CAPE TOWN - Ajax Cape Town have always been at the forefront of youth development and, now, they have taken it one step further with the launch of their very own soccer school, which will be called the Ajax Lambda Institute (ALI).
The school is up and running, with the first seven players already under way with the programme. Former Santos skipper Duncan Crowie is the head of the school. It operates alongside, but independent of the club’s successful youth academy, in that when the building of the facility is completed in June this year, the players will be housed, fed, trained, developed and educated on site at the school.
The first seven chosen to go through the school went through a rigorous vetting process, with criteria such natural talent, physical attributes and mental capacity. The chosen few are Aden Dreyer, Andrew Fortune, Bongolwethu Siyasi, Cade Erickson, Kegan Johannes, Luca Diana-Oliaro and Patrick Fisher. Once the programme is in full swing, they are expecting about 30 players to be housed at the school, which will then stretch to 50 as soon as phase two of their vision is put in place.
In addition to football training, the educational and academic aspects of the school will be serviced by Generation Schools, and there will also be leadership programmes which will focus on emotional intelligence, self-control aspects, goal-setting, team work, self-motivation, attitude and coping with obstacles.
“We are excited by this new venture and strongly believe that this step will set the trend for youth development on the continent,” said Ajax chief executive Ari Efstathiou.
Crowie, a former Bafana Bafana player, was overjoyed to be part of the programme.
“This is an historic occasion,” he said. “Ajax have always been enterprising and dynamic when it comes to youth development. This takes it one step further, in that we are now able to develop players holistically.
“In the past, as we have often seen in football, youngsters fall through the cracks for various reasons. With this school, we can avoid that. I’ve always believed that hard work beats talent, if talent does not work hard enough. Here, at this school, we will be able to develop players to become better versions of themselves. And if they become better, then Ajax, the club, becomes better.”