Pule Ekstein admits he wasn’t so keen to play in Azerbaijan, but it’s a different story now and the man is enjoying his football in Asia.
The ex Kaizer Chiefs midfielder is on a two-year contract with Sabah FC since joining them in late June and wants to stay put to see the end of it.
It wasn’t always like this. He needed some convincing from Bafana Bafana striker Dino Ndlovu to finally agree to the move.
Ndlovu, who’s now plying his trade for Zhejiang Greentown in China’s League One, starred for Qarabag in Azerbaijan.
“I don’t have any regrets (about the move). I was actually scared at first to come this side, because I didn’t know anything about the place and I didn’t know anyone (in Azerbaijan). It was difficult for me, but all thanks to my family and agent (Palesa Mkhize). They pushed me to come this side,” Ekstein explains to this site.
The Bekkersdal-born footballer was speaking to FARPost.co.za this week and he’s clearly adapted to his new surroundings, though he’s seemingly unhappy with the fact that his employers Sabah are bottom of the standings after seven outings in the 8-team Premyer Liqa.
“With the move, it helped that I spoke to Dino Ndlovu, who played here for Qarabag. His call convinced me to come, because he had some good things to say, including that I would have a chance to possibly play in the Uefa Champions League like he did with Qarabag.”
Now living in the same area as Ghana’s Michael Essien, who turns out for Sabail, Ekstein is certainly settled and impressing.
“Essien told me I play well and even though my team hasn’t been winning, he said he could see that I have the potential to make things happen. He encourages me a lot and we stay in the same estate, plus we go to the same gym,” Ekstein said.
Even more importantly, those that are associated with Sabah appear happy with the midfielder, who has played six matches. He was in the team of the week recently.
“Everybody has been happy from day one until today. The love they’ve shown me has made me feel welcome and the way they treat me, it feels like I’m at home in South Africa. It’s the same way they treat other players and the supporters are so happy with all of us. I don’t even miss home,” he continues.
As things stand, the 28-year-old has been enjoying his football on and off the field in Azerbaijan.
“Maybe I can go somewhere if there’s a team that inquires about me and my team agrees (to do a deal).
“But for now I will only come home in December and June when the league is closed.
“Now I’m here and I don’t regret anything,” he adds.