Nice MTN8 opener in South Africa

Nice MTN8 opener in South Africa

Ajax has had a majority stake in Ajax Cape Town since 1999. In our Message from Cape Town column, we feature the African Ajax team every Monday. In the third issue of this season, coach Maarten Stekelenburg looks back on the first cup competition of the year, the MTN8 Wafawafa.

The MTN8 cup tournament final will take place next weekend in South Africa. Unfortunately, Ajax Cape Town will be spectators, as Maarten Stekelenburg’s team met their Waterloo in the semi-finals.

Ajax Cape Town’s brand new coach explains briefly what the cup tournament is: “MTN is the event’s sponsor, and eight teams participate. These teams are the eight top teams from last season. Wafawafa means the winner takes it all. And that’s meant literally: the winner gets 8 million rand, which is 800.000 euro. The losing finalist, and the remaining participants, get nothing. The format is that in the first match, the number 1 team plays number 8, 2 against 7, 3 against 6, and 4 against 5. As number 2, we played against Supersport United.”
Ajax Cape Town won that match, 5-2. “We started well and were ahead 3-0 at halftime. But we started playing at the back too much in the second half, instead of going for the 4-0. Supersport came back 3-2, putting pressure on us. A successful penalty, a red card for Supersport and another goal gave us the 5-2 win. I was pleased overall, but we had problems in the second half.”

After the first match, a draw was made for the follow up, which consisted of a home match and away match. Cape Town drew Kaizer Chiefs as their opponent, and Cape Town had to play the first match in Johannesburg. I would have loved to score an away goal”, said a disappointed Stekelenburg. “We had good chances, but we were actually satisfied with 0-0, although of course you hope to win, or at least to score. We played well at home, and had the match under control at the outset. Matches between Kaizer Chiefs and Ajax Cape Town are always exciting. We had opportunities, but they’re the ones who opened the scoring. We evened the score twenty minutes before time, and we tried to get to 2-1, but we couldn’t. My main take away from these matches is that we played well for a large part of the games, but we’re sometimes not aggressive enough. I want us to take more initiative, but it’s not always easy. Football players in South Africa are used to playing tentatively, which gives a discord in a team, and sometimes within a match. One player wants to go forward, the other wants to go back.”

In that respect, the MTN8 was a great warm up for the season. “I also see it as the start of the season, not the last stage of the preparations. It’s nice to play a number of matches at the highest level, and these matches are great for the public, and good for the players.” And he’ll go into the coming season with the players he currently has, as the transfer market is now closed. The team is – as good as – complete, and Ajax Cape Town is getting ready for its next competition match on September 14. Their opponent will be the Kaizer Chiefs again.