Tyren Arendse of Santos FC Photo: Ryan Wilkisky

Cape Town - In 17 years as a professional footballer, Tyren Arendse has experienced the high and lows. The fame and financial reward of breaking into the first team, and the career-threatening injuries. The match-winning goals, and the games spent languishing in the reserves. The national call-ups, title victories and big-money moves, and also the pain of relegation.

But as the 35-year-old creeps closer to the end of his career, he says his hunger to compete is undiminished.

“I think my love for the game keeps me motivated. This is what I’ve done all my life. I still wake up every morning wanting to come to training. I think the day that I wake up and don’t feel like coming to training is the day I’ll know that I want to stop playing,” Arendse said.

“Also, we have a lot of young players in the team and sometimes they are actually my motivation. I see their potential and want to be part of their success. I know there are a lot of things happening outside of football in our communities and I know that sometimes it’s difficult for guys to make a living or succeed.

“The way I think about it is that if I can do it as a 35-year-old, then why can’t a 17 or 18-year-old? I do whatever they do. If the coach says we must run two laps then I run two laps with them, so that when they see that I can do it hopefully I can be an inspiration to them.”

Arendse joined the Santos youth set-up as a 16-year-old and made his first-team debut at 18, shortly after matriculating. He won four major titles, including the PSL, during his first spell at the club before moving on to Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns. He returned to Santos in 2008, and stayed on even after they were relegated to the NFD in 2012.

That Arendse can still compete at the highest level is a testament to his professionalism - which he says he learned from Edries Burton, Jean-Marc Ithier, Andre Arendse and other Santos senior players during his formative years. These days, the former Bafana Bafana midfielder is happy to fulfil a similar role at The People's Team as those legends did for him.

While he admits there are more distractions for youngsters these days, Arendse believes they can still learn from his experiences.

“The first thing that comes to my mind are the outside influences, friends outside of football who are maybe a little bit naughty. What happens sometimes in the communities is that when you move forward in life, not everyone is happy for you, even your friends,” he said.

“What I realised way back then is that even some of my friends weren’t happy about the success that I had. It’s almost like because they don’t achieve, they don’t want you to achieve. They don’t think about it like this is an opportunity for my friend to move on in life and I should be happy for him.’ Then, we don’t even have to mention drugs and alcohol.”

But it’s not only off the pitch where Arendse’s role for Santos has changed. The former Elsies River resident set the PSL alight as a tireless attacking midfielder in his youth but, now, you’re more likely to find him marshalling the midfield from a spot just in front of the back four.

Though his current position may not guarantee him a place on the highlight reel too often, Arendse is happy to contribute in any way he can. He may not hit the back of the net too often either, but Arendse is focused on a much larger and more important goal.

“The club gave me my opportunity in the first place and Santos will always be a big part of me. When I came back, I was part of the team that got relegated. I had the opportunity to leave, but as a loyal guy I just felt that it was my duty to get the team back to the PSL. Maybe that’s also why I’m still playing,” he said.

“That’s why I’m playing and still involved. If I don’t get the opportunity to help the club get promoted while I’m still playing, then maybe in a coaching capacity.

“I still believe that Santos belongs in the PSL. Not only for the current players but for Cape Town as a whole, because a lot of opportunities were lost for our juniors and the youngsters of Cape Town when we got relegated. For a long time it was only Ajax in the PSL and how many players can get the opportunity there.”

Arendse may not yet be considering retirement, but he’s certainly planned and prepared for that day. He completed a sports management diploma a few years ago, completed his Caf Level C coaching license last year, and is studying coaching science. Though he’s worked hard to ensure that coaching at Santos is not his only option after hanging up his boots, Arendse admits that it will be his first choice.

Cape Times