Cape Town - Koen van de Laak made it abundantly clear, on signing for Ajax Cape Town, that he wasn’t here for a holiday.
At only 29 years of age, the Dutch midfielder is in the prime of his career. The experienced player, who had spent many years in the Dutch Eredivisie with FC Groningen, had come to the Mother City to do a job and to assist, guide and mentor the young players in the Ajax squad.
Even Ajax coach Maarten Stekelenburg was adamant that Van de Laak was good enough to be competing at the highest level in the Netherlands. So why was the midfielder here, then?
The motivation, as Van de Laak explained, behind his move to the Cape had everything to do with the player’s personality. He considers himself a bit of a wandering soul. He loves to travel. He thrives on adventure, on meeting new people, and immersing himself in new cultures and new surroundings, which is why he jumped at the opportunity to play in South Africa.
If there were any doubters, those who scoffed and suggested Van de Laak was just here for a lucrative career swansong at Ajax’s expense, well, then they would certainly be feeling a touch embarrassed now.
On Friday night, in Ajax’s 4-1 demolition of Platinum Stars, Van de Laak turned in a master class performance in midfield. Highly influential and involved in every offensive move, the Dutchman oozed class and pedigree. He had a hand in two of the Cape side’s goals and, as he gets fitter and more accustomed to football in the PSL, expect Van de Laak to be even more of a handful to opposition defences.
Another player who was impressive on the night was 19-year-old Keagan Dolly. Watch this kid’s progress. He looks a real special talent.
This was certainly the Ajax their supporters love to see. The sweet, flowing football, the intricate, intelligent passing, and, because of the addition of goal-poacher Bradley Grobler, the Capetonians now also have a reliable finisher.
Off the field, Ajax have one more exciting transfer on the horizon. Stekelenburg and Ajax chief executive George Comitis have been raving about Brazilian winger, Wanderson.
Ajax have registered four foreign players - Van de Laak, Sander Westerveld (both Netherlands), Khama Billiat and Paul Rusike (both Zimbabwe) - so there is still one slot available to make up their foreigner quota. This week, Ajax are expected to conclude negotiations to bring Wanderson to Ajax. The player is a free agent and is able to sign after the transfer deadline.
Also added to the Ajax squad is defender Taariq Fielies, from the club’s youth academy.
Leaving the team is Brent Carelse, for neighbours Chippa United. “With only one year left on my Ajax contract, I could not refuse signing a two-year contract with Chippa,” said Carelse. “It’s an opportunity for regular game time and the chance to stay in Cape Town, where my family has settled.
Midfielder Cole Alexander has also gone to Chippa, but his move is a loan deal until the end of the season.