CAPE TOWN - It’s not easy being the head coach Ajax Cape Town at the moment, especially with all the uncertainty as to whether the club will be participating in the PSL or the NFD next season.
Muhsin Ertugral, the man tasked with having to negotiate his players through this tough period, acknowledged that it was a really tough situation - but not just for the players, for him as a coach as well.
With the court battles set to continue in the ongoing Tendai Ndoro saga, it has resulted in a rather troublesome situation for the PSL. Earlier this week, Ajax announced they will be launching an application to interdict the start of the 2018-19 season.
This was the Cape club’s response to the PSL’s decision to appeal Judge Denise Fischer’s High Court ruling which overturned arbitrator William Mokhari’s verdict that resulted in Ajax’s relegation.
But, with everything up in the air and in the hands of the respective legal teams, the human factor is often forgotten. So spare a thought for the bewildered Ajax squad, having to come to training every day, amid all this uncertainty, not knowing in which division they will be playing. “It is really difficult, that I can assure you,” said Ertugral.
“We don’t know the dates, we don’t know where we will be playing, we don’t know what is going to happen. But, for me, from a technical point of view, what I am doing is just to prepare a team; I’m not thinking about PSL or NFD, I am just focused on preparing the team - whatever happens, happens, but my job is to make sure that the team is ready.”
Ertugral wasn’t prepared to say too much about the Ndoro debacle, stressing that chief executive Ari Efstathiou had explained everything. “It is a very unique situation,” said the Turkey-born coach.
“All we can do is wait and see what transpires. What did we do wrong? When the Dispute Resolution Chamber said we could play Ndoro, we did; when there was a problem, we didn’t. For me, the most disappointing aspect of it all is a solution couldn’t be found during the season. Now we are about to start the new season and we are still waiting.
“But, on the plus side, it has given me time to dig deeper into the club’s talent. We started pre-season training early and I’ve had time to work very closely with the young players coming through as we’ve promoted another three promising young boys. I have also told all the players to keep their heads up during this difficult time.”
Efstathiou, too, emphasised it was critical the squad stays motivated. He understands their confusion, but it’s important they remain professional. “I met with the squad on Monday to explain the situation and why we are continuing to fight,” said the Ajax chief executive.
“We want them to focus their efforts on the field, not off the field. You can imagine the confusion in their minds not knowing whether they will be playing in the PSL or the NFD, but it’s about keeping the players in a professional frame of mind.”
Efstathiou added that it was just as tough for him, and for Ertugral, with regard to their preparation and plans for the future. “For a new season, it’s important to strengthen the squad,” he said.
“But, considering our situation, how do we strengthen: with PSL-type players or NFD-type players? Other clubs have all been active in the transfer market; we haven’t because we don’t know where we will be playing.”