Steven Pienaar quits South Africa role

02 October 2012 02:49

South Africa captain and Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar has quit international football because his "body is tired", the national football association said Tuesday.

Pienaar, who succeeded Aaron Mokoena as skipper after the 2010 World Cup and had limited success in the role, revealed his decision in a letter to the body, which was read out ahead of a national squad announcement.

The slightly built 30-year-old -- the only South African footballer featuring regularly in a major European league -- said he could no longer cope with the physical demands of playing for his club and country.

"I am very disappointed as Steven was set to play a huge role going forward," recently appointed South Africa coach Gordon Igesund told a Johannesburg media conference.

"Steven says his body is tired and we must respect that decision -- he has contributed a lot to the national team over the past 10 years and we will miss him."

Igesund stressed that the door had not been slammed shut on Pienaar, who made a successful returned to the "Toffees" this season after an unhappy spell at Tottenham Hotspur.

"If he has a change of mind and is fitter, stronger and better than his rivals for a squad place, he will be considered," said the coach, who won the South African Premiershsip title with a record four clubs.

"However, no footballer is guaranteed a place in the South African squad -- not even (Lionel) Messi or (Cristiano) Ronaldo, if they were available to play for this country."

Previous Bafana Bafana (The Boys) coaches have come under public and media fire for pandering to the whims of overseas-based footballers, who "retire" from the national team only to return when the occasion suits them.

Pienaar, who made his debut against Turkey 10 years ago and was chosen for the 2002 and 2010 World Cup squads, consistently drew mixed reaction from South African supporters.

Some believed he brought a high level of skill to the team only to be let down by less talented team-mates while others claimed he lacked the warrior spirit needed to inspire his compatriots.

The Pienaar retirement announcement overshadowed the naming of a squad for friendlies against Poland in Warsaw on October 12 and Kenya in Nairobi on October 16.

There was a first call-up for Johannesburg-born left-back Ricardo Nunes from Slovak club MSK Zilina and a recall for 34-year-old former Bundesliga midfielder Delron Buckley, who plays for Premiership outfit Maritzburg United.

Source: AFP