CAPE TOWN - Ajax Cape Town start their journey in the NFD this weekend and, despite all that’s gone before, a mood of optimism continues to prevail at the club. After arbitration hearings and court cases with regards to the eligibility of former Ajax striker Tendai Ndoro, the Cape club was eventually forced to accept its relegation from the PSL.
Now they have shifted focus and are determined to win their way back by taking the NFD by storm. It won’t be easy; everybody involved with the club is aware of that. The NFD is a difficult league to get out of. First up for the Urban Warriors will be an away game against Jomo Cosmos in Vosloorus on Sunday (3pm kickoff).
For the NFD campaign, Ajax coach Mushin Ertugral has beefed up his squad with new acquisitions like Raymond Monama, Shu-Aib Walters, Thendo Mukumela and Guy Stephane Bedi. The 29-year-old Monama is a seasoned professional, having played in both the PSL and NFD for clubs such as Black Leopards, Mamelodi Sundowns, Pretoria City, Polokwane City, Royal Eagles and Platinum Stars.
Veteran goalkeeper Walters arrives from neighbours Cape Town City, Ivorian forward Bedi has continental experience from playing in Tunisia, Morocco and for top side ASEC Mimosas in his home country. Mukumela, a promising 20-year-old defender, was signed from Sundowns; he was a member of Bafana Bafana’s Cosafa Cup squad last year, where Ajax central defender Mario Booysen was his captain.
Booysen’s presence will certainly be crucial for the Capetonians this season, not just in terms of experience but his leadership too. “The team is looking good. We have been in pre-season training for about two months. It has been a real roller coaster for us, with the court case and then the final decision taken,” said Booysen.
"We were hoping for the best, but it didn’t go for us and we find ourselves in the NFD. But the team is ready. There are a few new guys in the squad and they will obviously add value. The team is looking sharp for the game against Cosmos, but we know it’s not going to be easy.
"For us, this is a new league and it’s a fresh start. It’s something to look forward to because, at the end of the day, it’s still the four lines that we are going into. We just have to play for the team and put the team first.”
But, as much as Booysen is optimistic, he’s just as honest about the challenge ahead: “We know what is waiting for us - away against Cosmos won’t be easy and we will also have to adapt to the pitches in the NFD. But, mentally, we are ready; we want do well. We want to do our best for the badge. And we know, as a group, if we stick to the game plan, then anything is possible.”
Saturday: Real Kings v Witbank Spurs; Uthongathi v Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila; Maccabi FC v TS Sporting; Royal Eagles v Stellenbosch FC
Sunday: Richards Bay v Ubuntu Cape Town; TS Galaxy v Cape Umoya United; Pretoria University v Mbombela United; Jomo Cosmos v Ajax Cape Town