JOHANNESBURG – Former Springbok fullback Johan Goosen regrets the way he handled his shock "retirement" to back out of a contract with French club Racing 92.
At the end of 2016, Goosen caught the entire rugby fraternity by surprise when he prematurely walked away from a multi-million rand contract with Racing in order to take up a job as a commercial director at a saddle-horse stud farm in Bloemfontein. Goosen came in for fierce criticism over claims that he was looking to simply exploit a loophole to leave Racing, where it had become increasingly apparent that he was no longer happy.
After spending an extended period in the rugby wilderness, while facing legal action from Racing, Goosen made a surprise move once again when it was confirmed earlier this year that a deal had been negotiated for him to join another French club, Montpellier. In addition, he spent a brief spell featuring for the Cheetahs in the Pro14 in order to bank some game time.
Having now joined up with Montpellier, Goosen opened up about his controversial retirement in an interview with French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique. "To be clear, I did not feel good in Paris," he said. "I am South African, I need space and, in the suburbs of Paris, the buildings are so close to each other that I felt like I was choking.
"I had the uncomfortable feeling of living in a box. The worst part is that my son was also very unhappy. Because I was very unhappy off the pitch, I could not have stayed for five more years… Money has nothing to do with it. I wanted another life, the sun, the space and the nature. I’ll have all this in Montpellier."
Goosen said he now fully expected to receive a hostile reception upon returning to action in French rugby, but was willing to admit that he had made a big mistake by leaving Racing in the manner he did. "It was madness. I made a mistake. But that’s life," he said.
"Paradoxically, I have also grown a lot over the past two years. I emptied my head and allowed my body time to recover... I went through bad times. I was very sad. I thought all of this would never end. Sometimes I said to myself: ‘Maybe I should go back to Racing?’ And at other times, I was persuaded that going back would not do me any good. In fact, I was lost... If a player is in my situation, I would say to him: 'Do not do it, you will regret it. The price to pay is too heavy."
Goosen will only turn 26-years-old at the end of the July, and there is every chance he could still revive his international career, which has seen him play just 13 Tests for the Boks despite making his debut as a fresh-faced youngster all the way back in 2012.
African News Agency (ANA)