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Africa is home to some of the best football players in the world. These gifted players have been gaining the attention of the international community, getting several career opportunities and deals from various football clubs abroad, especially from Europe. Despite their obvious success in playing their respective country’s football teams and playing for foreign football clubs on the side, most are left with the dilemma of which career path to choose from.
The start of this month marked the end of South Africa’s football team captain Steven Pienaar’s career in playing for his country. The 30-year-old football star’s decision was made public by the team’s couch Gordon Igesund, which saddened, and even disappointed, many of Pienaar’s colleagues and fans in the country. Before the announcement, there have already been rumors that Pienaar will be leaving the team in order to concentrate with the Everton football club. The reason he cited for him leaving the national team was not far off from the speculation. After ten years of playing for South Africa, he told Igesund that he was struggling physically to balance the demands that come along with playing in England for Everton while playing for several games as team captain for his country. Pienaar added that it was time for younger talented players to be given an opportunity to serve the national team.
Despite Igesund and the team’s disappointment on Pienaar leaving the team, since his remarkable leadership was expected to give South Africa a shot on the 2013 AFCON and the World Cup, they respected his difficult decision. The national team’s defender, Bongani Khumalo, was immediately made the new captain of the team.
Before playing for South Africa’s national football team since 2002, Pienaar started his professional career at the age of eighteen with the Ajax Cape Town club. In 2006, he played for the German club Borussia Dortmund for about a year before joining the English club Everton where he brought several victories. Pienaar was made Everton’s Player of the Season for 2009 to 2010 despite not being able to play for eleven games due to injury. In 2011, he joined English club Tottenham Hotspur, famously known as Spurs, but his career with the club was marked by consecutive injuries and poor performance. Pienaar then went back to Everton early this year and was made a permanent player of the club a few months later.
Pienaar’s decision to concentrate in playing for a club is nothing new. Other South African professional players have also made the same choice to pursue a career outside South Africa years back. Benni McCarthy left the national team to make a name in Europe for a few years before eventually going back to his country. Mark Fish retired from the team in order to play for the English club Charlton.