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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 13:35 GMT
Pienaar comes of age
South Africa's Ajax midfielder, Steven Pienaar
South Africa's Ajax midfielder, Steven Pienaar

By BBC Sport's James Copnall

South African football is crying out for a new star.

A golden generation, composed of the likes of Lucas Radebe, Doctor Khumalo and Mark Fish, have served Bafana Bafana gloriously.

However, their time at the top of the international game is coming to an end.

Now South Africa needs new talents to replace that ageing generation.

One real hope for the future is Steven Pienaar.

The young midfielder has been receiving rave reviews for his club side Ajax, so the BBC sent me to watch Ajax's Uefa Champions League encounter against Arsenal.

I can confidently say that reports of Pienaar's quality have not been exaggerated.

The 20 year old was superb against the English champions, running the midfield with a combination of intelligent positional play, tireless running and pinpoint passing.

Pienaar factfile
South African international
Date of birth: 17 March 1982
Previous club: Ajax Cape Town
Current club: Ajax AMsterdam
It was a bravura performance - and gets even better when one considers Pienaar was up against the man many people believe is the best midfielder in the world, Patrick Vieira.

The English sporting press, which is notoriously difficult to please, was almost unanimous in its praise of the slight midfielder.

And why not?

Pienaar's vision and quality on the ball were major reasons why the Dutch side were able to take a point off Arsenal.

None of this, of course, means Pienaar is suddenly one of the best players in the world.

To deserve that accolade, a player must perform consistently at the very highest level for a number of years.

Nevertheless, Tuesday's game gave strong indications that Pienaar has the talent to aim for such a status.

After a disappointing World Cup in which Pienaar was part of the squad but did not play a game, it will surely not be long before the talented youngster is given a real run for Bafana Bafana as well.

Links to more Africa stories


Steven Pienaar
15 May 02 |  Squad
Ajax hold Arsenal
19 Feb 03 |  Champions League
SA in shop window
01 Feb 03 |  Africa

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