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Everton Ace Pienaar Hails SportPesa Cup Impact In East Africa

DAR-ES-SALAAM, Tanzania- The English Premier League remains a gold standard for aspiring professional footballers in East Africa owing to the gigantic following it commands in the region.

So, when news filtered through to players and staff of Bombom FC- a small community team based in Tanzania’s commercial capital of Dar-es-Salaam- they would be meeting a much-loved former player from the EPL, the excitement knew no bounds.

And so it came to pass that the big day finally arrived on Saturday, January 26, 2019 when Everton FC ambassador and former South Africa national team Bafana Bafana captain, Steven Pienaar, came to visit, present kit and of course, get to share in some of the footballing skills that took him from Cape Town to Goodison Park.

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Later, he presented the grateful side with playing uniform shipped to Tanzania under the Kits For Africa initiative of global gaming giants SportPesa at the Jangwani Grounds in Dar.

The visit that lasted for three hours was an echo of Pienaar’s days at Goodison where he was involved with the Everton in the Community programme that engages disadvantaged members of society in the English city of Liverpool.

Pienaar arrived in Tanzania on Thursday (January 25) as the chief international guest for the 2019 SportPesa Cup, starting off his tour by watching Friday’s semis.

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“To come out here to represent the club and for people to see the club is involved in the tournament is because it is a big thing in the region for Everton to come out here and be part of it.

“It is to give the youth an opportunity to go out there and follow their dreams. As a player coming from the same circumstances, I know how it feels to overcome a lot of challenges,” the retired Everton midfielder stated.

Bombom players received full training kit and bibs donated by fans of EPL sides Everton, Southampton FC and Arsenal FC, Hull City FC who play in the English Championship as well as Italian Serie A side Torino FC.

Pienaar who enjoyed eight fruitful seasons at Goodison Park in two spells from 2007 to 2016 noted community service was an integral part of playing for the nine-time English league winners.

“Everton is a people’s club that is why it’s something close to the club to help young kids and people in general to be better and it’s close to the player as well,” the attacking midfielder who commentated during Sunday’s final between Kariobangi Sharks FC and Bandari FC emphasised. 

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Pienaar urged aspiring players from the region to take advantage of tournaments such as the SP Cup whose winner gets to play his former side to showcase their talent.

“It’s a good opportunity for the players. If I’m a player who plays in Africa and I play against a team from the Premier League, I want to show my talent.

“This is an opportunity to show that you are good as them and fortunately, one or two can be scouted and move abroad,” the player who was the top assist provider in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League advised.

Born in Johannesburg started his professional career at South Africa outfit Ajax Cape Town, some 1,400 kilometres away from his hometown. 

He was brought to the attention of Ajax CT whilst playing for the School of Excellence and was asked to join their youth academy before going to Netherlands aged 18 where he won two Eredivisie league titles with Amsterdam giants Ajax FC.

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After an underwhelming spell with German titans Borussia Dortmund, Pienaar joined Everton initially on loan in 2006 and it did not take long for him to find his rightful home.

THAT WAS FUNNY: Everton FC ambassador, Steven Pienaar, laughs during his media interview ahead of the 2019 SportPesa Cup final on Sunday, January 27, 2019. PHOTO/SPN