It’s all about youth in Cape Town

It’s all about youth in Cape Town

Ajax has had a majority stake in Ajax Cape Town since 1999. In the ‘Message from Cape Town’ column, we focus regularly on the African Ajax team. In the fourth edition of the 2012-2013 season, Cape Town’s talents are featured.

‘No Youth No Future’ is Ajax Cape Town’s motto. Just like at Ajax Amsterdam, the belief is that the future belongs to the youth, and as such they need to be guided during their journey from youth player to professional. Two weeks ago, another good step was taken. Ajax Cape Town contracted five players from its own academy: Travis Graham, Ndumiso Vezi, Stefan van Neel, Keagan Dolly en Mosa Lebusa.

Graham is a defending midfielder who has been with the youth academy for more than ten years. Vezi is a left footed forward and Stefan van Neel, Ajax Cape Town’s Mickey van der Hart, is a talented keeper. Dolly is an attacking midfielder and Lebusa is the South African Mitchell Dijks. The talented fivesome may call
themselves ‘senior Urban Warriors’. The brand new first team players come from the U19 team which comes from the third League.

According to the Dutch coach Maarten Stekelenburg, it’s very important to let young players play with the first team. “Ajax lives from developing players for the first team. Not only in Amsterdam, but here in Cape Town, too” , he says. “You can do a great job training your players, but they’ll only learn that last piece in the first team. If you think that youth players are ready for the top level straight away, you’re making a big mistake. You need to make sure that they’ve practiced a lot with the first team, and have also played some minutes. That process is happening now.”

That same process is also happening 9.675 kilometres away, in Amsterdam. Young players like Viktor Fischer and Mitchell Dijks practiced with the first team for the whole pre-season, and even made their mark in a few matches. “You still can’t build on them every week, but they need to get to the level at which they can make the next steps. That’s a balancing act. If you put in too many youth players, you’ll be too weak. If you put too few in, it can go wrong, too.”

With these five players from the academy, and Koen van der Laak and Bradley Gobler who came from FC Groningen, the selection is almost complete. “You need a good balance between experienced players and youth, and all through the different lines. You need enough defenders, midfielders and forwards. We’re now finalizing the last details. We have our eye on a central defender from Nigeria, we’re trying to get him in. And we’re going to get two more players on a loan basis. Those are the last details that still need to be finalized.”