Since 1999 Ajax has had a controlling interest in Ajax Cape Town in South Africa. In this Message from Cape Town series, we regularly give updates on the African Ajax. In this sixth edition: Thulani Serero and Clayton Daniels’ Amsterdam internship as seen by assistant manager Hennie Spijkerman.
For six months Hennie Spijkerman was manager Foppe de Haan’s right hand at Ajax Cape Town, but then Frank de Boer called him back to Amsterdam. In Cape Town he had worked with both the South Africans who completed their internship in Amsterdam last week. The two players are the two best players on the Ajax Cape Town squad, which is a candidate for the title. Of the two, Thulani Serero is considered the greater talent, but then he is also five years younger than Clayton Daniels.
,,When I started there, I asked myself ‘is he really such great talent?’”, Spijkerman recalls. ,,But after he returned from an internship here in Amsterdam, he clearly made the switch. He returned a changed player, he had tremendous drive. These lads were lucky enough to have the Ajax Cape Town Under 17s here this week and they joined them in various activities. For the Under 17s that was, of course, a great experience, because Serero is the clubs biggest star. So it worked out to everyone’s satisfaction.”
Spijkerman feels that it is best to have players come over to Amsterdam from the age of nineteen. ,,In Cape Town the emphasis should be on training them to the age of eighteen. You mustn’t move them to Amsterdam too soon. You take them out of their familiar surroundings. The social circumstances are completely different over there. That’s why it’s a good thing for the Under 17s to be here for an entire week and see what things are like over here. The differences are huge. You mustn’t put a seventeen year old in a city. They have to overcome cultural differences. Things that we take for granted here, they don’t have. Thulani for instance, was still living in a township five years ago. The transition to Cape Town was already a big one and then that’s followed by the one from Cape Town to Amsterdam. It is our task to help them adjust quicker. I was only in South Africa for six months, but I had to get used to things again too. They have a much slower pace of living over there.”
For practice, less adjustments are needed. ,,The differences between practice in Cape Town and here at Ajax Amsterdam are few, because Foppe de Haan has been there for eighteen months now and he is a follower of the Dutch school. The differences lie mainly in the individual qualities of the players. They are greater here, than in Cape Town. Over there Thulani is the best and he can act at a slower pace. Here he has to do everything at a higher pace.”
Will the rest of the Cape Town selection benefit from Serero and Daniëls’ internships? ,,I don’t know”, is Spijkerman’s honest reply. ,,Their players are more focussed on their own performance, than on sharing experience. But this is what the collaboration is all about.”
Who knows, the internship of the two most important players may be that little bit of extra encouragement Ajax Cape Town needs to win the last three matches in the League and gain the title.