Pienaar: I want to lift Afcon trophy


He may not have been on the pitch to lead Bafana Bafana to their long-awaited first victory in nine matches, but captain Steven Pienaar was just as thrilled as those players who did duty in the national team’s 3-0 win over Gabon in Nelspruit on Friday.

Given a week off after SA’s two World Cup qualifiers against Ethiopia and Botswana, the creative midfielder watched the Bafana game at his home in Westbury – west of Johannesburg – and was pleased that the team finally broke their barren run, ending months of misery which saw them going for eight matches without a victory.

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RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - MAY 28, Steven Pienaar during the South African National soccer team gym session and press conference from the Royal Marang Sports Complex on May 28, 2012 in Rustenburg, South Africa
Photo by Lee Warren / Gallo ImagesBafana Bafana captain Steven Pienaar celebrates after scoring for Everton against Chelsea.

“We just needed that one win to lift us up again. We had drawn something like eight games in a row, but it wasn’t like we were losing. Maybe Lady Luck is coming our way this time. We just have to build on this victory,” he said.

“The coach (Steve Komphela) made a lot of changes for the game. The guys were hungry and really wanted to play. I know we were playing younger team, but we also had a fairly young team on the day.

“Against Botswana, we created lots (of opportunities), but we didn’t convert. The guys came through in the second half against Gabon and I’m pleased for Steve. Hopefully the guys will be more positive in future camps. It was a great result and great performance for the players,” added Pienaar, the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder who was on loan to Everton for the second half of the just-concluded season.

Pienaar warned against getting too excited after Bafana’s victory and said it was of the utmost importance they also bounced back in the World Cup qualifiers. Should Bafana, who are currently on two points in Group A, fail to win their next clash in the qualifiers, against the Central African Republic, Pienaar said Bafana could kiss their hopes of playing at the 2014 Brazil World Cup goodbye.

“If we don’t win that match, then that’s it; I don’t think we will qualify for the World Cup. We managed to get two draws that could have been six points really. We don’t have to be so negative. If we win, we’ll be on five points and we’ll have a fighting chance. We just have to build on the win against Gabon,” the former Ajax Amsterdam playmaker said.

Before that crucial qualifying encounter though, Bafana will host the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in January, and would need to do extremely well to bring an end to a glum period which has seen them failing to qualify for the two tournaments. “I was at the stadium (in 1996) when Neil Tovey lifted the (Africa Cup of Nations) trophy. I would love to lift the trophy here at home, just as Tovey did. I’d like to be remembered as the man who led Bafana to the Nations Cup title and to the World Cup,” Pienaar said.

“It’s a great platform for the team. We will have home advantage, the facilities will be good. With the squad that we have, we can challenge to win the cup. If everyone works towards one goal, then we can do it. Like Zambia when they won the Nations Cup earlier this year; they did it with no prima donnas in the team. All their players pulled up their socks,” he said.

Pienaar, arguably one of SA’s best football exports, will leave the country today and head off to The Netherlands before going back to England to discuss his future with Tottenham, which looks uncertain at the moment.

He was a bit-part player under Harry Redknapp, who was in charge at Tottenham last season before parting ways with the club recently and, interestingly, the man who has never hidden his desire to have Pienaar at Everton permanently, David Moyes, is linked with a move to the London club.

“I’ll be leaving the country on Monday to go to Holland. I’ll go there to keep myself fit ahead of the new season.

“Moyes and I have a good relationships, but at the moment the news about him joining Spurs are just rumours.

“The way it stands, I’m going back to Spurs. We’ll see who the new manager is. I will go back to Spurs and discuss my future. But I want clarity if I’m going to be used. I need to know where I stand.”

The annual Steven Pienaar Community Tournament was held at Westbury on Saturday and the player is hoping that more players from his hometown can come through and make names for themselves in local football.

“I would love to give back to the community and maybe players can be scouted here and go on to play professionally,” he said. – Star Africa

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