This time last year, during his annual football tournament in Westbury, Steven Pienaar spoke of his burning desire to emulate Neil Tovey by lifting the coveted Africa Cup of Nations title on home soil.
Pienaar seemed excited, eager to lead Bafana to their first Cup of Nations title since 1996.
But just three months before the Cup of Nations, Pienaar called time on his international career, ditching the squad ahead of the friendly matches against Poland and Kenya. Bizarre, considering he was all hyped up to lead the national team to success.
Back to host the Steven Pienaar Community Tournament in his home territory of Westbury, the Everton midfielder said on Sunday he will not reverse his decision to quit the national side, revealing he wanted to spend more time with his family and concentrate more on club football. “Retiring from the national team hurt me, but it was a decision I had to make. And I will have to live with it forever.
“I’m 31, turning 32 next year, so I don’t think I will come back. I’m a man of my word and to be honest, my family is very important to me, my kids, I’m happy to spend my time with my them. When there is an international break, I can go on holiday with my kids and that’s important to me. It’s something I have never had for 15 years and now that I do have it, I’m enjoying it and it feels good.
“My mom was upset that I retired because she won’t get to see me play again, but I stand by my decision and no one will force me back into the team. That’s just the kind of person I am,” said Pienaar, who made 61 appearances for the national team before retiring.
Pienaar says he was impressed with Bafana’s showing at the Cup of Nations in January when they were knocked out in the quarter-finals. He, however, does not regret missing out on the competition.
“I watched all the games. The first game (against Cape Verde) I was feeling so sad because it was as if I was watching a different Bafana. It was not the Bafana I knew. Maybe the players were nervous. But they did well throughout the tournament. I enjoyed watching, just sad when Bafana were knocked out.”
Pienaar has just come off another successful season with Everton – his second spell with the club – as they finished in sixth place ahead of fierce rivals Liverpool.
However his coach, David Moyes, has left to replace Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, bringing an end to a 11-year stay at the Liverpool-based club.
Former Wigan Athletic coach Roberto Martinez has replaced Moyes and Pienaar is looking forward to working with the Spaniard.
Martinez was in charge of the Wigan side that won the FA Cup and three days later was relegated from the Premier League, but Pienaar is confident the coach can lead the Toffees to a top four finish in the near future. “He (Martinez) is an exciting coach. He plays attractive football so that he can get the supporters into the stadium. I’m looking forward to working with him. Hopefully he will do well with us because David Moyes has laid a foundation.
“We have been close to a top four finish before. The players want to get into that Champions League spot. Who knows, with a new manager, with new ideas, maybe we can do it.” - The Star