Absa Premiership

Booth: 'Pienaar one of SA's best exports'

2018-03-02 07:31
Steven Pienaar (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Former Bafana defender Matthew Booth hailed newly retired ex-team-mate Steven Pienaar as the best South African export since the class of '96.

Pienaar, 35, announced on Wednesday that he was hanging up his boots after an illustrious career, which saw him represent Ajax Cape Town, Ajax Amsterdam, Borussia Dortmund, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, Sunderland and Bidvest Wits.

Booth, who played alongside Pienaar in the South African national team, reacted with disappointment to the news that his career was over.

"First of all, it was very sad to hear," Booth told KickOff.
 
"But I think as an attacking midfielder, to retire at 35, I think he has done very well for himself, especially considering the amount of time that he spent in England and in Europe. And he has definitely been the best export since the Class of '96, you know."

The "class of '96" refers to the Bafana Bafana side which won the Africa Cup of Nations on its first attempt after apartheid.

According to Booth, Pienaar's success was partially shaped by the foundational phases of his career in South Africa.

"I think he comes from a very talent-filled area in Westbury. Certainly, it has helped his hunger and drive to make a success of himself. And I think he had a very good schooling at the School of Excellence and then also at Ajax Cape Town, so he basically had a very good foundation. Over the years, very well grounded youngsters have come out of the Ajax system. That certainly helped him," he said.

On his experience of Pienaar as a team-mate, Booth said: "He was always very cool and calm. Off the field, I have never seen him angry. He was always very relaxed and very good to get on with. He got on well with all the team-mates and all the guys from different backgrounds received him well.

"Creative younger players spent lot of time with him and learned a lot from him. His legacy has continued because of that." Pienaar endured a difficult stint at Wits after returning to the PSL for the 2017/18 season. Halfway through the campaign and through his one-year contract, he cut his stay at the club short. 'Schillo', as he is affectionately known, revealed after retiring that he did not always see eye-to-eye with Clever Boys coach Gavin Hunt.

Booth explained that returning from Europe to play in South African club football is no small task.

"As for his short stay at Wits: I think players coming back from Europe towards the end of their careers perhaps underestimate or forget how quick the game is here in South Africa, as it is played 100 miles an hour sometimes. And Steven, I think, was a player who excelled more in tactical-based leagues where perhaps you were afforded a little more space, so perhaps that's one of the reasons.

"I think it's really unfortunate because I was looking forward to see him playing on a regular basis for another one or two years, you know. But also you don't want people to remember you for your last poor seasons in South Africa. You want them to remember you more on the 18 years of success in Europe, you know. So it's always a tough one and I had to take my hat off for him for deciding to retire because the temptation to carry on must have been very great."

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