Words: ACFC Media
Wednesday 28 July 2021
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Former FIFA Club World Cup hero Dan Morgan is back in New Zealand and paid a visit to Kiwitea Street after an exciting two years in South Africa.
Morgan, 30, signed for Auckland City FC in 2009 and was part of the club's exciting run to a fifth-placed finish at the FIFA Club World Cup in the UAE.
Two spells with Waitakere United bookending a successful period at Birkenhead United came and went before Morgan rejoined Auckland City FC in 2017.
Morgan made a big impression in both stints with the Navy Blues where he made 62 appearances and scored seven goals.
He left Kiwitea Street alongside then team-mate and Solomon Islands international Micah Lea'alafa to sign professional terms with South African club Maritzburg United where he went on to play 44 matches.
ACTION - Dan Morgan swings in an assist for Thabio Kutumela
Now back in Auckland, Morgan is contemplating what the future holds.
"The football in South Africa was superb. There's a lot of talented players in South Africa and they could easily play abroad but because they become so famous there its an easy decision to stay put.
"It's a country of 60 million people and they all love football so why would you want to leave? The talent is unreal and the standard of football was good as well.
Morgan featured heavily for Maritzburg United and played in most of the venues featured at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa 11 years ago.
"Yeah, I ticked off a fair few of them around South Africa, but even the smaller venues can attract 15,000 to 20,000 fans, stadiums no bigger than Kiwitea Street.
"It's crazy. The derbies that feature the Pirates and Chiefs can get up to 80,000 fans," he said.
Morgan was released after two years with his contract at Maritzburg United ending and now the versatile defender-midfielder is on the look out for a new challenge.
"I'm a free agent and myself and the club parted ways but I haven't given much thought to what I'm doing footballwise yet.
"I'm happy to be back in New Zealand after two years away and after the pandemic. It wasn't too different to what happened here. In South Africa our lockdown lasted for three-and-a-half months or so.
"I was with Jeremy Brockie for most of the time and when it opened up but now there's a third wave.
While Morgan was grateful for the assistance of Brockie, he also speaks fondly of Lea'alafa whose time with Maritzburg was cut short.
With the club's ties to South Africa already strong because of the influence of Keryn Jordan, Grant Young and Ryan De Vries, expectations were high.
But Morgan says it seemed to come down to a lack of luck and timing for Lea'alafa.
"The fans took to Micah really quickly and the league loved him but the timing for him was unfortunate as he was struggling a bit.
"I think Micah could've made a big impact there and he got on great with all the players in the squad just fine.
"Everyone knew how good Micah was in training but translating that into form in matches was a struggle. Micah made some very good friends in South Africa, we both did, and we keep in touch with them," Morgan said.
Morgan saw packed stadiums, filled with passionate fans week in, week out and his mind is still blown by the passion and intensity of football supporters in South Africa.
"It's a simple fact of going to a game between two rivals and there are 80,000 fans are all there and they're all sitting there together.
"It's a footballing nation and its mind blowing how deeply the people love the game and their teams," he said.
His impression of South Africa as a country was wholly positive and its easy to see that it has made a deep impact on Morgan.
"South Africa as a whole has so much to give - places like Cape Town are second to none, they've got massive resources as a country and the people are fantastic.
"The people are so nice - they live with so little in terms of material wealthy but they'll give you everything they have to show their hospitality and make you welcome.
"It's an unbelievable country and although its going through some tough times right now, I would say to anyone that its a place you should try and visit some day and experience," he said.
While Morgan's South African adventure is over for now, the Auckland-born player said he would definitely contemplate a return to play in a country he lived in for two years.
"I would definitely be open minded to playing professional football in South Africa again. South Africa did so much for me as a footballer and as a person in terms on life experiences.
"It's gave me a pathway to experience things in my life that have made me grow as a person, a side of life I never thought I'd see.
"If the opportunity arose to go back and if it fit with my life and felt like the right thing to do then its definitely something I would consider again," he said.
While there are big questions for Morgan to figure out and he's not putting pressure on himself to solve them overnight, one thing he is adamant about is that he loves being back in Sandringham.
"It's great to be back at Kiwitea Street, its taken a month to get back here to see a game and I'm pleased the team is doing so well.
"Auckland City FC is a special football club and always will be," he said.
v Wellington Olympic, 11 March 2023, KO: TBC