Ayanda Patosi: ‘Iran were fighting with Donald Trump‚ and I was entering a warzone’
Ayanda Patosi has described his unusual surrounds in Iran‚ where he arrived in what was shaping up as a “warzone” in January‚ gets paid in Dollars in cash‚ and pre-Covid-19 played in front of crowds of 80‚000.
Following six-month stints at Esteghlal FC‚ also in Iran‚ and FC Baniyas in United Arab Emirates‚ Patosi (27) signed for Foolad as part of series of loan deals from Cape Town City to clubs in the Middle East on January 10.
That was seven days after the US had assassinated Iranian national hero General Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike on January 3‚ leaving that country’s government and American President Donald Trump sabre-rattling at each other.
“When I signed with Foolad Iran were talking about a war with America‚ and they were fighting with Donald Trump‚ and I was entering a warzone‚” Patosi told an online press conference of the SA Football Journalists’ Association from Iran.
“But I had no choice because at the end of the day I’ve got a family to feed‚ and they are depending on me.”
Patosi admitted his playing career has turned to the Middle East because of the lure of the US Dollar. He could‚ however‚ have earned more from clubs making offers in UAE but chose Iran because the life and football are better.
“I’m not getting a huge salary. But Iran are ranked second-best in Asia‚ so the league is good‚” he said.
“Normally‚ outside Covid-19‚ there can be 80‚000 at a game. And that makes the football more exciting.
“I was in Emirates for six months and didn’t enjoy it that much. The football there is not as good‚ and with a handful of people in the stadium.
“In Iran I’m more respected because I played for a top club before and did well.
“I’m at a team that’s organised. They have excellent training fields‚ a gym – everything a footballer needs.
“Our coach [Javad Nekounam] played in La Liga [for Osasuna]. Hopefully I can stay longer here. We are talking for a permanent deal.”
Patosi scored four goals in 13 league matches in his six months last season at Tehran-based Esteghlal‚ this past campaign’s runners-up in Iran’s Persian Gulf Pro League.
He had bright start at Foolad‚ who finised sixth‚ with two goals in four games. Then Patosi got stranded on a trip home to Cape Town by the global shutdown of air travel‚ eventually getting back to Iran via repatriation flights two weeks ago.
“I was stuck in Cape Town for four months. They cancelled three or four flights that I had to take to come back‚” Patosi said.
“In Iran I don’t get paid with bank cards. They give me cash and some other ways‚ sometimes they pay cheque. I get paid in Dollars and they [the Iranian players] get paid in their currency. So I didn’t get paid for four to five months.
“But I’m taking it back to South Africa. Life is cheaper this side. You can spend just $100 to $200 for two months on food.”
Mercurial attacking talent Patosi‚ who has 12 caps for Bafana Bafana‚ began his career as a teen prodigy in Belgium‚ playing six seasons there for Lokeren.