Day­lon Claasen

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

Kick Off - - INSIDE -

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].

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