POLOKWANE, SOUTH AFRICA - MAY 07,Foppe De Haan, Wilfred Mugeyi and Max Grunewald during the Absa Premiership match between Kaizer Chiefs and Ajax Cape Town at Peter Mokaba Stadium on May 07, 2011 in Polokwane, South Africa Photo by Lefty Shivambu / Gallo Images

I have to make a formal apology to Ajax Cape Town’s team manager, Max Grunewald.

As with most things, I try to take the sting out of awkward situations with a bit of humour. But I don’t really learn from my mistakes, because my jokes are normally not in good taste or the timing could have waited, say, another year or so.

Max walked past me on Tuesday afternoon when I was standing on the steps of Ajax’s headquarters at Ikamva moments after the club had announced that they have shown Maarten Stekelenburg the door.

But he wasn’t looking his normal cheery self; in fact, he looked the complete opposite. He was sad. I tried to cheer him up, but I think my attempt at a mood lightener probably made it worse.

“Don’t look so down, mate, there will be another one soon,” I quipped with the biggest and sincerest smile I could muster. Max paused, before walking on without saying a word.

Needless to say, I felt rather silly, and afterwards went up to Max and apologised for my attempt at being a smartarse. However, it was his response that made me feel even more foolish about cracking the “joke”.

“I know you didn’t mean any harm, but Maarten wasn’t only our coach, but also a friend. When working together, you become quite close,” he said.

I must admit I haven’t lost a colleague to the axe yet, although I do miss them when they go on overseas tours and leave me to do their work …

Max’s feelings on Tuesday were mirrored by Gordon Igesund a few minutes after Ajax’s press conference. The yellow tie he wore when he took questions about Steven Pienaar’s retirement from international football couldn’t distract me from seeing the pain in his eyes.

Max lost his coach, Gordon lost his talisman, and for a split second, a young German and a silver-haired South African had more in common than just the beautiful game of football. But as they say in the classic movies my sports editor Ian Smit goes dilly about, the show must go on.

For both men, that includes leaving the past behind and focusing on the future, because you can’t influence the past, but you can make a difference to the future.

For Max, it’s about making sure that the mood and the uncertainty in the Ajax dressing room is lifted and that the players are comfortable and focusing on getting back on track against AmaZulu on Saturday.

Igesund, who also lost Thulani Serero to injury last week, must now identify a man who can steer the Bafana Bafana ship through the rough waters of the African Nations Cup next year on home soil, as well as the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

They say every cloud has a silver lining, and hopefully, in the near future, both Max and Gordon will be floating on one.

And then – and only then – will I decide to crack another joke, one that is hopefully more appropriate …– Cape Tmes


@bennimccarthy17 (Orlando Pirates striker Benni McCarthy on the road to recovery): Hey everyone, hope u all are good and well? My recovery is coming along super nice and not long now till I’m back and ready to join the team.

@popeyekeet (Young Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Darren Keet is going to miss Steven Pienaar): Really sad to hear that @therealstevenpi is retiring from international football. It was always a pleasure to work with him. #gonnabemissed.


@de4no22: South Africa’s new midfield kingpin, Dean Furman, is set to play an important role for Gordon Igesund and Bafana going forward.

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