The Bafana Bafana star feels the country’s future is bright
Bafana Bafana and Montpellier midfielder Keagan Dolly met up with KICK OFF at the Nike Football Training Centre in Soweto to talk about life in France, new Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter and how he feels being a role model to up-and-coming youngsters i
KICK OFF: Welcome back home Keagan. What are you doing here at the Nike Academy in Soweto?
KEAGAN DOLLY: I’m just here to try and motivate young players and inspire them, and to prove to them that it’s possible to work hard and eventually make your dreams of playing in Europe come true. What I told them is to work hard on what they want in life – on and off the field. They must be ready to make some sacrifices as well. It was also nice to meet the up-and-coming stars in South Africa; there are a few guys I know from social media, so it was good to hang out with them for the first time since I moved to France.
France! How is Paul Pogba’s home, the land of superstars such as Zinedine Zidane?
[Laughs] France is good. It’s been a good couple of months, but it hasn’t been easy by myself there. It’s a different culture and a different language. But after a few games and a few months learning everything, things started getting better and I can’t wait to go back to start the new season.
In your first season, Montpellier finished 15th on the log …
It wasn’t easy, especially with me coming into the team mid-season. We were struggling and I thought I could make a difference, but it’s part of football – you are not going to win everyday and you are going to go through those things. But I’m looking forward to the next season.
“I THINK THERE’RE A LOT OF PLAYERS THAT DESERVE TO PLAY IN EUROPE, BUT NOT EVERYTHING GOES AS PLANNED.”
The likes of Thulani Serero and Benni McCarthy played in the Champions League. Is that your dream as well?
Yes. Look, I always knew that this is just the start. I still have a long way to go, and there are a lot of things that I want to achieve in Europe. I don’t just want to be part of the team and just be happy with that. I want to have an impact – look at Bongani Zungu, look at what Serero did for Ajax Amsterdam, scoring against Barcelona ... it’s good for the country. If we do well in Europe, it will open doors to the rest of these youngsters who are the stars of tomorrow.
Going forward, what do you want to achieve while you are still in France?
We want to better our performance from last season and try and win more games away. Personally, I want to try to be part of the team and play week in and week out. I want to get the experience I need to move to bigger and better things because this is only the start – there are places that I want to be and things I want to achieve.
When not playing, what do you do in France to keep yourself busy?
[Laughs] I sleep or watch series. It’s a small city. It was cold when I got there and I was by myself. I wasn’t familiar with the place and I couldn’t do much really. But once my girlfriend came I started going out and checking out places.
Themba Zwane said you motivated him to seek a move to Europe ...
We have to try and open more doors to other soccer players in South Africa. There are a lot of players that deserve to play in Europe, but not everything goes as planned. But if we do well, the teams will come back and look at players in South Africa. So it’s all up to us, the ones who are playing in Europe, to prove that South Africans deserve to play there.
Describe your first game in France ... what went through your mind?
My first game at Montpellier was very important because we played at home against a very good Monaco team and it was my time to show our supporters what I was capable of. At first I was very nervous, but as time
went on the nerves settled and I think I had a decent game.
How is the atmosphere there, compared to South Africa?
The atmosphere is amazing, and very different to back home. The fans are very passionate about the teams they support.
Which was your best game?
My best game would be the one against Nantes, where we won 3-0 and I was involved in the build-up leading to two goals.
What is the main difference between South African and European football?
In South Africa we have our own brand of football, full of flair and skill, whereas in France it’s very direct and the intensity is very high; there’s no space to play, your decision-making has to be quick.
How is it working under new Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter?
Baxter is a very good coach who understands our way of play in South Africa, so he gives us the freedom to express ourselves in the right areas. It’s an honor to be able to work with him, and we can only learn and get better under his leadership.
How would you sum up your first season with Montpellier?
My first six months wasn’t the best, but I think it gave me time to get settled in. I’ve learned a lot and I think I’ll be ready for the new season.