Johannesburg - Having had his first taste of PSL action, Wits defender Kees Kwakman says he came to the country not to make up numbers but instead to play in integral role with the Clever Boys.
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Kwakman, 31, recently signed a one-year deal with Wits having previously plied his trade with a number of Dutch Eredivisie clubs, most recently NAC Breda, where he captained the club.
On Wednesday August 20, Kwakman received the go-ahead after finally securing a work permit, paving the way for coach Gavin Hunt to name the lanky defender in the team’s starting lineup against Maritzburg United.
“What convinced me? A lot of things. I was here to see everything and that was necessary if you make a big step,” a visibly delighted Kwakman said after his first 90 minutes in South Africa.
“I’ve just turned 31 so it maybe a little bit early for me to take an adventure like this but I have to say, it’s not that I can take it easy here.
“The games are very hard, it’s 90 minutes of full pressure from the opponents.
“So it’s definitely not the case that I can come and relax here. It’s a hard competition. Everybody can win from everybody, I think for a couple years more I hope I can play here.”
Hunt snapped up the Dutchman on a free transfer, following a bizarre clause in Kwakman’s contract with Breda, which allowed him to move without a fee if an offer from abroad came about.
“When I signed the contract there (Netherlands) I already told them that I wanted a challenge actually and they said, 'when a club comes, we won’t make a problem',” he said.
“So they let me go for free and I just signed a contract here for a year with an option (to extend for another year), so it’s not on-loan just a normal contract.”
Kwakman revealed two key role-players in convincing him to move to Johannesburg. Alje Schut, a Dutchman who was nominated for the Premiership Player of the Season award at the end of last season, had numerous discussions with Kwakman.
“Alje didn’t want to put pressure on me but he said that I was a great player and everything, so I think he did a little bit,” Kwakman joked.
“It’s good to hear it from other people. Alje convinced me, my wife was not so convinced but she’s here now and until now, she likes it. I’m happy that I made the decision to come.”
The other was Glen Salmon. Currently in charge of youth development at Wits, Salmon played for more than eight years in the Netherlands and knows the market well, prompting Hunt to trust his former player and dip into the foreign talent pool.
“I know Glen Salmon here and he speaks very good Dutch so it was easy for us to hear something about the club, to hear about life in Joburg and everything around it,” Kwakman said.
“I was looking for an adventure so I was pretty sure that I wanted to but to go to South Africa was a big step, especially if you’re used to Europe.
“I have to say, I’m very satisfied. The people at the club, but also the people around or in the street, they are so friendly and I’ve been here for six or seven weeks until now and I feel very good.”
Quizzed about his knowledge of the South African soccer scene, Kwakman said Schut once again played a big part in learning about the Premiership.
“Not really about football to be honest.
“Sometimes we saw the scores and I knew that Sundowns were the champions because in Holland the papers and the media read about it that Alje was champion here.”