Ajax has had a majority stake in Ajax Cape Town in South Africa since 1999. In our Message from Cape Town column, we feature the African Ajax team every Monday. In this season’s sixth edition, Corné Groenendijk, head of youth development, talks about what an important role model Thulani Serero is for the Cape Town youth players.
The newest export from Ajax and Ajax Cape Town’s collaboration is clearly an important role model for the youth players of Cape Town. Thulani Serero is aware of his status in his home country, and the last time he flew home for an interland in South Africa, he didn’t fly the usual Amsterdam – Johannesburg route, but instead flew Amsterdam – Cape Town, so he could, among other things, visit his former team.
“That shows what a great young man Serero is”, says Corné Groenendijk, who, since Maarten Stekelenburg’s promotion to head coach last summer, has taken over as head of youth development in Ikamva, which is Afrikaans for the Toekomst. “He didn’t have to do that, but he wanted to. He came to watch the youth players, and gained an enormous respect from them for doing that.”
Ajax Cape Town is very proud of the most recent player who successfully left Cape Town for Amsterdam. “Imagine that he would come here and give a ten minute talk to the players in the youth cafeteria. That would motivate them more than three weeks of training”, says Groenendijk. “He’s an example of a player who has made it. Two players drive in with me every day to practice because they don’t have their own transportation, and you can hear how much respect they have when they talk about his. It’s beautiful.”
For the Ajax Cape Town organization’s reputation abroad, it’s important that Serero shows what he can do with Ajax 1. Groenendijk: “He represents the good work we’re doing here. Our ambition is to send a Cape Town talent to Amsterdam twice a year. That would be fantastic! We have the potential, but we could use a bit more help; for example, extra financing, and exchanging knowledge are extremely important. The scouting could be better; then we could make more profit. The biggest problem most of the time with new players at Ajax is the playing style, but the guys from Cape Town have grown up with that playing style. The only adjustment is the new living environment. Many guys come from small villages, and suddenly they arrive and live in a house in a world class city. Obviously there is a lot at play with a transfer like that. Serero can play an important role with that. Together with, for example, Hennie Spijkerman, who has also been here, he could perhaps play a sort of ambassador role. That could bring us even closer together.”