When I grew up, I was a big Everton supporter. I wanted to play in England, that was my dream. But as things worked out with Gordon Igesund, we went to Germany.
They didn’t show a lot of German football in South Africa back then but I did have videos of German games that came now and then on TV and I used to always tape them. In 1992 Gordon Igesund took me to Stuttgarter Kickers in the Second Division.
I was lucky because I had a few friends in the team – the goalkeeper that I later played with in the First Division was my friend. Thomas Tuchel was also there and he was my roommate. But I did get home sick for an amount of time and I said to myself: “if I give up this opportunity, I will never get it again”. So, I stayed.
I didn’t play so much in the Second Division and I dropped one league down and joined TSF Ditzingen and that is when things kicked off for me. I started to enjoy myself, I was playing all the time and that is when Bundesliga teams started getting interested. In 1995 I got a chance to go to SC Karlsruhe.
I scored sixteen goals in my first season but I was not getting a chance to play at first and Winfried Schafer was the coach. I said to him, “if I’m not going to play let me go out on loan” and his answer was: “no, you will get your chance”. A few weeks later he put me on at half time and I scored two goals and won the game and that was it. I was in. I never looked back.
I played with Thomas Hassler, who was a world champion from the 1990 World Cup and I had his poster on my wall. We had a good understanding with each other on the field and it was a wonderful season. I finished as a second top goal scorer in the Bundesliga and lost the German Cup Final [1-0 to Kaiserslautern]; it was unfortunate but a huge experience.
You get teams where there are players who welcome you and at Karlsruhe we were like a family. All the players were down to earth and not big stars, Karlsruhe was a small team back then. You can’t compare them to Bayern Munich or Bayer Leverkusen where expectations are high. We were a small team that stuck together on and off the field and that was a special feeling for me.
I didn’t know really much about what was happening in South Africa to be honest, I was in my world and enjoying it. But I found it hard to believe that there were no other South African players in the Bundesliga because South Africa had a lot of good players.
Even as a youngster, there were few boys in my age group that had done well and gone to England but couldn’t hold out because it’s not easy being put there alone.
As a kid it was my dream [to play in Europe] and I knew that I was going to get there. There was a time when I thought I was not going to stay, I was down and home sick. I said to my dad, “I think I’m going to come back [to South Africa]”.
And his answer was: “If you come back what are you going to do?” and he was right. If I came back, that was my chance gone. I said to myself, go to work and stick it out and things got better and better over time. I worked hard, I was not interested in doing anything and that is what helped.