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Pienaar retires from international football

South Africa captain Steven Pienaar has retired from international football, preferring to focus on his club career at Everton.

Speculation was mounting over the future of Pienaar, 30, after he pulled out of manager Gordon Igesund's first games in charge of the nation, against Brazil and Mozambique in September, due to injury - only to appear for Everton just days later.

And Igesund revealed he received a phone call from the player on Monday night informing him of his decision.

"The way Steven Pienaar has retired is the right way. I think it was a tough decision for him," Igesund said.

However, the manager was unable to hide his disappointment at the news of losing such an influential figure but did hint at trying to persuade him to backtrack on his decision next time they meet.

"I am disappointed that Steven has retired from the national team," he told the South African Football Association's official website. "His presence and leadership is invaluable and could have helped us in our mission for 2013 African Cup of Nations and the World Cup qualification, but we must respect his decision.

"When I travel overseas to check on other players, I will try to have a word with him.

"The idea now is to build a team for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations tournament and the one to qualify us for Brazil 2014.''

The midfielder released a statement saying: "I'm proud to have played for and captained my country, and for that I thank you."

Igesund has named defender Bongani Khumalo as the new Bafana Bafana captain as he prepares for the upcoming friendlies against Poland and Kenya next week.

Pienaar made his international debut in 2002, and has featured for the national side at two World Cups.

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