CAPE TOWN – Football is about more than just talent – it is, more importantly, about how deep a player can dig inside his reserves of perseverance and then, at the same time, remain steadfast to the belief in his own ability.
In a nutshell, this describes the remarkable elevation of Cape Town City central defender Taariq Fielies.
Discarded by Ajax Cape Town in 2013, it looked as if the Salt River-born player would have to settle for pursuing a career in the lower divisions.
But Fielies is no quitter, so when his contract with First Division Milano United came to an end and he was invited for a trial at City earlier this year, he knew that this was his big opportunity.
He impressed coach Benni McCarthy, was signed, and has never looked back. In short, the emergence of Fielies is the success story of McCarthy’s short coaching career.
Not just content to add steel to the City defence, McCarthy has often thrown Fielies forward when the team need physical presence in attack.
On Wednesday, when the Capetonians snapped a four-game losing streak in beating Free State Stars 1-0 at the Athlone Stadium, the winning goal came via Fielies.
And to demonstrate just how much he values the influence and effect McCarthy has had on his career, the defender, after scoring, hared straight for the City bench to celebrate with his coach.
“I’ve been telling Taariq since he arrived here that he is from Salt River; I know what guys from that area can do,” said McCarthy.
“He has the toughness, the tackling and the aggression, but I’ve told him I want to see that same attitude in attack.
“I said I was going to slat (hit) him if he didn’t give me that attitude.
“That’s probably why he ran to me after he scored because he did what I wanted. He put his head where it counted, scored, and now he’s probably telling me to keep the klappe (slaps) to myself.”
Fielies played for Salt River FC and Rygersdal before joining the Ajax youth academy.
Later, he was promoted to the Parow club’s PSL squad but managed just one appearance in 2012 before being told to move on. He then did well at Milano, which alerted City’s scouts to his prowess – and, once under the wing of McCarthy, he’s soared as a player.
In reflecting on the win over Stars, a result that saw City to joint-second in the PSL as the league heads into a two-week international break, McCarthy also paid tribute to the continuing influence of his two flank defenders, Thamsanqa Mkhize and Ebrahim Seedat, as well as the class and maturity of veteran Teko Modise.
Mkhize will, of course, be in the Bafana Bafana squad for the upcoming, critical back-to-back 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Senegal.
“With Robyn (Johannes) rested, I made Mkhize captain and he was unbelievable (against Stars),” said the coach.
“The plan was to put pressure on Stars, to not allow their wingers to get into the game, and then hit them with pace.
“Mkhize and Seedat had the wingers in their pockets and that made things easier for us. Teko (Modise) also played a massive, commanding role. He was fantastic
“Overall, I was just so happy with the improved spirit and desire I saw from the team.
“We’ve had setbacks but we will now continue fighting.
“We go into the international break next week; it’s a breathing space we need, and after that we will keep taking it one game at a time.”