Eleazar Rodgers ready to give his all for Ajax Cape Town
JOHANNESBURG - Ajax Cape Town striker Eleazar Rodgers says having had to step up and help the Urban Warriors return to the elite division next term, following the death of his father through Covid-19, has been a silver lining.
Vincent Rodgers, 65, is one of the more than 15 000 mortality cases that have been reported in the country since March, following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic which resulted in a state of disaster.
But as the government relaxed the regulations of the imposed lockdown, an inch of normality, under the new normal, was restored. In August, football returned after a five-month long hiatus, resuming in a ‘bio-bubble’ in a bid to combat the spread of the virus.
However, Rodgers and company endured the worst restart in their campaign as they squandered a seven-point lead at the summit of the GladAfrica Championship standings. In the last two days of the season, they were pipped by Swallows FC for the title and automatic promotion.
“With regards to lockdown, injuries and all that, there were a lot of things that threw us off rhythm,” Rodgers said.
“Initially we were excited when we had a 12-point lead. And we’ve been trying to manage the game and see where we’d get more points.
“But we didn’t perform as we normally did, since the restart. Teams came out to beat us. And they managed to score and we didn’t in certain games. That counted against us in the end. Things happened so far and we couldn’t believe it ourselves.”
The Urban Warriors got a second bite at the cherry through the relegation/promotion play-offs. But instead of grabbing the opportunity with both hands they’ve stuttered, with two wins against Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila and a loss to Black Leopards.
However, a player who’s been determined to drag the Urban Warriors back to the elite division, following a two-season absence, has been Rodgers, who returned to the club at the start of the season.
In the bio-bubble play-offs, the lanky striker has scored four goals in their two wins against Tshakhuma - one in Ajax’s 3-2 win in the first game early this month and a hat-trick in their 5-1 victory on Tuesday.
Rodgers may have been around the block long enough to know the importance of stepping up during crunch time, but he believes that the personal setbacks that he went through in these trying times gave him strength to come back stronger.
“If that really happens (and we get promoted) it would be an encouragement to someone out there, to those who’ve really gone through a lot or has big dreams to achieve,” Rodgers said.
“Blessings sometimes come through difficult times. We don’t have to drown in our sorrows. But we can rise up and still make the best of the opportunities that we still have, as long as they are available to us.”
Ajax’s fate in the promotion play-off is slightly out of their hands. They are second in the four-match round-robin mini tournament with six points and level with leaders Leopards who have a three-goal advantage and game in hand.
The permutations for the Urban Warriors to return to the elite league next season are easy: defeat Lidoda Duvha tomorrow at Rand Stadium, and bank on them to lose or draw in the last game against Tshakhuma on Monday.
“It’s definitely out of our hands. But we must still do our part, considering that we still have to play Black Leopards. It’s our last game but we must win and score enough goals. So that, if it comes to that, we have a chance,” Rodgers said.