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 the ninth issue of this season, we re-visit Sander Westerveld. He made his debut last Friday evening with Ajax Cape Town in the home match against Cosmos, 1-1.
The last match that Sander Westerveld played with a standard team was in June 2011, when he was degraded with the Italian club AC Monza. Now, four months later, the Dutch player is once again in goal, with Ajax Cape Town. “It’s an advantage that I have so much experience. Although I do think that for a keeper, it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since he’s played. If the feeling’s right, he’s there”, says Westerveld, who looked back on his debut with Ajax Cape Town with satisfaction. “Last week, I was happy that my work permit finally came through, and that I was able to make my debut. Now I can do what I came here to do. Everyone here was satisfied with my performance, but we played a mediocre game. So you win from a top club like Orlando Pirates, and play to a 1-1 tie against Jomo Cosmos, which is at the bottom of the rankings.”
Westerveld had watched his new team play from the stands several times, but now he was on the field with them. “You can’t expect that I’ll be able to really help the players much in my first game. I haven’t really trained that much with the other players on the team yet. That has to grow. I’ll have to play a few matches before we can form a close group. Plus, this season, five key players left; there’s a new captain, and players are in new positions. All of that takes time. They need to get to know me. They need to know that I’m quick to run to the edge of the box, and I’ll try to throw the ball past the middle line. Or that I want someone to appear at the side, so that we can build up quickly.”
Linked to Westerveld’s entry is Sean Roberts’exit. In his time, he did a good job as first keeper. “My compliments to Sean on how he’s handling this situation”, says the Dutch keeper. “He’s dealing with it in a very professional way. It’s not as if he had been Ajax Cape Town’s first keepers for years and years. He was injured for 2,5 years, and was advised to quit football, but in the preparations we was fit, and things went well. Every match was a bonus for him and he even earned a spot with the South African national team. It’s a shame for him that I’m first keeper now, but that’s how things go in football.”
Westerveld doesn’t know if Cape Town will be like Ajax Amsterdam, with two keepers (Vermeer in the competition, Cillessen in the cup). “Coincidentally, I was thinking of that today. This weekend is the cup tournament, and I think, although I haven’t heard it yet, that I’ll be keeping in that match. It would be best for me right now to play as many matches as possible. But it would perhaps be a solution later in the season to let Sean play a cup match. Here, with three yellow cards, you’re already suspended, so it’s always good to have a fit keeper in the wings.”
The atmosphere in the Cape Town Stadium was different on Friday than it was against Kaizer Chiefs, as Westerveld experienced first-hand. “That match was sold out. Now, it wasn’t at all, and the stadium felt a bit empty. But the Vuvuzelas make enough noise. I now know that I need to explain what I need to my team mates during our practices, so that it becomes second nature during the matches. Those horns make it hard to understand each other on the field”, he says after experiencing it last Friday.