Celebration at Ikamva after Graham’s debut

Celebration at Ikamva after Graham’s debut

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. In this fifth edition of 2012-2013, we look at Travis Graham’s debut.

Travis Graham must have felt a bit like Joel Veltman last week. Ajax Cape Town’s 19 year old midfielder made his debut in the first team last Wednesday evening against Moroka Swallows. Three days after Veltman’s first official performance in Ajax 1, a small celebration took place at Ikamva roughly 10.000 km away.

Graham has been in Ajax Cape Town’s youth academy for ten years. Earlier this month, together with four other youth players, he signed his first professional contract. This was a milestone which was surpassed on Wednesday evening in the Dobsonville Stadium in Johannesburg, when he played his first minutes in coach Maarten Stekelenburg’s team. The defending midfielder’s first performance also marked a nice milestone for head of youth academy Corné Groenendijk, who has witnessed Graham’s development first hand over the last year.

Groenendijk: “Last Saturday, all of Ajax Cape Town’s youth teams played at home. After the first team’s training, Travis ran into several acquaintances. He received countless congratulations from his former coaches and team mates. And that nice thing was that he stayed at Ikamva for the whole day to watch all of the youth teams. It’s good to see that the guys don’t forget where they’ve come from, even after reaching their final goal.”

Graham’s debut was just a question of time. The football experts in South Africa have been talking about the self taught midfielder’s attributes for years. And last season, during the Copa Amsterdam, he convinced coach Stekelenburg. Groenendijk: “Maarten was in Holland on vacations, but went to look at Copa Amsterdam. It’s very important for the Ajax CT youth teams to participate in tournaments abroad like this. They are put to the test the most during these matches. That’s how we can see if they’re ready for the last step.”

In contrast to Musa Lebusa’s debut the previous week, the fans from Cape Town had to read about Graham’s debut in the newspapers. Groenendijk: “Unfortunately the match couldn’t be seen on television. That’s a shame, because then a debut match has less appeal for those at home. On the other hand, there’s been a lot of attention to his debut during the past few days. I personally congratulated all of the youth coaches for this great achievement. In the end, in Cape Town it’s all about developing players for the first team. We’re no different from de Toekomst in Amsterdam in that respect. This is what we all do it for.”