CAPE TOWN – Dutch goalkeeper Peter Leeuwenburgh will have his first taste of football in South Africa when he mans the Cape Town City goal in a pre-season friendly against Kaizer Chiefs at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit tomorrow afternoon (3pm kickoff).
The occasion is part of a new initiative, called the Mpumalanga Cultural Experience Cup, and it’s an ideal opportunity for head coach Benni McCarthy to test his squad in a competitive match in front of the sizeable crowd expected. With Chiefs the country’s most popular and best supported football club, it’s certainly a baptism of fire for Leeuwenburgh; the 24-year-old Dutchman couldn’t have asked for a better, more high-profile introduction to football in the PSL.
City have made their intentions known by making some really astute new signings, including Riyaad Norodien, Gift Links, Ivorian defender Kouassi Kouadja, former Kaizer Chiefs and Free State Stars striker Siphelele Mthembu, two promising youngsters Keanu Cupido and striker Karabo Ngwenya and, now, Leeuwenburgh.
John Comitis explained how the capture of the Dutchman came about.
“When we heard he had been released by Ajax Amsterdam, we struck quickly,” said the City boss. “Peter (Leeuwenburgh) was on trial with another Dutch Premier League team, so Benni and I used our historic connections at Ajax Amsterdam to make it happen. Peter loves Cape Town and it didn’t take too long to convince him to sign for City. The keeper completes our signings for now - Peter has a good pedigree and he and Sage Stephens will fight it out for the number one jersey.”
Both Comitis, as one of the founders of Ajax Cape Town, and McCarthy, as a former Ajax Amsterdam striker, still have an inside lane to the corridors of influence at the Dutch club.
Leeuwenburgh has represented the Netherlands at Under-17, U19 and U20 level, but did not manage to make the step up to the Ajax Amsterdam first team. He played his football for the Dutch team’s reserves - Jong Ajax. His ability, though, is not in question and City are expecting the keeper to make an impact on the PSL this season.
Comitis was also ecstatic at how McCarthy has gone about his work during the pre-season programme. The 40-year-old former Bafana Bafana striker was in his first stint as a head coach last season and it was essentially a case of learning on the job. Now, with the benefit of the experience gained over the last season, together with the mental impetus provided by having completed his Uefa Pro Licence, McCarthy is fired up to launch a real go at honours this season.
“Benni has come back to the club with new enthusiasm,” said Comitis. “It has been welcoming to see how hard and intelligently he has worked. He has applied himself and the confidence he now has after finishing his coaching badges is rubbing off on the players under his care.”
Looking ahead to the new season, which commences next Saturday when City host SuperSport United at Cape Town Stadium, it’s particularly in attack where the Capetonians want to be better this season, hence the arrival of Norodien, Links and Mthembu.
“We’ve got Riyaad (Norodien) and Gift (Links) to bolster the final third and new striker Siphelele Mthembu has a role to play as a target man. It’s looking really good. The Chiefs friendly is a great warm-up to our opening fixture next week (against SuperSport) - and I have to say that this is the most prepared we’ve been in a pre-season,” said Comitis.
Wingers Norodien and Links will provide pace, energy and invention out wide, while City are expecting goals from Mthembu and Zimbabwean Matthew Rusike. Last season McCarthy’s team played some great football, their build-ups were impressive, but they struggled in the final third of the field: the area that mattered with regards to scoring goals. It’s something the City coach has focused on heavily during pre-season - and it’s an area they want to improve upon this season.