Ajax has had a majority stake in Ajax Cape Town in South Africa since 1999. In the Message from Cape Town column, we feature the African Ajax team every Monday. The eighth issue focusses on keeper Sander Westerveld, who finally got his work permit last Friday, and now can start competition play.
The keeper, born in Enschede, arrived in Cape Town in early August. Coach Maarten Stekelenburg had asked him to keep at Ajax Cape Town. It was exactly the challenge that Sander Westerveld had wanted for several years. “Three years ago, I was rejected by FC Utrecht because of my knee. You know it’s going to be tough after that, because no club will come near you, but I’ve always had faith in my knee. Clarence Seedorf called at one point, because he had started a project with the club in Monza, in Italy. He wanted me to go there and help him build the project. I did that for two years, with pleasure. I played about sixty matches in that period. You know that your career is almost over and that it will be hard to find a club when you’re 36 years old. I had a couple of options in the Netherlands, but I didn’t take them. Since my days with Sparta (2007/2008), I’ve wanted to go to Japan to the U.S. The rules have changed in Japan for foreigners, and there were no good clubs in the U.S. After great years with Liverpool – including Champions League football – and Real Sociedad, I wanted to have one more adventure. On a whim, I send Gerald Sibon, with whom I used to be in school, a message when he was playing his last match in Australia. He knew Foppe, after all. Could he perhaps call him and ask if we couldn’t go to Ajax Cape Town together?”
Foppe de Haan left Cape Town, and Westerveld didn’t think anything would still happen. Until Stekelenburg’s phone call. He did see potential in the 37 year old goalie. Unfortunately, it was a long wait until the work permit came through, and the six-time international had to miss ten matches. “They did everything they could at Ajax Cape Town. Finally, they went to Pretoria with our passports to get the required stamps. It was odd that it took this long, because after me, top clubs Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs brought in two foreigners, and they were able to start much sooner than I was. The only positive from the whole situation is that I had the time to settle in here with my family.”
Thirteen years ago, Westerveld left Vitesse to become a sensation at Liverpool. Now, the experienced keeper is going to work in the PSL League. “Yes, it’s time to get started. I’m itching to get going. Fortunately I have a two-year contract, with an option, so it’s not too bad that I’ve had to miss ten games. But I’ve been training a lot in these two months and I hope to make my debut on Friday against Cosmos in Cape Town. I’m hoping to make a contribution to this young team. They’re still somewhat disorganized on field, but the team has many attributes. Ajax Cape Town has won four of its last five matches against true top clubs. The potential is there. This is a team of the future, and I think I can give them a lot thanks to my experience. Sean Roberts, who has been in the goals until now, is doing a great job. He was injured for 2,5 years, but he was able to play again at the start of this season. He was immediately recruited for the national team. The other keeper, André Petim, is a good keeper. But in theory I should become the first keeper.”