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, on the second day of 2012, we look forward to the second half of the competition.
After the practice from Thursday December 22, coach Maarten Stekelenburg said goodbye to his players for several weeks. He’ll see the injured players next Wednesday, and the others will report to the Ikamva training complex next Monday in preparation for the season’s second half, which starts on February 15.
Competition play has stopped due to the Africa Cup, but South Africa didn’t qualify. The other Ajax Cape Town internationals haven’t qualified for the final tournament either, resulting in an unnecessarily long summer break from the South African competition. Despite the long break, the Ajax Cape Town players will only have two weeks’ summer holiday. “I don’t like to break for long”, confesses Stekelenburg. “Fitness deteriorates quickly during those weeks. Now we have six weeks until competition resumes, and we can build up slowly. After the first week, we’ll go to Johannesburg to practice against good clubs. After that, there’s a big tournament in Cape Town. We don’t need to go away more than that. We have the best conditions in all of South Africa, so why should we leave?”
A short evaluation of the first half of the season shows that Cape Town has had ups-and-downs. “Looking back on the first half, we had a great start and we were on top for a week. After that, we had a severe dip and you can see that we miss the experience to get good results even in lesser matches”, said Stekelenburg in retrospect. “But we’ve grown as a team during the last months. We’ve become more stable”, analysed the Dutch coach, who welcomed valuable asset Matthew Booth, and brought two psychological coaches onto the team. “We’ve been working on this for three and a half months and it’s going well. The psychological coaches are also involved with the team during match preparations and I feel that it’s paying off. Although I have to say that I don’t think that it’s one specific thing which is giving results, but a combination of factors.”
Leading up to the second half of the season, it was critical for Ajax CT to win the last matches before the summer break. And they did. “We can be proud of ourselves for that. If we had lost those matches, it would have been a shame. Now we’re sharing fifth place with three teams, and the differences aren’t that great, and we’ll come out of the summer stop in good shape. We’re still hoping to bring on another player within the transfer window to reinforce our team. In addition to that, we’ll move up four Under 19 players to the first team. That’s our ambition. The most important thing for us is to select the correct players to go through, we don’t want to switch too much, but we want to fit the youth players in. We don’t need to be champions, but our aim is to earn a spot within the top five.”