The rise and rise of City de­fender Fielies

Saturday Star - - SOCCER - ROD­NEY REINERS

CAPE TOWN: Foot­ball is about more than just tal­ent – it is, more im­por­tantly, about how deep a player can dig in­side his re­serves of per­se­ver­ance and then, at the same time, re­main stead­fast to the be­lief in his own abil­ity.

In a nut­shell, this de­scribes the re­mark­able el­e­va­tion of Cape Town City cen­tral de­fender Taariq Fielies.

Dis­carded by Ajax Cape Town in 2013, it looked as if the Salt River-born player would have to set­tle for pur­su­ing a ca­reer in the lower di­vi­sions. But Fielies is no quit­ter, so when his con­tract with First Di­vi­sion Mi­lano United came to an end and he was in­vited for a trial at City ear­lier this year, he knew that this was his big op­por­tu­nity.

He im­pressed coach Benni McCarthy, was signed, and has never looked back. In short, the emer­gence of Fielies is the suc­cess story of McCarthy’s short coach­ing ca­reer.

Not just con­tent to add steel to the City de­fence, McCarthy has of­ten thrown Fielies for­ward when the team need phys­i­cal pres­ence in at­tack.

On Wed­nes­day, when the Capeto­ni­ans snapped a fourgame los­ing streak in beat­ing Free State Stars 1-0 at the Athlone Sta­dium, the win­ning goal came via Fielies.

And to demon­strate just how much he val­ues the in­flu­ence and ef­fect McCarthy has had on his ca­reer, the de­fender, af­ter scor­ing, hared straight for the City bench to cel­e­brate with his coach.

“I’ve been telling Taariq since he ar­rived here that he is from Salt River; I know what guys from that area can do,” said McCarthy.

“He has the tough­ness, the tack­ling and the ag­gres­sion, but I’ve told him I want to see that same at­ti­tude in at­tack. I said I was go­ing to slat (hit) him if he didn’t give me that at­ti­tude. That’s prob­a­bly why he ran to me af­ter he scored be­cause he did what I wanted. He put his head where it counted, scored, and now he’s prob­a­bly telling me to keep the klappe (slaps) to my­self.”

Fielies played for Salt River FC and Rygers­dal be­fore join­ing the Ajax youth academy. Later, he was pro­moted to the Parow club’s PSL squad but man­aged just one ap­pear­ance in 2012 be­fore be­ing told to move on. He then did well at Mi­lano, which alerted City’s scouts to his prow­ess – and, once un­der the wing of McCarthy, he’s soared as a player.

In re­flect­ing on the win over Stars, a re­sult that saw City to joint-sec­ond in the PSL as the league heads into a twoweek in­ter­na­tional break, McCarthy also paid tribute to the con­tin­u­ing in­flu­ence of his two flank de­fend­ers , Tham­sanqa Mkhize and Ebrahim See­dat, as well as the class and ma­tu­rity of veteran Teko Modise.

Mkhize will, of course, be in the Bafana Bafana squad for the up­com­ing, crit­i­cal back-to-back 2018 World Cup qual­i­fiers against Sene­gal.

“With Robyn (Jo­hannes) rested, I made Mkhize cap­tain and he was un­be­liev­able (against Stars),” said the coach.

“The plan was to put pres­sure on Stars, to not al­low their wingers to get into the game, and then hit them with pace.

“Mkhize and See­dat had the wingers in their pock­ets and that made things eas­ier for us. Teko (Modise) also played a mas­sive, com­mand­ing role. He was fan­tas­tic…

“Over­all, I was just so happy with the im­proved spirit and de­sire I saw from the team. We’ve had set­backs but we will now con­tinue fight­ing. We go into the in­ter­na­tional break next week; it’s a breath­ing space we need, and af­ter that we will keep tak­ing it one game at a time.”

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