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 every Monday. In this edition, we look ahead to the competition in South Africa starting again.
In fact, competition resumes this Wednesday. Because of the Africa Cup during the last few weeks, the season had paused, although South Africa wasn’t participating in the tournament. “Our competition has the same schedule as in Europe”, says Ajax Cape Town coach Maarten Stekelenburg from South Africa. “But we’re the only African country where that’s the case. The other competitions go from March until the beginning of November, and there’s talk of bringing South Africa back to this calendar. With the African Champions League for example, it’s not really practical for us to have a different schedule.”
The calendar says that Ajax Cape Town’s season will resume on Wednesday. Maarten Stekelenburg’s team is currently in seventh place, with the same number of points as the 5th place team. Their opponent on Wednesday is Platinum Stars. “I’m happy that competition is starting again. We’re looking forward to it. The selection is in good shape. We worked well through the winter break, but we’ll see if we’re really fit when we play a match again.”
Ajax Cape Town prepared for the second half of the season by spending a week in Johannesburg. There, Maarten Stekelenburg’s team played two practice matches, against Bidvest Wits and TUKS University. The timing turned out to be perfect, because during the training camp in the eastern part of South Africa, a heat wave passed through the Cape. “That was fortunate”, emphasized Stekelenburg. “But we did it so we could play good matches. And we did. In Cape Town, we played a tournament with foreign teams during the winter break. We organized it using the Amsterdam Tournament as an example. So a point was awarded for each goal. Santos, the other club in Cape Town, won the tournament; we came in second. I was pleased. We won the first match on Friday 3-0, and I changed the line up on Sunday. We played to a 0-0 tie and I was satisfied with that.”
Unlike Ajax Amsterdam, Ajax Cape Town did make some moves in the transfer market, looking over their borders to do so. New to the club are Nigerian forward George Akpabio and youth players Toriq Losper and Kyle Peters have signed contracts. Clint Julius, also trained at Ajax, returns to the club after a spell with FC Tygerberg. Kyle Peters is the only one who is not a forward. He’s a keeper. With the four acquisitions, Stekelenburg’s selection has 25 players, neatly divided among the lines. 3 keepers, 8 defenders, 7 midfielders and 7 forwards. “Three of the new guys come from our own academy. No explanations are necessary; it’s just a step up for them. The Nigerian guy is an open minded, exuberant guy with a great personality. I’m not sure if I’ll let him start on Wednesday. But he’ll definitely be in the match selection.”
Can Stekelenburg give a prediction for Wednesday? “We’re in good shape and I have a good feeling about it. But you always need to wait and see if it will all come together in a match. You obviously hope that it will!”