Ajax has had a majority stake in in Ajax Cape Town since 1999. In the Message from Cape Town column, we focus on the African Ajax every Monday. In this edition, we look back on Thulani Serero’s first six months in Amsterdam.
Serero is the last player who came to Amsterdam from Cape Town. Before him, Eyong Enoh, Steven Pienaar, Daylon Claassen and Aaron Mokoena made the same move. Before settling in the Netherlands, he first did several internships. The true test came last April, when, together with Clayton Daniels, he had to convince Ajax’s technical staff of his skills. He succeeded and the South African midfielder joined the team in June for the trip to De Lutte. “The level is higher, the club is bigger. In fact, everything is different. Fortunately, Ajax wasn’t completely new to me, since I’d done a few internships in Amsterdam”, said Serero after signing his contract with Ajax.
After preparations, he was given competition playing time right away. He made his official debut in the away match against De Graafschap, midway through the second half, substituting for centre forward Kolbeinn Sitgthórsson. He substituted four times during the first month of the season, and even played the full ninety minutes with Ajax 1 during the cup match against VV Noordwijk (1-3) on September 21. Six days after his national cup debut, another podium called his name. Barnabéu in Madrid. Seven minutes before time, 21 year old Thulani made his UEFA Champions League debut.
Serero will always be able to claim ‘I’ve played in Bernabéu’, said NOS commentator Frank Snoeks in the 83rd minute of Real Madrid – Ajax. In South Africa, his former team mates watched, and in the meantime several of them are vicariously living Serero’s dream: playing in the Champions League. “This was a great experience”, said the South African afterwards. “We played well.” He was less satisfied with his own performance. “It’s alright”, he said at the end of September. “But not as well as I’d like. It would have been good if I had scored against Madrid, but it clearly wasn’t meant to be.”
But it clearly was meant to be last week on Monday. The skilful, nimble midfielder played an excellent match with Jong Ajax against Jong PSV. He crowned his strong performance with a goal that evening, and was invaluable to his team in its 4-1 win. Last Sunday, he played with Ajax 1 once again, when he substituted and made good contributions to the 4-1 win against ADO Den Haag.
After the match against AZ, he’ll return to his home country for a short while. As he enjoys Christmas holidays, he’ll undoubtedly be reflecting on the year which saw his leave South Africa for the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, Serero is full of promise, in Cape Town, he’s a shining example. This will only strengthen the connection between Ajax and African Ajax even more.
This Saturday, Serero will be featured on Ajax.nl in a Christmas special with Aras Özbiliz and Nicolás Lodeiro.