Pienaar wins Everton award
Johannesburg - Diminutive 28-year-old Steven Pienaar, the player whom Bafana Bafana are pinning their hopes on to provide a spark of inspiration in next month's World Cup, has been named Premiership club Everton's Player of the Year.
The astute midfielder, who learnt his craft in the dusty, crime-infested streets of Johannesburg's Westbury Township, found a new lease of life at Everton during the 2009/10 season, which is currently winding up, scoring seven goals in 37 appearances and initiating a good many more.
He joined Everton from German club Borussia Dortmund three years ago for R22 million after initially playing in Europe for Holland's Ajax Amsterdam.
And although speculation has been rife in England that the artful midfielder might be seeking a transfer, Pienaar indicated at Everton's awards ceremony at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral that he hoped to be part of the club's bright future in the coming years. Everton were wallowing in the relegation zone early in the season, but a solid recovery has enabled them to climb to what will be an eventual eighth position - just short of qualifying for European competition next season.
Everton manager David Moyes has confirmed the club are in the process of negotiating a new contract for their influential midfielder - pointing out that he believed it was in the best interests of the club and Pienaar.
Like all Bafana's overseas-based potential World Cup squad members, Pienaar has not attended any of coach Carlos Alberto Parreira's caravan of coaching camps that have winded their way from South Africa to Brazil and then Germany in the past two months because of the refusal of their clubs to release them.
And Bafana have lacked a player of Pienaar's inventive skill to lift them out of the doldrums of ongoing mundane displays.
The big question, however, is whether Pienaar can achieve for Bafana what he has done at Everton this season - particularly as his scoring prowess at international level in almost 50 appearances has been minimal.
Pienaar missed Everton's goalless draw with Stoke last week because of an ankle injury, but he has allayed Bafana fears by saying he is hopeful of being fit for the final Premiership game of the season against Portsmouth on Sunday.