Ajax has had a majority stake in Ajax Cape Town in Africa since 1999. In the Message from Cape Town column, we regularly focus on the African Ajax team. In this 2012-2013 season’s edition, coach Maarten Stekelenburg looks back on the first competition match against Supersport (1-1).
Ajax Cape Town played its first competition match of the new season on Friday, against Supersport United. The Pretoria based club is an opponent to be reckoned with. “Supersport always ends at the top of the League. In the last four years, they’ve won the championship three times. It was a good test for us right away”, says Maarten Stekelenburg a few days after the competition opener.
The sister club from Cape Town played fairly well against Supersport. There could have been more to get for Stekelenburg’s team, but they didn’t get any further than a 1-1 tie. “We deserved a bit better than 1-1. We unfortunately got behind 1-0 after the break. A ball wasn’t played back properly by defence. We subsequently switched some forwards and took out one defender. Ten minutes before the end, we scored the tying goal. After that, we even had some chances to win the game.”
Their next competition match is against Moroka Swallows. “They’re also known to be a strong opponent. They ended up at the top last season. The match against Supersport is good for our confidence. It’s only our first match of the season. Of course it’s better to win, but as long as your result is good, it’s fine.”
The club from Cape Town is more than ready to start the new football year. Coach Maarten Stekelenburg has prepared his men well during the pre-season. Ajax Cape Town played a few practice matches against amateur clubs, but weren’t really tested until a friendly match against Manchester United. Stekelenburg’s team not only held their own very well, but were perfectly able to put up a good fight and even opened the score against the English club. The match ended in a tie (1-1), to the head coach’s satisfaction. “For the players, it was really special to play against a team that you only see on television. This created extra energy and the players got really charged up for such a special match.”
The match against Manchester United happened two weeks before the end of the pre-season. People were so happy in Cape Town with the 1-1score that all Cape Town supporters were pumped up for the new season. “It’s not that we didn’t have any work left to do. We’ve definitely used the past two and a half weeks to bring ourselves up to a higher level. I think that we’re ready now.”
Stekelenburg says that Ajax Cape Town has become stronger. “We got Koen van Laak of FC Groningen. Moreover, there are five players who got promoted from the youth teams to the first. We’ve become broader as a group, and quality wise, we look good. I have high expectations in the new season. I think we’ll do better than last year, when we only finished in ninth place. Our goal is to end this season in the top five.”