Steven Pienaar on Mandela, Everton Fans, Martinez and Spurs
Steven Pienaar owes a lot of what he has become to the most famous South African ever Nelson Mandela. The words of the great man have stuck with Steven Pienaar since he first met the leader at the age of 15.
Pienaar reminisced ‘The first thing he said to us was “Gentlemen” — I still remember his voice — “You have the opportunity to do something in your life’’, ‘He said sport is the one thing that can bring smiles to people’s faces, in good times and bad. But to be something special you had to keep working hard. I’ve made sure those words have always stuck in my head.’
The loss of Mandiba (by his tribal name as the South African people affectionately know him) has hit Pienaar hard, but he owes everything he has become to his fellow countryman and will continue to live by his words.
‘It’s been very sad for the whole of South Africa to lose a father figure. I’ve met him a few times, also with my little girl, so that emotion comes when you watch the news and people keep talking about it.
‘If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be sitting here today, able to play as a South African in England. I am really grateful for that. He loved his nation and he loved sport.’
Pienaar playing for South Africa
Pienaar cites the positivity of new Everton boss Roberto Martinez as a great way of overcoming the loss and he says that the manager always teaches positive things
‘The manager is a very positive guy, he always wants us to play with a smile on our faces,’ said Pienaar. ‘He was a bit annoyed after we beat Fulham 4-1 last weekend, because some of us seemed disappointed.
‘He doesn’t want us to play with inhibition. His team talks are, “Get over your fear, play with a smile no matter what happens”. It relaxes us.’
On the new style of play, Pienaar says that Martinez wants his team to dominate the possession.
‘The boss wants us to go out and dominate games,’ said Pienaar. ‘It takes a lot of courage to do it. To keep the ball is not just about passing, it’s about moving as well, so you have to be fit and he likes us to rest between games to recover.
‘We build patiently from the back and I think the supporters were a bit apprehensive when we drew the first three games”
The change from David Moyes hard working Everton team to the expansive free flowing football of Martinez has been vast and the South African says that some of the players struggle to adjust but the player believes that it is paying off
‘For a few players it was a shock too but we had to get used to it as quickly as possible. The manager has trusted us, we worked on a style in training and have taken it on to the pitch.
‘Our philosophy is if we keep the ball, the other team are working harder to win it back.’
Pienaar left the club to join Tottenham Hotspur to play in the champions league but may now be getting there with Everton after a brilliant start to the season which has seen them only 5 points off the top spot with a game in hand.
‘Sometimes when you leave a club it’s not easy to go back. The way I left as well, I know some people didn’t like it,’ he admits.
‘It was hard walking back into the dressing room, I had all sorts of things coming at me. Not objects, just a lot of stick.
‘Liverpool makes you feel alive. People are excited to talk to you in the street, they make you feel wanted.
‘I enjoyed Tottenham’s style of playing but the mentality is different’
Steven Pienaar was speaking at an event to thank Everton in the Community volunteers for contributing to the charity’s work in 2013
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