Ajax has had a majority stake in Ajax Cape Town since 1999. In the Message from Cape Town column, we focus on the African Ajax every Monday. In this issue, we take a look at the Under 19 selection, for whom a new program is being created.
Ajax Cape Town’s youth academy is becoming more professional. After the end of the summer break (it is currently summer in South Africa), which has now started for the youth teams and lasts until the end of January, head Corné Groenendijk hopes to be able to offer the Under 19 selection two practices per day. Moreover, these youth players will go to school. “The education system in South Africa is different than in the Netherlands. Grade school, called Matric, lasts until eighteen years of age”, explains Groenendijk. “If you make it through those twelve classes, you can attend university, college, or another type of professional training. But we have a large number of players who stopped early. So every day, they’re waiting around until the bus picks them up at three o’clock to take them to practice. Changing the program has several benefits. The most important one is that, by broadening the offer of trainings, we’ll get better players.”
Currently, the difference between the four weekly trainings for under 19, the highest team under the first team, and the twelve training sessions for the PSL team is big. Too big, the decision makers at Ajax Cape Town believe. “They need more practices to be able to catch up to the first team. Now we will practice at ten o’clock and three o’clock, and in between, they’ll go to school. The school is across the street and we’re collaborating with it, which doesn’t mean that the players will all be in the same class. The school pays for the education that the players received a scholarship for, so the club doesn’t need to cover all of the expenses.”
Groenendijk has done a survey with the players to find out if they think this is a good idea. “If we ask them if they want to go to school, I know what they’ll say. But we think that if they go back to school and use their brain, that they’ll be better off for it. We can’t force them, but we can strongly advise them. Players who are already in school and are in school during the morning practice will get an evening practice, because we’re not going to pull them out of school to train. The big group training in the afternoon is attended by everyone. It will be harder for everyone, but the end goal is to make better players.”