Steven Pienaar's column

Ajax Amsterdam star Steven Pienaar will be featuring in a regular bi-weekly column on the www.ajaxct.com website, and in the first of the series today, he talks about his early years and his time in Cape Town with the Urban Warriors....

Hey Ajax Fans, Howzit Going?

It’s Schilla in the house straight from Amsterdam. I’m gonna be dropping by every two weeks or so to share a bit about my life over here in Holland with you the fans of a club that is, and will always be, very close to my heart.

You know not a day goes by when I don’t look around this beautiful city of the lowlands and give thanks to the path my life has taken. With the help of God I am really living a dream. As a youngster playing street soccer with my buddies in Westbury it was not in my wildest dreams that I thought I would one day be playing for a world famous club like Ajax Amsterdam and rubbing shoulders - not to mention exchanging crunching tackles - with some of the best players in the world in the Champions League.

On those evenings after school we would kick a ball around on the dusty streets until well after dark. We played for nothing else but the love of the game and the joy of having a tatty leather ball glued to our feet.

Later I started playing for various clubs in the area; clubs with exotic names like Argentinos, Arsenals and West Ham. We used to play in the Chappies League savouring the highs of winning and the anguish of losing always as a team. After our Saturday matches we would get together and watch games on television shouting for Orlando Pirates, Newcastle United or Barcelona. Teammates from those days - Harvey, Gadget - you know who you are - remain some of my closest friends.

Something else that immediately springs to mind when I find myself dreaming of my childhood soccer career is the image of my mother at all my games, lending support and shouting encouragement. You know she hardly ever missed a game and it is largely because of her that I am what I am today.

Another person who played a big role in my early development was a school teacher of mine named Mr Malgas. Ja, you know Mr Malgas gave me a lot of guidance and advice that I really appreciate.

From life at these junior clubs I moved to the School of Excellence where soccer became far more serious. Here we began learning about tactics, formations and discipline on and off the field. Fellow pupils at the school were all supremely talented players and I began to realize that if I was going to make it in the game I would have work harder and harder to keep up with these guys.

I then signed professional papers and moved to Cape Town to join Ajax. Man I thought I was in heaven. For the first time in my life I saw what professional soccer was all about. You know the facilities at Ajax Cape Town are comparable to any in Europe. They are absolutely fantastic. World class! The club is just so professional in everything it does. And let me tell you when you get that kind of support from a club you learn to give it back tenfold; to live and die for the cause so to speak. You give 100% in everything you do, you approach the sport in a very meticulous way, and, most importantly you learn to live like a true professional away from the field as well.

At Ajax Cape Town I was also part of an incredible group of players. We were one big happy family with an 'all for one, one for all' attitude. Many of us lived together, trained together and hung out together. The camaraderie was really special and it is something I often find myself thinking about.

Ja, all these thoughts of my life in South Africa often enter my head as I relax at home in Amsterdam or travel on the team bus to games. The sport of soccer has been very good to me and I am truly blessed. But as a parting shot to all those youngsters back in South Africa who dream of making it as a professional footballer, I urge all of you to always put education before sport, to always give 100% in everything you do and most importantly to believe in yourself.

Shot man, till next time,

Schilla


Read more on the web site of Ajax Cape Town