Percy Tau's roaring start to life in Europe continues

Goalscorer Percy Tau and his Bafana Bafana teammates had to show fighting spirit to secure a 1-1 draw against Paraguay in the Nelson Mandela Challenge Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Percy Tau's fantastic start to life in Europe continued at the weekend when he laid on an assist and then scored a last-minute winner for promotion-chasing Belgian second-tier side Royale Union St Gilloise, the latest in a number of outstanding displays from the Bafana Bafana forward.

Tau, which means 'lion' in Setswana, is on loan at Union from English Premier League Brighton & Hove Albion, who he joined in August, but without the right qualification criteria for a work-permit.

He has been sent to sister club Union for the season and is flourishing, helping them not only with their promotion charge, but also a historic 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in a local derby in the Belgian Cup.

His latest heroics came as Union rallied from 2-0 down to beat Tubize, once the home of fellow South African Quinton Fortune, to keep their promotion push alive.

"It's been difficult in some aspects, but overall not so bad," Tau told KweséESPN in an exclusive interview in Brussels. "I'm learning quite a few things, but I expected it to be like this.. to be tested in an environment that I'm not used to with a language that I don't know. But in terms of football it's been good."

Tau moved to Brighton after a protracted transfer saga as Mamelodi Sundowns held out for what they viewed as a fair price, and says he always knew that he would be going out on loan this campaign.

"I knew I would have to go somewhere else to get my stuff [documents]. It is not a bad path, it's just a different path, but the goal remains the same. I was always comfortable with everything and how it went," he says, before adding that starting European life in the pressure-cooker of the Premier League could have been a challenge too great.

"To be honest, I'm actually happy that it happened that way because it has given me more time to adjust. I put so much pressure on myself, so to get into an environment that I am in now, it gives me the opportunity to get used to playing and living in Europe."

Tau has three goals this season, but more than that he has been a steady supplier of assists for teammates. He is satisfied with his first few months, but recognises that he needs to keep on improving.

"There is still a lot of progress that has to be done. There is still a lot of learning to be going on with me. But it [assists] is part of the package, part of being an attacker and a striker. Modern strikers ... a lot do that. It's an aspect of my game that has really improved."

Tau says he has been welcomed with open arms at the club and, seeing him interact with teammates, it's clear he is a popular member of the group.

"They are good people; they have tried so much to accommodate me, the players and the coach [Luka Elsner]. I am grateful to be at a club like that.

"There are so many memories that I have to capture and I have got a good objective to contribute as much as a I can to the team to help them win the league. I would have to take a lot of pictures with the trophy! It would be a good step for me, arriving from South Africa to come here and win the league."

Tau recognises that if he is to be successful at his club, he needs to make the effort to be a 'team player', but adds that it is something that has always been in his nature, despite his shy exterior.

"It's important to try and integrate with the other players and to see what is important to them in and around the team. Obviously we all want to win matches and, that being the case, we should all be moving in the same direction.

"I just get on and do my best alongside the other players. It is important for me to be a team player and I think I have done that, even at Sundowns and with the national team. It is important for me to keep on going in that direction."

The victory over Anderlecht in September was a first meeting in decades between two sides that were regular combatants in the early part of the 1900s. Tau produced a stunning assist for the opening goal as Union's Mali striker Youssoufou Niakaté scored a hat-trick on the night.

"It was amazing, but it doesn't give the same meaning to me as to people who are from around Brussels," Tau says. "It gave me a lot of pleasure that I have helped them with that small piece of history, something that I can always look back on.

"Before the match people were telling me that they haven't seen a derby in their lifetime! To score basically from their corner was amazing ... it shows we are doing well at training."