Hendrick Ekstein of AmaZulu FC during the 2023 Carling Knockout Quarterfinal match between AmaZulu FC and Golden Arrows FC at Moses Machida Stadium in Durban on the 04 November 2023 © Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Fresh out of celebrating his 33rd birthday on New Year’s Day, Usuthu attacking midfield sensation and newly announced Mitsubishi Ambitious Player of the Quarter, Hendrick “Pule” Ekstein has set his sights on big things in the second round of the DStv Premiership.

Voted by AmaZulu’s fervent fans through the club’s social media platforms, Ekstein’s indomitable spirit and remarkable contributions have earned him this prestigious honour in the Pablo Franco Martin coached side.

For his outstanding contributions and unwavering commitment, Ekstein receives a cash prize of R20,000 and a hamper courtesy of the club’s vehicle sponsor, Mitsubishi SA. He clinched the award amid stiff competition from ever reliable left back, Riaan Hanamub and central midfield ace, Celimpilo Ngema. 

Upon receiving the award, Ekstein graciously shared his thoughts on the standout moments of the quarter, highlighting two monumental derby clashes against Golden Arrows.

“For me, my best game would be the back-to-back derby victories against Golden Arrows in the league and the Carling Cup. Both were outstanding. You know how important derbies are for our supporters, players, the technical team, and everyone involved. In the Carling Cup, I contributed with an assist for a goal. Those games truly stood out,” expressed Ekstein.

Reflecting on the team’s performance in the first round, Pule acknowledged the team’s dominance in matches but expressed the need to improve in the second round.

“If I were to summarise the first round, we did well. We were dominating in the matches but lacked goals. Let’s hope in the second round we can convert chances and secure more wins. Maybe we can end up in second position. Let’s hope everything aligns in the second round,” he articulated.

It is now a thing of the past that a season ago, the former Sabail FK man spent 6 months without competitive action having fallen off the pecking order.

According to the Bekkersdal born man, the reality never took the wind out of his sail, but it instead pushed him to remain committed to fighting back for his place in the team with renewed confidence and aspirations. 

“I am hoping to see the team lifting a trophy. My wish and hope for next year are to contribute towards winning either the league or the Nedbank Cup. When you come to a team, you want to contribute towards getting silverware. That is my wish and hope for next year,” shared the talented midfielder.

Addressing the competitive environment within the squad, Ekstein emphasized the positive atmosphere driving the team forward.

“I think the competition is healthy. It’s making us push as players. Everyone in the team has played a role, showcasing the strong supporting structures within the team. We all love and support each other. We have strong competition, but it’s a healthy one. We support one another,” he remarked.

The recipient for the previous quarter was Ethan Brooks who had been shortlisted alongside Tshepang Moremi and Veli Mothwa.