Ex-Reds star defends Pienaar
Johannesburg - Former Liverpool and German international player Dietmar Hamann has defended Steven Pienaar's decision to retire from the national team.
Hamann was speaking at a soccer clinic at the Wanderers on Monday and the subject quickly turned to the surprise retirement of the Everton midfielder from Bafana Bafana.
"It's not something that is easy to do because playing for your country is the pinnacle of your career and he's done that for a number of years," said Hamann.
"He's been one of their best players in recent years."
Hamann was part of the Liverpool side that won the Champions League in 2005 after being 3-0 down at half-time where the German played a key role in winning the match.
Hamann, 39, was with Liverpool from 1999 to 2006 and was part of the German national team for nine years from 1997 onwards.
He touched on the African Cup of Nations, which resulted in African players being away from their clubs for an extended period every two years.
"The travelling is an issue, obviously the African Cup of Nations is an issue," he said.
"When you get to a certain stage of your career, sometimes you have to assess and see if it can prolong your club career."
At 30, Pienaar would have weighed up his future in the national team against his club career, and what the time spent with Bafana would do for his conditioning.
"I would never say this is a decision they should've or not made," he said.
"I don't agree when players step down when they're 20, 21 and say I don't want to play for my national team no more, but I think in his case it's different.
"I'm sure it may give him one or two more good years in the Premier League and then you just have to accept the fact."
However, Hamann said Pienaar's retirement from international soccer was a blow for Bafana.
"It's a shame, he's one of the best players for the national team, but that's the way it is.
"If he goes, it gives somebody else a chance to come in. You just need somebody to come in and take their chance and hopefully somebody will fill his boots in the near future."
Pienaar was sent off in an English Premier League game for Everton against QPR on Sunday.
He received a second yellow card and was given his marching orders in a decision Everton coach David Moyes termed a "rubbish decision" where there seemed to be no contact at all.
Pienaar will now miss the Merseyside derby against Liverpool on Sunday.
Hamann said while he did not agree with the decision, Pienaar's absence would benefit his former club.
"It will help because he's been forming a fantastic partnership with Leighton Baines on the left-hand-side," Hamann said.
"They've been probably the best partnership in the first eight or nine games in the league season.
"I saw it [the challenge], I don't think a second yellow card can be rescinded so it's a shame really.
"As much as I would want Liverpool to win, in derby games you want the best players to be on the pitch and he's clearly one of the best players for Everton and in the premier league [this season] the way he's started."