CAPE TOWN - Football’s capacity for wonder is, of course, universal and unparalleled. Ronaldo sent social media into orbit with a Uefa Champions League goal that could probably rank as the eighth wonder of the world; Mesut Ozil produced one of the most complete performances of midfield dominance in the Europa League last week; and, at the weekend, Paul Pogba galvanised an epic come-back in the Manchester derby.
It’s the football we all dream of. It’s the football we yearn for the moment we purchase our tickets for the stadium or settle down to watch a match on television. In the words of that great Uruguayan writer and football enthusiast Eduardo Galeano: “Years have gone by and I’ve finally learned to accept myself for who I am: a beggar for good football.
"I go about the world, hand outstretched, and in the stadiums I plead: ‘A pretty move, for the love of God.’ And when good football happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don’t give a damn which team or country performs it.” That, in a nutshell, sums up why we love this simple yet complex sport so much.
But, while I am able to concur with such sentiment, I’m just as much in tune with the opposite, ugly side of the game. I’m old school, which is why I believe just as much in heart, courage and good old-fashioned hard work.
Because, let’s be honest, football isn’t just about the pretty move; the flip side is just as crucial. And, for teams struggling to survive in the basement of the standings, it’s even more critical. Football is not just about beautiful, and all things sugar and spice, it’s also about the dirty and determined.
The pretty move may stir the emotions, but it’s the unattractive graft and commitment that, ultimately, gets more points and positive results. I was reminded of this when Golden Arrows produced a breath-taking performance of courage in defeating Cape Town City at Cape Town Stadium last week. While City were doing all the pretty build-ups in possession, Arrows stuck to the ugly hard work, and they got the job done.
Golden Arrows showed the way
So, Ajax Cape Town, are you listening? Were you watching that Arrows game? If not, can I suggest that everybody at the beleaguered Cape club watch the video of Arrows’ dedicated display of character in the face of adversity - because that is how a team in relegation trouble goes about getting the result that is required.
Ajax, for all their lofty ambition and admirable vision, are still mired second-from-bottom on the PSL standings. They are in big, big trouble. Let me put it this way for every player and every coach involved with the Ajax squad: you aren’t just playing for yourself, you are playing for everybody employed by the club, right down to the receptionist and lady who makes the tea.
This isn’t just about you - this is so much bigger than you. So, for the next five games, get rid of the ego, banish your own personal ambitions, and focus just on saving this club. The Mother City without Ajax in the PSL would be disastrous.
There’s the academy, football school, and there are still so many young, aspiring kids who look to this club as a path to a better future. And, just as importantly, there are so many ordinary, hardworking people behind the scenes who depend on this club for their livelihood. You are placing all of that in jeopardy.
To be honest, I just haven’t seen enough desire and spirit from this Ajax squad. I haven’t seen the fire in the belly stuff (which I saw from Arrows last week). Yes, I’ve heard the hard-luck stories of missed goals and the “we-should-have-won” tales.
But, in football, you make your own luck; the game rewards industry, commitment and dedication. Ajax haven’t shown enough of this, which is why they are where they are. With five games to go, it’s crunch time for the Cape side: It’s time to show some heart.