Ajax Cape Town’s Sjaak Swart

Ajax Cape Town’s Sjaak Swart

Ajax has had a majority stake in Ajax Cape Town since 1999. In the Message from Cape Town column, we feature the African Ajax every Monday. In this edition, we focus on Brett Evans. The 29 year old captain has played for Ajax Cape Town his whole life. He’s also a part time coach in the youth academy.

No, he doesn’t know who Sjaak Swart is. Mister Ajax’s name doesn’t ring any bells. But Ajax Cape Town’s left back has more in common with Swart that meets the eye. Namely, Evans has played the most matches by far for the African Ajax team than anyone else. He doesn’t know exactly how many. “It’s definitely more than 300”, he says. “I was extensively honoured last season for that.”

It would be hard for him to match the 603 official matches that Sjaak Swart played, admits Evans. But the nickname ‘Mister Ajax Cape Town’ is music to his ears. It’s clear that the captain has a special bond with the Cape Town club. Via the ‘School of Excellence’ in Johannesburg, he was recruited directly to Cape Town at the end of the ‘90s by Seven Stars, which was one of the clubs from which Ajax Cape Town originated in 1999. “It’s definitely not common to stay with the same club for so long. But I don’t want to leave here. If it’s up to me, I’ll play for Ajax Cape Town for as long as I can. Realistically, though, I’ll need to make room for the youth players when the time is right. There are a couple of talented left backs coming up from the academy. They’ll need to get their chance at some point, too.”

His involvement with the youth academy can be partly explained by his own background. “When I see everything that’s possible today, I’m a bit jealous of the current generation of Ajax Cape Town youth players. As a young football player, I didn’t get all of the professional training they have now.” This explains why he devoted himself two and a half years ago to his part time job as assistant coach of the U-12 team. “I think it’s amazing to teach young players something. Especially with all of the facilities, knowledge and experience that we have. I think it runs in the family, as my sisters are teachers too. Also, I’ve always been captain and a big team player. I always want to be involved. I train the youth players three times a week. I mostly miss their games because I’m playing myself at the weekends.”

South African international Evans can, like no other, appreciate the Dutch influence at Ajax Cape Town. “It’s great that Maarten Stekelenburg is our head coach. Because he was in charge of the youth development program for so long, he knows the club through and through. His successor, Corné Groenendijk, is ensuring that the youth academy gets raised to a higher level the ‘Dutch way’, thanks to his knowledge and football vision.” When the name Foppe de Haan is brought up, Evans breaks into a smile. “Foppe…he was a father figure for everyone in the club. Most of all, he was an amazing coach who gave talented players the opportunity to develop into stars. Thulani Serero is, of course, the greatest example. And the name Foppe will always be linked to the near – championship from last season. When I think back to that, I could kick myself. We were so close. But they’re still great memories.”

With his work with the academy, a future as an Ajax Cape Town coach seems evident. “Most players only start to coach after their playing career is over. I’m fortunate in that I can combine coaching with my active playing career. The coaching experience I’m building up now is very valuable. Hopefully it will be useful later on. Right now, I couldn’t ask for anything more. I’m cherishing everything I have here at Ajax Cape Town.” And, after a short pause: “Well, come to think of it, the 400 match milestone would be pretty great. And if we get to that stage, I’m sure the club will remind me of it.”