One of the many promising stars of the Amajita squad that went to the Fifa Under-20 World Cup in Egypt in 2009, Daylon Claasen hasn’t quite gone on to reach the heights expected of him. However, the 27-year-old believes it’s not all over just yet, as he l
The Clever Boys’ signing talks about his return to South Africa, and what he wants to achieve
KICK OFF: Daylon, welcome back to the PSL. What brought you back home so soon? Daylon Claasen: Thanks. It was a pity the Würzburger Kickers team I had signed a pre-contract with got relegated to the German third division, so that meant the deal was off. But I feel like the PSL is a much improved league compared to when I last played here. I learnt that in Europe they have a very strong mentality: there’s no nonchalance and in training, it’s as if they are playing a match. Coming back to South Africa, I just want to improve my game and learn from my teammates, as well as the league. You never stop learning as a player.
So why Bidvest Wits? Were there no other options on the table?
I always felt like Wits would be one of the options for me to come back home to, when the time came, and the players that are here now made it an easy choice for me. There were other options but, like I said, Wits was always my first option. They approached me and showed so much interest. I’m happy that they came and trusted in my ability, so I’m very happy to be here.
Did you not perhaps consider Orlando Pirates or Kaizer Chiefs?
Pirates and Chiefs are obviously big teams in Africa, and I respect what they’ve achieved, but maybe one day I’ll move there. I can’t predict what the future holds, but my decision was Wits and I’m happy with it thus far.
So what happened? Things looked so promising when you moved to Ajax Amsterdam in 2008?
I was unfortunate at Ajax. I stayed there for two years and then decided to move on to Belgium, because I played mostly with the Ajax second team and, even though I went on training camps with the first team, I felt like I needed to move on for me to get regular first team action. Perhaps I was a bit hasty to start playing, but I can’t say I regret the decision because my time in Belgium was propbably three of the best years of my career, and I really enjoyed myself there.
Any regrets now then?
One can’t always think about ‘should’ve, would’ve or could’ve’. It’s in the past, and who says things would have been different if I had stayed longer? I made a decision to leave early and this is how it panned out. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity at least to experience Europe. I can’t say maybe I should have stayed longer at Ajax Amsterdam and things would have been different. The way things went is the way it was meant to go. What is important now is to look at myself and try to improve, strive to reach the best of my ability, which comes with constantly playing and doing so with quality players, and I’m looking to get back to my best again.
What goes through your mind when you look at your former national under-20 teammates who are doing so well now?
I’m happy for guys like Kamohelo Mokotjo, Kermit Erasmus and Thulani Serero, but I don’t compare myself to any other player because this is the path that was meant for me. I can just look back and be happy that I was part of a team of that calibre, and I wish nothing but the best for them. I know they will still do more great things. I’m just happy that I played with such guys and it’s unfortunate that my career went the way it went, but I don’t consider it a failure. Coming from South Africa you always want to go to Europe and I achieved that, so I got the experience, and who knows what might still happen – I just want to improve myself.
It must be exciting for you guys to be able to get back together now in the Bafana Bafana setup?
It’s really a good feeling because the fact that we played together so many years ago and are still doing well shows that there was something brewing back then. I’m happy and honoured to be back in Bafana again, and it’s good to see the guys [from 2009] together again. I haven’t been here [in the national team camp] for two years or so, and I always think you’re lucky to be called up to the South African national team because there’s so many good players. At the same time it’s a nice feeling that your talent is being recognised and your hard work at club level is being rewarded.
Having come from a small town in the North West, how do you feel about how far you’ve come?
It means a lot for me coming from a small town like Alabama in Klerksdorp. When I was younger I always wanted to be a professional footballer because my uncle Brendan Silent was one, and I wanted to follow the same path. There’s only a few guys from that part of the country who have made it in football – [former Bloemfontein Celtic midfielder] Moses SpandeeI, [former Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates attaker] Gert Schalkwyk, and my uncle. In fact, Dino Ndlovu is also from around that side [Klerksdorp], and look how well he’s doing for himself.
You’ve made your debut and Gavin Hunt has showed early belief in you. What have you made of the PSL thus far?
It’s very competitive. The [MTN8 quarter-final] game against Golden Arrows was really competitive, and the league has improved so much – people shouldn’t underestimate it. I’m looking forward to this season and I know all the games are still going to get tougher. I’m working hard at training and I’m grateful that Gavin Hunt is giving me an opportunity and that he believes in me. At the end of the day it’s about the team: if the team does well then we all do well. I want to continue working hard and seeing how things go for the team.
So what are you looking to achieve in the 2017/18 season?
I really just want to improve individually and win silverware collectively. I can learn a lot from my teammates at Wits and that will help me become a better person and player. I can learn a lot from someone like Steven Pienaar, even just from training with him and talking to him, because we all he played at the highest evel, so that in itself allows you pick up a lot of small things improve. It’s also really nice have an opportunity to play him before he hangs his boots.
You must be looking to your first taste of CAF Champions League facing some of the best in Africa?
I’m definitely looking to experiencing what it’s like in the CAF League, that will help learn and grow as player. And I believe team will do well. know the start of the was difficult for but we played well it’s just the results weren’t going the we would have iked.
Inset: After a two-year break, Daylon is happy to find himself back in the Bafana Bafana training camp. Main pic: Claasen during the MTN8 semi-final 1st leg fixture against Cape Town City at Cape Town Stadium on 27 August.
Claasen spent three years playing for TSV 1860 Munich in Germany [right] before returning to South Africa to sign with Bidvest Wits [above].