Pienaar’s final season in club football did not go so well, with a limited amount of appearances for Bidvest Wits after returning to the Premier Soccer League at the start of the 2017/18 campaign. He ended up having his contract terminated by mutual consent in January, and this week announced his retirement from football on SABC television.
The Westbury-born star, however, leaves the game after an incredible club career in Europe, from signing with Ajax Amsterdam as a 19-year-old, to playing in the German Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund and in the English Premier League with Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland.
Cavin Johnson, the coach of AmaZulu and the man largely credited with discovering Pienaar as a youngster, coaching him at the Transnet School of Excellence and Ajax Cape Town development, said it was his mentality that made him stand out from the crowd.
“A lot of people regard Steven as the best player I have ever coached, but for me it is not about him being the best player, it is about him having the best mentality to go to the next level,” said Johnson yesterday.
“It is easy, when you are a professional player, to be in a comfort zone in South Africa as a lot of our most talented players find themselves in that street. To become a real professional playing in another country, it takes complete dedication.
“When you are young, it doesn’t matter that you come from the back streets of Johannesburg, when you look at people who are struggling in the Netherlands, or in the favelas (of Brazil), they have nothing, we (South Africans) cannot compare to them … yes he (Pienaar) came from the townships and gangsterism, but you have to look beyond that. You have to have a special desire in your heart.”
Shaun Bartlett, who played with Pienaar at Bafana Bafana and also had a successful club career in England, said the talented midfielder could be proud of his achievements.
“He was a player with unbelievable ability and skill, and always with the attitude of wanting to succeed at the highest level, that is why he was able to play there for so long,” said Bartlett.
“People still talk about the things he did, he seemed to do it with a lot of ease, he was not the biggest boy, but the things he could do with the ball were similar to what the South Americans can do.”