CAPE TOWN - Ajax Cape Town chief executive Ari Efstathiou admitted there was a possibility that Dutch club Ajax Amsterdam could pull out of the partnership.
Last week, after a protracted fight, involving arbitration hearings and numerous court cases, Ajax had no room left to manoeuvre and were forced to accept their fate and play football in the NFD. The Cape club were relegated after arbitrator William Mokhari docked points for fielding Zimbabwean striker Tendai Ndoro, who he deemed ineligible.
The bizarre nature of the case, though, is that, as it stands, according to the ruling of Judge Denise Fischer, Ajax are still in 15th position on the PSL standings. What complicates the issue, and the reason for Ajax’s NFD decision, is that Fischer last Thursday granted the PSL leave to appeal. The process will take time - and the new season kicks off this weekend.
In the interim, what do Ajax do? As a football club, they can’t be in limbo; they need to play. But where? As the 15th-placed team in the PSL, all they are entitled to is a spot in the playoffs - but that has already taken place (without them). So, in the words of Efstathiou, stymied by “time and legal procedure”, Ajax had no choice but to accept their fate.
The PSL’s appeal against Fischer’s judgement will continue in a few weeks’ time, but it’s all academic right now. Even if Ajax win and are vindicated that they were correct in the Ndoro matter, the victory will then just be a moral one.
With all this, what’s the word from the Netherlands? Ajax Amsterdam own 51 percent of Ajax Cape Town - and, throughout the Ndoro matter, the Dutch have always been kept apprised of every decision taken by Efstathiou and his legal team, led by Advocate Norman Arendse.
“The one thing that Ajax Amsterdam couldn’t understand was the length of time this issue took,” said Efstathiou. “They couldn’t believe the process could be delayed for so long. Think about it, they are on the outside looking in, and asking themselves why does a decision take so long? They are obviously disappointed in what has transpired. I can tell you that they are backing the club - but I also have to say that they are considering their options.”
For Efstathiou, and Ajax, the preparation for the NFD campaign has begun. The Ajax chief executive admits there will be changes, but he is confident they can make their way back to the PSL. Most of all, he stressed that the club’s commitment to its youth policy will remain.
“With regard to youth development, we have been the most productive club in the PSL, and that will continue,” said Efstathiou. “We were in the middle of the Ndoro saga when we launched the Lambda Institute (the club’s new soccer school). We simply went ahead with it. There are obviously financial implications, so there will be changes. We will be forced to transfer some top players because we will have to balance the books. At the same time, though, we have to make sure that we reinforce the squad for the NFD.”
Ajax captain Mosa Lebusa is one of the players who could soon be on the move: he is on the shopping list of both Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates.