Cut Ekstein Some Slack!
by Soccer Laduma
Mar 27, 2019 08:57 AM
|Tags: Editor's Blog|
Kaizer Chiefs skilful midfielder, Pule Hendrik Ekstein, doesn’t get the recognition, respect and acknowledgement that I feel he deserves!
Rightfully or not, usually likened to former Chiefs midfield maestro – the legendary Ace Khuse – Ekstein has come under a lot of scrutiny and his current contractual situation at the Naturena-based club isn’t helping his cause at all. To his credit, how many players in the club’s history have been mentioned in the same sentence as this great legend who is head and shoulders above his peers? Ace was no ordinary player, humble and soft-spoken as he is, so it is a big deal for anyone to be likened to him. In fact, it is a privilege and honour!
For the uninitiated, Ekstein is reported to have reached a deadlock with his employer about his contract renewal, which explains why he wasn’t one of the players recently announced by the club to have extended their stay at the Soweto giants. It is reported that the 28-year-old’s demands are the bone of contention and the result of his deal having not been finalised yet as the team’s offer doesn’t appeal to him. Subsequent to that, Ekstein’s situation has drawn a lot of attention with some questioning his right to demand an improved salary instead of being ‘grateful’ to be playing for one of the biggest teams in the country, while others feel he’s surplus to requirements at the club. Whether Pule deserves more than the club is offering him is between the involved parties, as no official confirmation of the reports has come through from either the club or the player. There could be more than just the salary package to Ekstein having not renewed his contract but, for now, only he and Chiefs know the real story behind it.
Since the new broke about the player’s contractual situation, everyone has had their say which, naturally, differs from person to person. Some believe the player deserves another contract, while others believe his absence wouldn’t be felt at all. One thing no one can question is Ekstein’s talent and a lot of people seem to conveniently forget about the player’s background. For Ekstein to even sign for Chiefs in the first place is nothing short of a miracle! His is an inspirational story of dreams coming true and a definite case study to motivate anyone feeling like giving up on their dreams. How many professional players have been through what this diminutive midfielder has experienced before turning professional? How many of them can claim to know what it is like to be Ekstein?
Before 2015/16, at the age of 24, not many knew anything about this much-talked about player. That’s simply because there was nothing special about him. He was just an ordinary miner who spent most of his time in the tummy of the earth, with football secondary to his daily programme. He was, obviously, earning a paltry salary that kept the fires burning for himself and the family. Ekstein was no different to the next person. He could walk past you and that wouldn’t affect your life in any way. Fast-forward to today and millions would feel privileged just to touch his hand, let alone take a selfie with this likeable fella! Such has been the rags-to-riches transformation to this boy’s career in less than five years. How many professional footballers, all over the world, have shot up straight from amateur football and then caught an eye of arguably the biggest team in the country? Not even many players go past the ABC Motsepe League to go straight to National First Division, without spending any time in the development ranks. Yes, not every pro footballer has been through development, but they got a chance to play lower division football, which ultimately prepared them for life in the elite league. From a miner to a Kaizer Chiefs player isn’t something that happens every day, so we have to cut the Bekkersdal-born midfielder some slack because he’s realised an almost impossible dream! When you judge Ekstein, bear in mind his background and see the fighter he is to be where he is, instead of insulting him. Understand his shortcomings and even use his story to inspire others.
Do you have any idea how demanding and detailed professional football is? We are talking about someone who, most probably, until recently didn’t know anything about a third man running, transition football, the fundamentals of a midfielder, how to open your body, what is to drop a shoulder, playing in half-spaces and all the other nitty-gritties of the modern and professional game. The boy has always been on the back foot compared to his peers because, even taking instructions, whether at training or during the game, has been something new to him. Structured and professional football is not something he had adequate preparation for. The MultiChoice Diski Challenge experience was all the development he got, at his age, and that’s just not enough when you compare him to players who underwent development from as early as eight years old.
How many established players have no nicknames or have never been likened to anyone, for that matter? A lot has been on Ekstein’s shoulders and he’s done relatively well for someone of his football background and the fact that he arrived, so raw, at a team that was under tremendous pressure to deliver silverware and was expected to be one of the star performers says a lot about his quality. It is just a pity that he’s expected to perform miracles when he is still so new to professional football. There are so many established and experienced players who crumbled under pressure at big teams but, with mining experience under his belt, Ekstein has been able to hold his own and swim with the sharks. I really don’t think people take time to understand and appreciate this guy’s achievements so far. His story is nothing short of a quantum leap and I believe he deserves so much more credit, love, appreciation and admiration.
On a sad note, the news of Arthur Bartman’s untimely passing came as a big shock and surprise. The Beautiful Game is poorer without this wonderful and humble legend and his loss won’t be filled by anything. It is really sad that we are losing our legends one after another. At 46, for someone as fit as Bartman, a lot was still expected from him, but God had other plans. May his beautiful soul rest in peace and God give his family strength in this trying period.
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