CAPE TOWN – If you want to ascertain just how admired and respected a football club is, then a good pointer is always to look at the type of players they are able to attract.
Cape Town City may be only two years old as a club, but they have made tremendous strides in a short period of time.
More than that, their good work, both on and off the field, has not gone unnoticed.
And it’s the chief reason why a highly-talented, sought-after teenager like Gift Links decided to throw in his lot with the Cape side when he had a few other, more high-profile suitors for his services.
The 19-year-old didn’t come cheap and, when City boss John Comitis splashes the cash on a player, take note: as a former professional footballer with Wits, Hellenic and Cape Town Spurs, Comitis has a good eye for talent.
So, too, of course, does his head coach Benni McCarthy.
Between the two football brains, when Links became available, they never thought about it twice – and Comitis pounced to lure the teenager to the Mother City.
Links is originally from Vryburg in the North West, but his family moved to Rustenburg when he was young.
He takes up the story: “I started playing for Platinum Stars’ development team in 2011 and then, in 2016, I was promoted to the first team.
“While playing in the CAF Confederations Cup for Platinum, Egyptian club Al Assiouty Sport saw me. They were interested, made Platinum an offer, everything was agreed, and I signed.”
But, after spending six months in Egypt, things were to change for Links.
Al Assiouty Sport got a new, ambitious owner, with the club’s name changed to Pyramids FC; the new boss set about overhauling the team, bringing in a number of experienced, expensive coaches and players.
It was during this time, with all the changes going on at the Egyptian club, that Comitis inquired about Links’ availability.
When given the go-ahead, he hauled out a heavy chequebook to sign the teenager.
“Gift is an absolute talent who will provide us with greater impetus in attack,” said Comitis. “He has fitted in really nicely with the squad, and we are confident he will be a good acquisition for us.”
When asked about the move to Cape Town, Links had no hesitation in confirming that, in his mind, he had made the right decision. “Yeah, it was quite an easy decision for me,” said Links.
“Cape Town City is great club, especially if you look at what they have done in such a short space of time.
“Remember, they were only formed two years ago, so it’s amazing what they achieved.”
And, right there, in the words of one of the most promising young footballers in the country, you have an idea of the standing of City as a club – and how they are perceived by the players across the PSL.
Links may just be 19, but he is already on the Bafana Bafana radar.
He was a member of the SA national football team’s Cosafa Cup squad last month – and his performances at the tournament had head coach Stuart Baxter raving about the teenager’s potential.
The future certainly looks bright for the new City signing, both at club and national level.
“I want to do well to get more call-ups to the national team,” said Links. “Because of that, I have to make sure I work hard so that I can get the call-ups that I want.
“As for City, it’s going well and I think we are going to have a good season as team. The pre-season training programme is in full swing, and we are working very hard at training.”
When Links was born in 1998, his coach – McCarthy – was in his pomp at Ajax Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
While the teenager may not have seen much of his coach’s prowess, he would have grown up on legendary tales of the Capetonian’s scoring exploits on the big European stage.
Now, Links is in a squad coached by McCarthy – and the player has only one aim: to soak up all his coach’s knowledge and experience.
“Benni is such a good coach,” said Links. “I know that he will improve my game, and I’ll become a better player.”