Two sides to Schillo: Why South Africa legend Steven Pienaar will make a good coach
Former Everton and South Africa winger Steven Pienaar, one of the country's most successful exports to Europe, has made a move into coaching, which former team-mates and coaches feel is the perfect job for 'Schillo'.
Pienaar's stable temperament, his ability to remain competitive yet calm under pressure, is the trait everyone ESPN spoke to touted as the reason he'd be a great mentor, after gaining his UEFA A Diploma via the Irish Football Association in mid-September.
He is reportedly aiming to obtain his UEFA Pro License, which would put him on the same level as fellow Bafana Bafana legend and now former Cape Town City coach Benni McCarthy.
Pienaar's multifaceted personality is a recurring theme with Cavin Johnson, the coach who spotted him as a child star in Johannesburg and developed him at the Transnet School of Excellence.
"Benni would say: 'When I'm outside the pitch, I'm a cool, nice, relaxed guy. When I'm inside the pitch, I turn into a dog.' That is what Steven has, he has that competitive edge," Johnson, who has coached Platinum Stars, SuperSport United and AmaZulu in South Africa, tells ESPN.
"From a young age, Steven was always independent. Because he was probably the oldest in the house, he had to carry himself a lot better than others. At the same time, going to a boarding school at the age of 10 or 11, you'll notice how he interacted with complete strangers and was still able to concentrate on football and on his schooling as well," Johnson reveals.
"From that age already, it showed that he was very independent. Of course, you look at the way he carries himself, what he does with his boots, what he does with his clothes, how he packs his clothes. We were very much on them [at the school] as far as that was concerned."
According to Johnson, the footballing education which the School of Excellence gave Pienaar extended far beyond the technical skills. The 60-year-old recalls attempting to teach his young players how much attention to detail goes into coaching.
"We were fortunate enough to travel to Europe with a lot of them. We would go at the end of their winter and the beginning of ours. What we would do in the mornings was we would train at 4am," Johnson recounts.
"They would be in awe about these things. They would say: 'Coach, but why?' We would tell them: 'Because we are going to play in these different conditions.' We would teach them a lot of different things that coaches wouldn't do normally.
"Sometimes we'd coach them, sometimes we'd leave them by themselves, sometimes we'd let them take the sessions and we would watch and criticise."
Little surprise, then, that former Bafana Bafana teammate Nathan Paulse remembers Pienaar, who retired from playing the game in March last year, for being unafraid to offer his input.
Paulse played his only match for South Africa in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Zambia in October 2006. However, Pienaar left a significant impression on him in a short space of time. Paulse now coaches the reserve team at Ajax Cape Town, one of Pienaar's former clubs.
"A fond memory off the field was seeing how confident and outspoken Steven was in a team meeting we had in camp before that AFCON qualifier in the presence of senior players like Delron Buckley, Aaron Mokoena and SAFA (South African Football Association) officials," recalls Paulse.
Like Johnson, Paulse spoke of a calm aspect to Pienaar's personality which complemented the intense, outspoken side. Although Johnson described Pienaar as an intense competitor, Paulse recalled a measured approach serving him well while playing.
"As a coach, I am sure he will do great as he was always calm on the field and rarely lost his cool, which I believe will stand him in good stead and allow him to transfer that innate football intelligence to his team," Paulse adds.
A player who shared the Bafana dressing room with Pienaar on several occasions, Matthew Booth, painted a similar picture of the former Everton star to Johnson and Paulse.
"Some of the best footballers have two characters: one on the field and one off the field. Steven is definitely one of those," says Booth, who played for the likes of Mamelodi Sundowns, FC Rostov and Krylia Sovetov Samara.
"As a coach, that will definitely help him, if he can revert back to that way of thinking as a coach, expressing some energy and enthusiasm on the touchline, but then being very calm and analytical off it, I think that will do him well."
It was reported two months ago that Pienaar was set to further his education by working alongside AFC Ajax U19 coach John Heitinga, his former team-mate at Everton. Ajax, however, told ESPN that the ex-South Africa captain had not done any coaching at the club, although they did not rule out the possibility of a future reunion.
"I can confirm that Steven Pienaar is not here at the moment and until now he did not work here as part of his education," said Ajax Senior Press Officer Arjan Duijnker.
"Who knows at a later stage, but that is still too premature to say now anyway."
What is on the horizon for Pienaar as a coach is anyone's guess. However, if the words of his past team-mates and coach are anything to go by, the winger from Westbury will be up for for the challenge.