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 at Steven Pienaar, who trained with Ajax Cape Town this week.
When Steven Pienaar signed in the summer of 2000, he was the first player to sign a contract with the Dutch Ajax since the start of the collaboration between Ajax Cape Town and Ajax Amsterdam. After signing, he remained in Cape Town for six months, after which he came to Amsterdam in January 2001. In 2006, his stay in Amsterdam came to an end and he moved to Germany to play for Borussia Dortmund for one year. One year later, the club loaned him out to Everton. Last season, he traded that club for Tottenham Hotspur, after which he returned to Everton on a loan out basis.
It’s not the first time that Pienaar surprises his old club with a visit. After South Africa’s disappointing performance in the World Cup in South Korea in 2002, the midfielder paid a surprise visit to his former club. The Ajax man still was still wearing his official South African team kit. With his famous smile, he went to see all of the employees at Ikamva, took pictures with fans, and rehashed old memories. Things were the same at this last visit, ten years later. Pienaar will report to Bafana Bafana later this week for a traineeship with the national team. Considering that his club’s match against Liverpool, the Meyerside derby, scheduled for last week, was postponed due to the Reds playing in the Carling Cup final, Pienaar decided to practice with Ajax Cape Town.
“He has asked if he could train with us for three days”, said coach Maarten Stekelenburg. “That’s always possible at Ajax. Former players are always welcome to come to Ajax to work on their fitness. It was nice, because he still knows many of the players. He has played with them in the youth teams and they’re now on the first team. They saw a friend from the past return. The other guys know him from Bafana Bafana, of course. Because he plays in the Premier League, which broadcast many of its matches here, they also know his from TV. I had the impression that he enjoyed doing some Ajax trainings again.”
On Saturday, Ajax Cape Town played the derby against Santos. The team didn’t make it further than a 1-1 tie. Coach Maarten Stekelenburg wasn’t satisfied: “We could have done better, and taken advantage of the opportunities we had. We had something like seven great chances, against two for Santos. We didn’t do enough”, said the coach. In the South African competition, Ajax stands exactly five points behind the leader, which is exactly the same gap by which Ajax trails the leader in the Netherlands.