Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Steven Pienaar is Making a Difference

First off, let me explain why I’ve been lacking on the actual content side of things lately.

I hate the off-season in all sports, but especially so in soccer. There is no other sport with a “silly season” as public and pronounced as soccer. Papers and media outlets with little else to talk about speculate on rumors about where players are headed, who managers want to sign, where managers may take another job, and other similar topics. I read conflicting reports all the time. I see “quotes” from players in one place, go to another, and see something different from that player where he was quoted originally. Gossip and rumors run rampant and to be honest, I’m really not interested in that.

I like to see things confirmed — signed, sealed, and delivered. Sure, I’m game for discussion and debate as to where I think a player will end up and what’s the right fit for that player, but I try not to fall into the trap the media sets to attract readers or sell papers, whatever their medium is.

Take, for example, the Cristiano Ronaldo saga this summer. If I believed everything I saw or heard, he would’ve left for Real Madrid weeks ago. I could care less what Roman Calderon and Ronaldo’s family and David Beckham and Carlos Queiroz have to say. It’s an absolute joke what this man’s life has turned into. It’s a media circus, and nothing has even happened yet one way or another. If you’ve wondered why, unlike some of my colleagues in the blogosphere, I haven’t once touched on this “will he/won’t he” situation, it’s because I try and hold myself to a higher standard than what tabloids and gossip pages have to say, and I just don’t want to take the easy way out and be associated with that style of journalism.

That’s why my summer posting frequency has been rather light and will likely continue to be so until later this month and into August, when I’ll be doing my second annual “20 Teams in 10 Days” preview of the Premiership. Don’t get me wrong, if something happens in the soccer world, especially in England, I’ll cover it and give it its just due, but for the most part, I refuse to get caught up in rumors and half-truths. That’s just a personal choice.

Anyway, now that that rant is over and done with, I want to get back to Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar, who is featured in the short video above. Pienaar is a South African international and has appeared 35 times for his country since making his début in 2002. He was born in Johannesburg, the largest and most populous city in South Africa, and grew up in a small town just outside the city limits. Johannesburg is the country’s economic hub, but like every other big city in the world, it has its problems with crime and also has some poor, run-down districts within.

As Pienaar will explain, he grew up in one of these areas and started playing soccer on a surface that wouldn’t even come close to passing for my elementary school recess field. He understands, as I detailed in my earlier post about Nigeria’s Joseph Yobo and his brother, who was kidnapped, that soccer is basically the only way out athletically for kids in South Africa. These children need to have something that they love to do and is logistically easy to do, because if they don’t, there is a very good chance that they’ll become part of these high crime rate statistics and contribute to Africa’s struggle to develop into a truly 21st-century, modern continent.

Pienaar also talks briefly about the state of the South African national team and how they are looking with the 2010 World Cup, set to be hosted in their country, right around the corner.

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