Ajax has had a majority stake in Ajax Cape Town in South Africa since 1999. In the Message from Cape Town column, we focus on African Ajax every Monday. In this edition, we look forward to Ajax Cape Town’s first match in the Nedbank Cup, an exciting new knock out competition in South Africa.
After last Saturday’s derby against Santos (1-1), coach Maarten Stekelenburg can prepare his team for the first cup match in the Nedbank Cup. On March 11, African Ajax faces Amazulu in Durban. “It was interland week last week. Unfortunately we only had one international this time, George Maluleka. There are two guys from Zimbabwe, who are usually internationals, but they weren’t called up this time because there’s still an investigation going on about bribing, and Zimbabwe is involved. But I expect that they’ll be called next time. Now that we only missed one player last week, we were able to practice well so we’ll be ready for the cup match at Amazulu.”
The Nedbank Cup was set up five years ago as the only competition of its kind in South Africa. The competition contributes to the development of football in South Africa. It gives amateur teams the chance to play against professional teams. The competition set up has sixteen teams from the PSL league (South Africa’s Eredivisie), eight from the Premier League and eight amateur clubs in one tournament. With a prize of twenty million Rand (almost 2 million euro), it’s the most lucrative competition.
At the start of February, coach Maarten Stekelenburg went to Johannesburg for the Nedbank Cup’s draw. They got Amazulu, 2010 finalist. “We could also have drawn a third division team. That would have been simpler”, said Stekelenburg. “But now we know what we’re dealing with. Every year, there’s a club which surprises everyone by making it quite far in the tournament. Last year that was Baroka, who made3 the semi-finals by defeating big clubs like Mokoka Swalows and Kaizer Chiefs. A bit like we had this season with GVVV in the KNVB Cup. And of course with Jong Ajax, who reached the semi-finals of the big cup tournament. That gives the tournament an extra dimension.”
The competition started last Friday with a 24-0 win from Johan Neeskens’ Mamelodi Sundowns , a record score, and Ajax Cape Town will play its first round match on the last day of play. A tough period starts for Stekelenburg and his men. “We’ll be playing four matches in ten days. We’ll play big clubs like Kaizer Chiefs (away) and Sundown (home). In these two weeks, one competition isn’t more important than the other, but I’m going to see per match which players I need. You can’t make everyone play four matches in ten days. We’ll be keeping an eye on each opponent’s strengths. For example, if they are strong at headers, then we’ll see which of our players we can put against them. We can do great things in these ten days, or we can blow it. We obviously hope it will be the former!”