Ajax has had a majority stake in Ajax Cape Town in South Africa since 1999. In the Message from Cape Town column, we focus regularly on the African Ajax team. In this third edition of the 2012-2013 season, we talk to Ian Taylor, Ajax Cape Town’s trainer/coach for the under 19s. He has been spending time at the Toekomst during the past few months.
During the past season, Taylor and his team were welcome guests at the Eurotoernooi (Euro tournament) at FC Groningen, and at Copa Amsterdam. A finals spot in the north of the country and a semi-final in the Olympic Stadium put Ajax CT’s U-19 on the map. When the team returned to South Africa, the coach himself enjoyed a short holiday and, a few days later, reported to the start of the season with Ajax 1 in Amsterdam.
“In Cape Town, I had asked the director of youth academy, Corné Groenendijk, and director George Comitis if I could come here. They thought it was a good idea, and moreover, I’m going to do the KNVB international course in Zeist. In my first week in Amsterdam, I was able to go through the season’s preparations with Frank de Boer and Hennie Spijkerman. It was an amazing experience to work with these legends”, the 35 year old football lover from Cape Town says gratefully.
“I wanted to spend this summer investing in myself as a coach. I’ve never been a full time coach, but, as of January, the Under 19s at Cape Town are running a full time programme, so I am, too. I want to do that as well as possible. That’s why I was here at Ajax for six weeks, among which two weeks at Ajax 1, two with Gery Vink and John Bosman (Jong Ajax, ed.) and two with Fred Grim and Kenneth Perez’s A1. They’re all different, all open-minded, and I’ve learned a lot from them all.”
During this time, Taylor was accompanied by Said Ouaali, coach of the A2. “That was fantastic. He translated everything for me. It was so interesting to see how the coaching staff deals with players when it comes to possible transfers, especially with the psychological aspect, in those cases. Football here at Ajax Amsterdam is the same as with Ajax Cape Town; it’s mostly about the details. I want to try to put myself into my players’ shoes. Fred Grim and Frank de Boer were professionals themselves, they were led by good coaches and therefore know how players think and why they do the things they do. The fact that I’m teaching myself is good, but of course I make mistakes, and I learn from them.”
As of last January, the U-19 in Cape Town has started a full time program. This is a new step in Taylor’s career. “I’ve never been a full time coach before. I started with the Under 13s four years ago, one year later the Under 15s, then Under 17s, and last season and this season, I’m with the Under 19s. Now I want to push myself and see how far I can go in my development. Right now I’m single, so this is the time to invest in myself. I could be a head coach, I think. Through conversations with the coaches here, who also ask me what I think of some issues, I know that I’m on the right track. That’s why this internship was so valuable to me. When I get home to South Africa, I’m going to try to approach my players on an individual basis more. I want to make them better people, so that they’ll eventually be better players. And eventually, that should lead to more players streaming through to the first team.”
As far as Taylor is concerned, this won’t be his last visit to the Netherlands. The South African hopes to come every year. “I am going to take Dutch language lessons. I think that I can learn more if I can understand what’s being said, first hand. Now I can understand mostly through facial expressions and body language, but that’s not ideal. A basic knowledge of the Dutch language would be helpful.”