Message from Cape Town: Ajax on top

Message from Cape Town: Ajax on top

Since 1999, Ajax has had a controlling interest in Ajax Cape Town in South Africa. In this Message from Cape Town series, we regularly give updates on the African Ajax. In this second edition, we focus on the great weekend that Ajax Cape Town had, reaching the top of the Premier Soccer League.

Coach Foppe de Haan’s young talents played their Friday night match against Free State Stars knowing that they would be in the lead for two days if they won. De Haan’s men won, 1-0. “Free State comes from the province of Vrijstaat, which is famous in the history books. It’s an extremely fanatic team and it was a tough match for us. The opponent plays long balls, and then sees how things go. It’s very English. The most clubs in this competition used to play like that, but now you see that more and more teams have started playing the European way. We had to work hard, and we scored a great goal from the Zimbabwean Billiat. We had chances after that, but didn’t convert. That’s a shortcoming of this team, and we’re continuing to work on that. It’s about making the right decision at the critical last moment.

De Haan, who has been Ajax Cape Town’s coach since 2009, is happy with his young team. “The players are easy to talk to. They train well. With so many young players, there are fewer players who are settled in their ways; this group wants to learn. It’s also clear that there’s more to the football than there was last season. They’re showing what they can do. Now they need to stay stable. The group’s mentality has been a positive surprise for me.”

Thanks to the win against Free State Stars, Ajax was at the top of the rankings, with a one point lead on the Orlando Pirates, former Ajax man Ruud Krol’s team. Pirates played against the number three team, Kaizer Chiefs, and the match ended 1-1. Ajax Cape Town and Orlando Pirates thus share the first spot, but Ruud Krol’s team has the better goal balance. “Whether the Pirates – Chiefs 1-1 tie is a good thing for us, remains to be seen at the end of the season. Pirates haven’t lost in fourteen games, but we’ve won the most games during the last series. I estimate that you need between 62 and 64 points for the championship. We have 46 now, with eight
games to go. So we need 16 more. What do we need to become champions besides points? We need to avoid injuries and suspensions. We’re a vulnerable team; we only have 21 field players and 2 keepers, which is the absolute minimum.”

De Haan had Brett Evans at his disposal on Friday, who had been captain until he got injured. Hans Vonk took over his duties during his absence. “Hans will remain captain”, revealed the coach. “Brett is a South African guy, sensitive to pressure. Hans is very relaxed and that’s important.”

How does Ajax Cape Town’s coach see the team’s chances at the title? “It’s between three teams, so 33 per cent. We’ll still need to play the Pirates at home and Chiefs in an away game.” Last season, the Urban Warriors ended the season in seventh place.