Keagan Dolly is treading in the same footsteps as Steven Pienaar. He’s just hoping to have even half the success of his illustrious role model.

Dolly, the young midfield sensation at Ajax Cape Town, made his PSL debut for the Cape side when coming on as a second half substitute in last week’s 3-1 defeat to Moroka Swallows in Dobsonville. On Friday night, he’s keen on continuing his progress when Ajax take on Platinum Stars at the Cape Town Stadium (kick off 8pm).

The 19-year-old Dolly is from the township of Westbury in Johannesburg. So, too, is Pienaar.

As a junior growing up in the area, Pienaar played for a club called Westbury Arsenal. So, too, did Dolly.

Pienaar was enrolled at the successful Football School of Excellence. So, too, was Dolly, at the tender age of 12.

Ajax scouted Pienaar at the school, and the rest is history. He went on to set the PSL alight, played for Ajax Amsterdam and Borussia Dortmund, before gaining prominence at Everton in the English Premier League. Now 30 years of age, Pienaar is the current Bafana Bafana captain.

“I am a huge Steven Pienaar fan,” said Dolly. “Growing up, he was my idol.”

Dolly, too, was coveted by Ajax while at the School of Excellence. Mamelodi Sundowns, though, were also in the race for the precocious talent. With Dolly just 15 at the time, he decided to join Sundowns as he didn’t want to move too far away from home.

With Sundowns, he got to play at the Under-18 Club World Cup in Spain, and he was the Pretoria club’s mainstay in the popular, annual Under-19 Bayhill Tournament in the Mother City. It was here, at last year’s event, that Dolly again came to attention of Ajax’s scouts.

This time, the midfielder was more amenable to a move, and he was immediately snapped up by the Capetonians, though they had to pay a compensation fee before sealing the deal.

You never really know what life will throw at you. Sometimes it grinds your face in the dirt; sometimes it offers an opportunity that your wildest dreams could not have anticipated.

Such was the case with Dolly, when he pulled on the Ajax jersey for the first time in June this year – believe it or not, against Manchester United, one of the world’s most popular and best-known football clubs.

“That was a real surprise,” said Dolly. “I thought, being a youngster and new at the club, I would perhaps be on the bench. I would have been prepared just to be part of the squad and soak up the atmosphere in the stadium.

“But I found myself in the starting line-up. Impossible, as they say, is nothing. And the impossible happened to me on that day.”

And not only that... what’s more is that Dolly proceeded to catch the eye as one of the best players on the field on the day. Facing off against Paul Scholes and the like in midfield, he gave as good as he got, passed with aplomb, was industry personified, and performed with a maturity that stamped him as a really special talent.

But he’s keeping his feet firmly grounded. He knows there’s still a long way to go to get even close to achieving what Pienaar, his hero, has.

“For me, this season is a learning curve,” said Dolly. “It’s all about picking up experience and learning from senior players in the Ajax squad, like Granwald Scott and Matthew Booth.

“My aim, obviously, is to do the best I can, and hopefully make the team as regularly as possible. I’m enjoying it here in Cape Town, and I’m working hard to achieve my goals.”

Platinum, on Friday, though are expected to make things tough for Ajax – and Dolly.


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