Chiefs’new forward impressed by PSL standards
Few, if any, of Amakhosi’s faithful had ever heard of Gustavo Páez before his arrival at Naturena during the January transfer window.
However, the Venezuelan-born striker, who holds Italian citizenship through his parents, has already caught the eye with his early form and recently netted his first Kaizer Chiefs goal in the Nedbank Cup victory over Stellenbosch FC.
Two months into his African adventure, Kaizer Chiefs’ media team sat down with Tavo, as he is affectionately known, to catch up with him and to find out more about his experience thus far.
Question: You’ve been in South Africa for a couple of months now. How are you settling in at Kaizer Chiefs?
GP – I’m feeling comfortable here. My teammates, the Kaizer Chiefs staff and the rest of the technical team have really helped me to adjust to my new surroundings. I decided to take it one day at time, but I have settled a lot quicker than I had anticipated. I knew I was here to play football and therefore I had to adapt to the style of play as soon as possible. I am learning to understand the South African football culture. It gets better with each game played, getting the feel for the local game.
What were your impressions of South Africa and Kaizer Chiefs before you came and, after spending some time here, have your thoughts changed?
South Americans know little or nothing about South Africa and I had no idea that Johannesburg was such a world-class city. The standard of living and quality of life is much better here than at home. It is tough in Venezuela right now with the unstable political situation being a threat to the safety of the citizens.
On the football front, people know about Kaizer Chiefs, Pirates and Sundowns. For me, the game is very advanced in South Africa. The standard is high and the league is hard. There are no easy games. My dream is to play for many years, because I am really enjoying my time here.
You’ve now played a number of matches. Are you happy with your early form?
When I joined the team, I had just recovered from some minor surgery. I started slowly, worked hard with the physio and needed a bit of game-time to regain match fitness. I struggled with pace and stamina, but I’m now fully fit and can run for 90 minutes without any problems.
Who has been your toughest opponent thus far?
The game against Baroka wasn’t easy – the 2-2 result says it all. I’ve noticed that every game is tough for Kaizer Chiefs as other teams give 100% when they play against us. Basically, there’s no easy fixture. For us to win each match we have to give it our all every time.
How do you rate the level of football in South African when compared to where you have played previously?
I was telling my agent and my father that the PSL is very technical; there’s a lot of running and the teams pass the ball more than other leagues I have played in. You have to be very fit to make it here. I love this style of play, because it suits me.
Who are you closest to in the team?
(…with a big smile), I’m very close to George ‘Mido’ Maluleka.
Have your teammates given you a nickname yet? If so, what is it?
My nickname has always been Tavo – I always put it on my boots as well.
How did you find the Soweto Derby?
The atmosphere is unbelievable. I have played in and seen some big games in South America. For example, when Boca Juniors play River Plate, the whole of Argentina comes to a halt. The Soweto Derby is different in the sense that it’s more friendly and supporters get along. It’s not everywhere that you will see supporters mix and enjoy the game together. In South America, fans are separated and the police work very hard to ensure there is no violence. A lot of countries and soccer fans could learn a lot from the South African supporters.
What would you describe as your best moment since you got there?
Definitely the game against Stellenbosch, because I started the match and that suits me the best, because when one starts it’s easier to read the game. To score my first goal and get an assist was very special and I’m glad I could contribute to the team advancing to the next round of the competition.
Do you watch a lot of local football when not playing?
Yes, I watch as many games as I possibly can to study future opponents. That’s the only way we can improve as players.
Are you looking forward to play against Sundowns? Have you watched them?
Oh yes, I’m really excited. My wife and I visited my friend from Sundowns, Leonardo Castro, a few days ago and we spoke about how crucial this game is for our respective teams. We are both looking forward to playing against each other. We forget about our friendship on the field of play and focus on getting the three points. I’ve been watching a lot of their games and I know their style of play.
What is your message to the supporters?
We need their support in each match because they motivate us to give our best. We encourage them to come out in numbers and we will not disappoint them.
Amakhosi take on Mamelodi Sundowns on Saturday, 1 April, at the FNB Stadium at 20:15. Tickets for this match are available at Computicket outlets and Shoprite/Checkers stores.