Imagine the anxiety this week under which Ajax Cape Town would have prepared for the must-win PSL clash against Kaizer Chiefs. And then also consider the tension and the pressure expected when the two teams meet on the final day of the PSL season at the Cape Town Stadium this afternoon (kick-off 3pm).
With all of this, you would think that it’s the type of situation for an experienced footballer to handle. You certainly wouldn’t wish it upon a 19-year-old midfielder still finding his feet and making his way in professional football. But the latter scenario is, in fact, the case as Ajax teenager Grant Margeman will have added years to his experience this week, and he will definitely grow up very quickly in the cauldron of expectation at the former World Cup venue in Green Point today.
Just two years ago, Margeman was finishing his matric at Modderdam High School, last year he was in South Korea with the SA U20 squad for the junior World Cup – and now, after a torrid season for his Cape club, he has to stay calm and rise to the occasion to ensure his team emerges victorious.
Ajax are second-last on the PSL standings and they need a win against Chiefs today to secure the club’s PSL safety. Margeman is fully aware that the stakes are huge.
“This is a massive game against Chiefs,” said the teenager. “But I’m excited, the squad is excited, and we are ready. We have taken the week day by day, we want to make sure that our nerves are settled going into the game. We have worked very hard this week on certain areas of our game, and on situations we can expect to get during the match. Most of all, though, we are focused on the three points, that is all that matters.”
As a kid who came through the Ajax academy, Margeman is fully aware of the need to ensure his club remains in the PSL.
“It’s important that we do this for the young players who come through this club in the future,” he said. “Over the years, many juniors like me have graduated to the PSL squad. They will be disappointed if we don’t win. The youth needs this club in the PSL and we have to make sure that we do our job (today).”
Margeman was also recently named in Bafana Bafana’s preliminary squad for the Cosafa Cup. It’s a clear indication of the progress he has made, from an aspiring junior to the hurly-burly of senior football.
“I was shocked to get the senior Bafana call-up,” said Margeman. “But I was also happy because it means that the coach (Stuart Baxter) has been watching and has seen my potential. It’s the Cosafa Cup, but I see it as a stepping stone; it’s an opportunity for me to continue to do well and perhaps get into future Bafana squads as well. I just have to make sure that I keep performing consistently.”
Ajax coach Muhsin Ertugral, too, has been happy with the progress of the teenager – and he was looking for the boy from Bonteheuwel to deliver a mature performance against Chiefs today.
“Grant is a good youngster,” said Ertugral. “He understands the zones and understands what is necessary in the structure we are playing.”