Soccer Betting News - SA's Leading Soccer Betting Newspaper: Exclusive interview: Keagan Buchanan – My mentality gets me through everything

Exclusive interview: Keagan Buchanan – My mentality gets me through everything

Keagan Buchanan

Fans have finally returned to Premier League Soccer action after many moons as Soccer Betting News chats with a fan favourite, AmaZulu midfielder, Keagan Buchanan. He shared the experience of Usuthu going through a lot behind closed doors from highs and lows in AmaZulu’s debut at the CAF Champions League to a change in faces at the helm of the Zungu family-led emerging giant. Now with stadiums open to us football lovers, Keagan also opens up about the experiences abroad as well as in his own backyard, including where he draws inspiration from, and how others can build themselves through any walk of life.?

Recent Injury trouble

At the end of an era at AmaZulu, as new manager Brendan Truter was ushered in, one of the key Usuthu midfielders watched from the sidelines.

“I was out for about two weeks… I hurt my shoulder in Algeria (Against Es Setif) and played against Raja (Raja Casablanca) with an injury, and after Raja, I couldn’t anymore. I missed the last Champions League game and the game against Baroka.”

Brendan Truter at AmaZulu

It was, however, a quick reintroduction to the team for Keagan, making his first appearance under Truter as a substitute in a 1-0 home victory over former club Maritzburg United over the last weekend. Keagan’s first impressions on Truter.

“I have had four sessions now… The way that he (Coach Truter) plays, my style will not be the same, and I know that because I had an idea of what he likes before he came (to AmaZulu). He wanted me at Swallows. But, I mean, I am a professional, I have been in the game, going towards my tenth year in the PSL… When there is a change in coaches, there is a change in style, you just have to open up your mind. I have played in many systems along the years. The system that he wants to play is something that I am comfortable with, and I always have a positive mentality, I know I am a team player, and I know I can’t hide my qualities.”

AmaZulu’s CAF Champions League Experience

AmaZulu had an unprecedented 2020/21 DStv Premiership campaign, finishing in the top two for the first time in their history. Their best ever league finish earned the Champions League qualification route for Usuthu, and they had to overcome a massive hurdle in TP Mazembe along the way.

Many teams express the difficulties in traveling away from your home in Africa, but with new regulations imposed by CAF President Patrice Motsepe, life on the road is becoming a lot smoother.

“Against Nysasa I almost scored a hat-trick, hit the bar thrice… Going away to TP Mazembe was a new experience, playing on Astro turf, 40 degrees, they’re very intimidating, and bullyish, but we overcame it, we were good on the ball, and killed their momentum…”

“When we went to Morocco we were treated well, when we went to Algeria we were treated well, we went to the best hotels, the food wasn’t what we wanted it to be, but it wasn’t bad food. There are different cultures that side and you have to adapt, but it wasn’t that hectic. I know that on the last trip when they (AmaZulu) went to Guinea, apparently, they didn’t have training grounds, and had to train at night with no lights… (In terms of fans) I guess the fans against TP Mazembe were rowdy in the beginning, but then we won (qualified) they gave us a standing ovation.”

AmaZulu had their efforts rewarded with CAF Champions League football, and the coincidence or fate of having a UEFA Champions League winner manage Usuthu through their first experience would see them pick up massive victories and really let the continent know they were never going to be a pushover.

“Going into CAF, people never gave us a chance… I think we threw it (CAF Champions League) away a bit. Who would have thought AmaZulu would go into the group stages and beat Setif and Horoya? You learn that in that Champions League if you lose balls or that critical set pieces in that part of the field, they will punish you. Because it’s hostile that side, the referee is not always favourable. When we played Setif here (Moses Mabhida) we should have beaten them six or five. The team realizes that if someday we get to play again on that level, we have to be more clinical.”

Keagan Buchanan

Benni McCarthy ranks high in coaches Keagan has worked alongside

Keagan has worked under many legends of the football game in his time at the top, Ernst Middendorp, Eric Tinkler, Clinton Larson to name a few, but where does Benni McCarthy rank among those names?

“Benni is a winner. He does not settle for anything less than winning, its in his DNA. It was good for me to play under him, I learnt a lot. I played a football style that was more suitable to my style of play than what I played at all the other teams. I did enjoy my football under Ernst, Larson, and Eric and all the coaches I played under... But he helped me, made me more comfortable on the field. What Benni brought to AmaZulu is a big team mentality, he changed that perception of the club, he gave us a chance.”

Looking for and giving inspiration

Through experience, hard work and a positive mindset, Keagan has established himself as one of the more notable football players across the PSL. Where does he draw inspiration from? Who does he rely on to get him through the tough times and what are the plans going forward?

The early days looked an enjoyment of the ride, before finding himself in one of thee football schools on the planet.

“I started playing soccer in the street, and then my mother said to me, do you want to join the team down the road? I joined Vasco da Gama when I was seven… six months later I played in a tournament and Ajax scouted me, and that’s when my perception of football changed.”

Players look up to players, and Keagan is none the different

“When I was younger, I liked Steven Pienaar. One of the best players to play in the league (Brent Carelse) … I was able to watch Brent and train with him every day. From an outside perspective, I enjoyed Teko with Teko Modise, especially when he moved from the wing into the midfield. Watching overseas football, players I look at, your Xavi’s, and Verratti, he’s probably my favourite player. Players who have a similar build and similar playing style to me.”

“You obviously have to have perseverance as a youngster, it’s not always going to go your way. You might find there is a boy ahead of you getting signed first, or getting promoted, and it can leave you feeling despondent - stay focused. If you work hard and you believe in your ability, they cannot stop you. I have had three ACL injuries… My mentality is what gets me through everything.”

Who gets you through the now, and what does the future hold?

“At every club I have been every coach has been supportive. And I have had amazing medical teams who have helped me get through my injuries, including my family and my friends, but at the end of the day, it’s still up to you to get through it.”

“My fiancé asked me the other day (Where would you have been without football?), and I couldn’t answer the question because I don’t know what route I would have gone if I didn’t join Ajax at seven. If I look at my mindset and where I am, I would have probably done something in the creative space. It’s the avenue I’m kind of going into now (fashion)…”

Piece by Joshua Gaillard