We have this special interview with leading candidate for the SA PSL’s Golden Boot, Andrea Fileccia, thanks to the Premier Soccer League.
PSL: How did a young player from Belgium follow the path to South Africa?
Andrea Fileccia (AF): “I was invited for a trial by (then Free State Stars coach) Tom Saintfiet last July. At the time, they didn’t know about me and I didn’t know about them. But after a week, I signed a contract that was offered to me, it was with (General Manager) Mr. Rantsi Mokoena. Before signing I had a very good feeling after talking to people at the club, so I decided it was a nice challenge for me. I also felt it would be a very good personal experience…playing football in a totally foreign place where the culture is completely different from what I was used to.”
PSL: Did you know much about this country at the time?
AF: “Well not really. The only thing I did know was Nelson Mandela. His story was a crazy one and what he did for the country was remarkable. So that’s all I really knew. I didn’t know anything about the football at all. That I only learnt very little about once the World Cup was held here in 2010.”
PSL: And the club you were signing for – was there any knowledge about them before joining?
AF: “I must admit when coach Saintfiet first called, I went onto the internet and searched for the club. When I had a look at the squad, I saw there was a Daniel Cardoso listed and his last name sounded Portuguese. So then I thought if there’s other players from Europe at the club, it means there is something attracting them. So I knew that much and I also knew they were struggling on the log. But that didn’t worry me and I decided to come along and once I met the team, I realised this was a better team than what the log was reflecting.”
PSL: So you’ve been here for 18 months now and you have another 18 or so to run on your contract. What do you make of the standard of the Absa Premiership and South African football in general?
AF: “I was very surprised because the level was actually quite good. Obviously there is still a lot for them to improve on, but the general feeling was a positive one. South African footballers are very skilful, they have good technique and the stamina is excellent. The football is very fast compared to what I was use to in Europe, where the game is a lot more tactical. So I think the game in general is on the right path. I mean if you just look at what Orlando Pirates has done in the last few years in the CAF competitions, it says a lot about the country.”
PSL: Back to your move here. You must have lost some hope when Tom left the club not long after you had joined?
AF: “I never did because I believe in my ability. I know my qualities as a player and even though it was disappointing, it’s part of football that coaches come and go quickly. So I remained committed, I never missed a training session, I was always on time, so nothing changed, even though I understand your thinking behind this question. But I never gave up.”
PSL: There have been some coaches in between then and now. Themba Sithole and Kinnah Phiri were both in charge and now there’s Ernst Middendorp, another European. What do you make of him?
AF: “He is a very good man and we have a good relationship. He is a coach, who is a workaholic, if I can put it that way. He is the first at work and the last to leave. He is different and I’ve never come across anyone who works as hard as him. He is very professional in whatever he does and confidence is something he aims to instil in everyone. He is very experienced both as a player and a coach, so I rate him very well.”
PSL: Moving to current matters and the main reason why we have you in the hot-seat, your form. You are top of the scoring charts, how does that make you feel?
AF: “Personally I don’t spend too much time thinking about being the top scorer in South Africa. Yes, it will be an honour if I can get this award, but more importantly for me is just to score goals regularly and contribute towards the team. The club as a whole has targets for the season and first and foremost it is vital for me to make sure I can help them reach those goals. If along the way I end up being the top scorer, then so be it.”
PSL: We’re not sure if you are aware, but no one has scored more than 15 goals in the PSL for a few years now. Is there incentive for you in that?
AF:Last year my friend (Moeketsi) Sekola scored 14 goals, it will be good to match that. But honestly speaking, I don’t want to set myself up for disappointment. It’s best to take things game-by-game and contribute to the team. That way there’s no unnecessary pressure.”
PSL: Lastly, we must ask about life in Bethlehem. It must be a big adjustment having to swap life in the city for a farm town?
AF: I come from Mons as you know, which isn’t too far from Brussels. I had a big social life back home, with my siblings, my friends, my family and my girlfriend. Whenever I had free time, I’d spend it with them. Here in Bethlehem things are very different. It’s a very small town, there’s only one mall and that is a very small one too. I do have friends, but there’s nothing much to do. When I arrived, it was a big shock, but I’ve adjusted now.”