Ajax has had a majority stake in Ajax Cape Town in South Africa since 1999. In the ‘Message from Cape Town’ column, we regularly focus on the African Ajax team. In this edition of the season, we present Jan Versleijen, Ajax Cape Town’s new interim coach.
Jan Versleijen is Ajax Cape Town’s new interim head coach. The Limburg native was on the bench for the first time this week for Ajax Cape Town’s practice matches, and is thus the group’s third coach for this season. Maarten Stekelenburg began the 2012/2013 season as head coach. Ajax Cape Town and Stekelenburg parted ways in October when the achieved results didn’t measure up to expectations. In the months since, Jan Pruijn has been doing the honours, and when the new interim coach is appointed, Pruijn will once again resume his duties as technical manager.
Football has brought 57 year old Jan Versleijen all over the world. After working at Dutch clubs like VVV-Venlo, Dordrecht, Go Ahead en Roda JC, he soon moved on to clubs in Japan, the United Arabic Emirates and Australia. In November 2012, the football nomad set down his suitcases in Cape Town. “I’ve been living abroad continuously since ’95-’96. I hadn’t planned it like that, but I find it interesting to transmit football ideas to a group in where another language, different customs and cultures are in play. The Ajax philosophy is very close to how I think of football. That was difficult to bring across in some countries, but here at Ajax Cape Town, the level is a lot higher than at other clubs abroad. Here, they’re working according to that way of playing starting with the youth academy. Then, you can start working on the details.”
Those details are very important, since Versleijen only has one aim from now until the end of the season: “I need to keep Ajax in the PSL league. We’re now only three points above the degradation threshold, and Ajax needs to remain in this division. This is important for the club, and for Ajax Amsterdam as well. You could say that it’s a matter of life and death. It’s an assignment, but one with potential. The entire defense and midfield consists of guys who have been trained in this club. It’s only the offense that’s made up of guys who have been brought in, but a few of them have played with Ajax Cape Town in the past, too. That gives them an advantage on centre forwards to whom you first would need to explain the way of playing. I have faith in these young guys. The practice match showed me that it looks good, but now we need to wait and see how they deal with the pressure of the competition.”
Versleijen’s contract runs until the end of this season. “I intend to go further with Ajax Cape Town. But let’s start with the next six months. I’ve worked in Australia for four years, and there I watched for a year and a half first. If it goes well, then we can take it from there.”