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 the African Ajax team each week. In this edition, we look at how Ajax Cape Town is moving forward after the departure of fired coach Maarten Stekelenburg.
A few days after Stekelenburg’s dismissal, Ajax Cape Town was playing against Amazulu in the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. Without a head coach, but with interim coaches Wilfred Mugeyi and Jan Pruijn on the bench, Ajax Cape Town was able to defeat fellow rankings bottom feeder Amazulu.
Mugeyi was clear beforehand about the importance of the Amazulu game. “This is a six point match. Whichever team loses will be in an even tougher situation than it currently is. Our team needs to put the past to rest and focus on the future.”
It’s nice when the desired results come, which was the case in Durban. Ajax Cape Town took full advantage of their one extra man situation which occurred in the 37th minute when the referee punished Ramson Zhuwawo for hauling down Ajax’s Bradley Grobler. The same player took unequivocal revenge for this foul against him by scoring the opening goal right before the break. He had the 0-2 goal at his feet as well, but he found the Amazulu keeper in his way.
Amazulu went for the tying goal in the second half, but keeper Sander Westerveld kept his team afloat with several good saves. Ajax thus posted its second win of the season, and the first in an away match. Naturally, interim coach Jan Pruijn applauded the result. “Maarten Stekelenburg said goodbye to the group with the words ‘make sure you play well, if you win, it feels like my win, too.’ It’s nice for everyone that it happens. We had made some changes before the match, and put the accent on defense. My message to the group was that we needed to forget about what makes football beautiful for a while and concentrate on working hard. Moreover, the players needed to make sure that they corrected each other’s mistakes. That hadn’t really been happening in the past weeks, for various reasons.”
In the meantime, the club management is looking to fill the head coach role on a permanent basis, and it is hoped that this will happen before October 27. The club had Foppe de Haan in mind to fill in on an interim basis. But the Friesland native would only have been able to be in Cape Town on November 16, and wasn’t able to commit to finishing out the season. That was too much uncertainty for Ajax Cape Town. “We may then have had to appoint a third coach in January”, said director George Comitis. “It’s better for everyone to appoint a coach now who can stay on for a longer period.”
Pruijn himself says that he’s one of the candidates to take over the position of head coach. “This is now the third time that I come in as an interim coach for Ajax Cape Town. So why wouldn’t I be one of the candidates?” asked the Arnhem native of the club management. “It’s not that I would leave if someone else was appointed. If a suitable successor for Maarten is found, then I won’t have a problem going back to being in the background, like before. We, Maarten Stekelenburg, Corné Groenendijk and I, were working on something good at Ajax Cape Town. We’ve had a setback now because of what’s happened with Maarten. But I’m motivated to continue to develop things over here.”
Pruijn will have his hands full with the first team during the upcoming weeks. This weekend, there is a cup match against Super Sport. “Not an easy assignment”, he knows. “Six guys at Super Sport have a history with Ajax Cape Town. So they’re coming home for a match. Everyone is focused on getting a good result.”