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 African Ajax every Monday. In this edition, we look with youth academy director Corné Groenendijk to the AEGON Future Cup in which Cape Town’s Under 17 is playing.
This Easter weekend, Ajax will be all about the AEGON Future Cup. Top clubs from the whole world will take part in the renowned youth tournament. “And Ajax Cape Town is part of it”, says Groenendijk, illustrating the difference between his club and the rest of the field of participants. “I hope that we are able to participate in this tournament every year. We’re no Barcelona or Internazionale, of course. I think getting an invitation depends on our performance each year.”
And because it’s all about performance for Cape Town, it’s great that the team could already travel to Amsterdam last Thursday. “This tournament is a highlight for us, but where this adds value for us is in our preparation. Because the best players in Cape Town already play with Ajax, it’s difficult to find good matches in South Africa, with lots of challenge. We’re playing two practice matches this week; against Ajax and Almere City. That’s very important for us. Thanks to Ger Boer from Ajax, among others, we have a great program here. We’re with a host family for two weeks and feel so welcome and appreciated”, said Groenendijk, who has travelled with the team to supervise his coaches.
Before leaving, he prepared the parents, players, and staff for the trip. “I think we’re better prepared than last year. We showed the videos that Ajax TV had made during our visit last year. This year, the captain asked if he could address the team in the locker room each day before practice. I think that’s great.”
It’s not only the players who will gain a lot from these weeks. The staff will as well. “Two coaches have come along, Noel Cousins and Justin Hamburger. The last coach is the Under 14’s, and is doing a video analysis program. He’s had two long meetings here with Michele Santoni, Ajax’s video analyst. We’re hoping to make the most of the knowledge in Amsterdam, learn from it, and use it in Cape Town to move forward.”
The tournament starts on Saturday for Ajax Cape Town, with a match against AC Milan. On Sunday, FC Barcelona is on the agenda, among others. “Seven top teams are in the tournament, and Ajax Cape Town. We need to make sure that we do Ajax Cape Town proud. Most of our guys were born in 1996. This is a young team. We also have the least fame. I hope that we play as well as we can. That we can play our game and perform well.”
But Ajax Cape Town hasn’t just come to take what they can get. “No, we’re not only coming to receive,” says Groenendijk. “On Thursday, we’re going to a school where one of the host parents is a teacher, and we’re going to talk about the beautiful culture in Cape Town, and life in South Africa.”