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 - - INSIDE -

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.

MAKHOSONKE ZUMA | Twit­ter: @MakhoBig10

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