The squad announcement for Bafana Bafana’s upcoming international friendlies against Poland and Kenya on Tuesday at Safa House took a backseat as Steven Pienaar announced his retirement from international football.
Safa CEO Robin Petersen read out a statement the 30-year-old Everton midfielder had sent to the coach and Safa on Monday.
In the letter read out to the media by Petersen, the player said he was struggling physically with his Bafana role after 10 years of service.
“It is with regret that I wish to advise you that with immediate effect I’m no longer available for selection to represent South Africa,” stated Pienaar in the letter.
Playing for a top English side will have been a key factor in his decision.
“After having given more than 10 years service to the national team I’m now at a stage where physically I’m struggling to balance the demands of playing in England with the number of games required by the national team.
“I’m proud to have represented and captained my country, for this I sincerely thank you and wish the team all the best in the future.”
Bafana coach Gordon Igesund said he only heard of Pienaar’s decision to retire on Monday and thanked the midfielder for his work.
“He’s given us 10 years of service and his body is tired,” said Igesund. “Yesterday was the first time I found out he wanted to retire,” he added.
The coach confirmed Bongani Khumalo will take over as captain of Bafana.
Igesund initially said Pienaar would be welcomed back into the national set-up, but later said Pienaar, like any player, would never be guaranteed a place in the national team.
“It’s important to understand the door is never closed on any player,” Igesund explained.
“It was tough decision. He’s being genuine and honest that it’s been tough on his body.
“He’s given his reasons and we respect his decision.
“It doesn’t mean, he can come back and say he’s available now. Nobody in this national team will be guaranteed a spot.”
The coach went on to explain the plan for his team no longer involved Pienaar.
“Steven Pienaar is now very far from my thoughts and good luck to him and his Everton side,” the former Moroka Swallows boss said.
“There are players that are ready to take over from Steven.”
Various football fanatics we spoke to, alluded that “Schillo” had so much to deliver at very little time, however, some believe it was to soon for him to call quits.
Asked, whether foul play could be the reason, one well known former Jomo Cosmos and Bafana player-refused to be identified- said its likely!
Meanwhile, Bafana head off on Sunday to play two international friendly matches.
They play Poland at the national stadium in Warsaw on October 12 and Kenya, at the national stadium in Nairobi, on October 16.
Local players will assemble on Sunday and arrive in Warsaw on Tuesday October 9, while the overseas-based players will travel directly to Warsaw.
There are nine new players that were not part of the squad that played Brazil and Mozambique in September.
Igesund has called up Slovakia-based Ricardo Nunes, who plays for MSK Zilina. He is the only newcomer to the squad.
Delron Buckley makes a comeback to the national set-up after a long absence.
Also making a comeback are Luvhengo Mungomeni, Teko Modise, Sifiso Myeni, Oupa Manyisa, George Lebese, Tokelo Rantie and Thabo Nthete.
Goalkeepers – Itumeleng Khune, Wayne Sandilands, Moeneeb Josephs.
Defenders – Bevan Fransman, Thabo Nthethe, Siyabonga Sangweni, Eric Mathoho, Punch Masenamela, Luvhengo Mungomeni, Bongani Khumalo, Ricardo Nunes.
Midfielders – Oupa Manyisa, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Sifiso Myeni, George Lebese, Teko Modise, Delron Buckley, Katlego Mashego, May Mahlangu, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Dean Furman.
Strikers – Lerato Chabangu, Bernard Parker, Dino Ndlovu, Tokelo Rantie.