Ajax has had a majority stake in Ajax Cape Town in South Africa since 1999. In the Message from South Africa column, we focus on the African Ajax every Monday. In this edition, Khama Billiat and George Maluleka look back on their internship in Amsterdam.
The idea was for the Ajax Cape Town players to report to Amsterdam in pairs. But two weeks ago, when Khama Billiat joined Ajax 1, he was alone, and George Maluleka was going through the week on his own, too. The other two were injured. “That was such a shame for them”, said the 23 year old South African international on behalf of his team mates. Maluleka wasn’t even able to talk to Billiat about his experience the previous week. “No, he had forgotten his telephone here, so I couldn’t call him.”
For Ajax Cape Town’s website, Billiat looked back on his internship week in Amsterdam, and his experience doesn’t differ much from Maluleka’s. “Everyone is so nice at Ajax”, said Billiat, and his team mate emphasized this too. “That’s different with us”, said the midfielder, who trained in Europe for the first time and gained a lot psychologically. “The mental aspect of football is much better in the Netherlands, and actually in all of Europe, than at home in Africa. Everyone is so focussed here. It’s a privilege for me to be here.”
Although it’s a shame that Maluleka travelled alone to the Netherlands, he’s not lonely at Ajax. “Thulani is a good friend of mine, and I also know Eyong Enoh. Just like Hennie Spijkerman”, said the midfielder, who joined in 2009 from Supersport. “I’ve become a better player at Ajax Cape Town. Foppe de Haan was very important to me. I came to Cape Town as a midfielder, but he put me in midfield. And I like it there; I play a lot, and even became a South Africa international.”
He’s an international who, unfortunately, is with his club and isn’t playing in the Africa Cup which is currently taking place. “That still hurts”, laments the footballer, who was born in Tembisa (meaning hopeful), about his country’s dramatic elimination from the tournament (South Africa thought that a tie would be enough to qualify, but this turned out not to be the case). “It could have given South Africa a great boost, but it unfortunately didn’t work out that way. It was a big disappointment.”
All the better for Maluleka that he can be in Amsterdam to showcase his talents to Frank de Boer and his colleagues. But the first thing he’ll tell his friends when he returns has nothing to do with football. “‘It was so cold!’ will probably be the first thing I’ll say. “But on the other hand, it’s stinking hot in South Africa right now, which isn’t nice, either. What I learned this week was on-field communication. I also learned a lot from the directions I received from De Boer, Bergkamp and Spijkerman during the practices. I’m curious about what Frank de Boer will tell me when I leave. I hope that I can come back if I learn a lot and improve.”
Ajax Cape Town resumes competition play on Wednesday February 15.