Bend it in Belgium

2008-06-12 13:41

London - Elrio van Heerden, one of SA's hottest young talents, has his sights firmly set on the 2010 SWC. Jacqui Lund questions the fleet-footed Bafana star.

SA Sport: How is Belgium treating you?

Elrio: At the moment I'm playing with Club Brugge. Things are not so good. I'm struggling with a knee injury which just happened about a month ago or so. I don't know how long it will put me out for. I had to have an operation to take out a piece of bone inside my knee. I hope in two or three weeks I will be 100 percent fit again.

How did that happen?

During training I ran into the goalkeeper and my knee turned inside. Actually I was very lucky that I didn't tear my meniscus. That was the good news. But an injury is an injury. It's never good when you're not playing.

How did you end up in Belgium?

I started out at FC Copenhagen's School of Excellence in Port Elizabeth. I was one of the lucky ones who got the chance to go directly overseas. It was a great opportunity. I played in Copenhagen for about three-and-a-half years then moved to Belgium. I felt at the time that I was just ready for a new challenge.

How do you find living in Europe?

The first year I was in Denmark was difficult, away from my family and friends... it was a nightmare. I was just 18-years-old so I was still young. I lived with the family of the photographer at the club and they helped me settle in. The second year I was getting used to it all. I've been in Bruges for two years already. I've made some good friends and I've settled in well I think.

Where to from here?

First, I think I need to focus on the club, win some trophies and stay away from injuries. In the future I would like to go play in one of the big competitive leagues like Spain, England or Italy. Everyone wants to play for one of Europe's top teams. For me, I just have to work hard and see what happens. Where I end up in the future? well it depends on what I do now.

Do Club Brugge play in the big competitions?

Normally we are number one in Belgium but we're going through a small crisis because we lost four games in a row. So we're number three in Belgium. Only the league champions qualify for a qualification match for the Champions League and second place gets you into the Uefa Cup. There are six matches left so I hope things will change. Anything can happen.

It must be frustrating that you are not able to play...

Now that we're losing, it's tough to watch. I'm disappointed that I'm not playing now because I feel I could have contributed a lot towards the team.

What did you think of the African Cup of Nations in Ghana?

It was really good. We went with a strong young team with good intentions. I think we all played well. Although we went out in the first round, I do think we have a good squad with lots of potential. We gave it our best shot at Africa. But we probably weren't the finished product yet.

Are we going to see you on the field in 2010?

That's my dream, to play for my country at the first African World Cup. If I stay clear of injuries and get selected then it will be a dream come true.

How does it feel playing for Bafana Bafana?

It's always good to go back to the national team because you're with your old friends. It's a different atmosphere. I enjoy it when we are together and preparing for a game.

Your favourite moment in your football career so far?

When I made my debut in Denmark, I only came on for the last five minutes. But I scored a very important goal to contribute towards the championship. That was my most exciting moment.

Do you miss South Africa?

I'm not that homesick anymore. I go home twice a year to see my family. But sometimes you just want to go home, especially times when I am injured, you know? My plan is to move home eventually. I want to move back but you never know what might happen in the future. At the moment my sights are still set to go back home. I would definitely go back to PE. It's my town. I love it there.

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