CAPE TOWN - Roger Links needs no introduction to football in the Mother City. A household name in Cape Town as a defender for Battswood during the era of segregated football, he became well-known countrywide while playing for Cape Town Spurs after unification.
Although he is a former Bafana Bafana captain, Links faces his biggest challenge as a coach after being placed in charge of new Cape NFD club, Ubuntu Cape Town.
The football face in the Mother City is changing. The old look, featuring traditional clubs which were almost indigenous to the region, is fading. Vibrant, ambitious new clubs are determined to grab a foothold in a market that is desperate for something new, something different.
Last year, Cape Town City did so in the top-flight PSL. Now, there’s a new kid on the block in the lower-tier NFD, with the arrival of Ubuntu.
Earlier this month, the Ubuntu Football Trust purchased FC Cape Town - and the new club will soon test the waters in the professional ranks. Michael Jenkins, a co-director at Ubuntu, gave some insight into the club.
“The Ubuntu Football Academy started in 2011 and for the past seven years it has been working with Fish Hoek FC as the grassroots partner,” said Jenkins. “It is a non-profit organisation, which also includes a schools mentorship programme. It has about 90 youth players from Under-12 upwards.
“We recognised that the final development stage of an aspiring footballer is exposure to the professional game.
“We always had an eye on getting into this sphere of the sport. So when the opportunity arrived to purchase the NFD franchise of FC Cape Town, we grabbed it. It provides us with a professional platform and the chance to implement our vision.”
Ubuntu use the Athletes’ Development Centre at Villager Rugby Club in Brookside, Claremont, for their conditioning and sports science needs, and train at the Groote Schuur High Sports Complex.
Links has mostly worked in youth football, at the Old Mutual Academy and Ajax Cape Town. His top-level experience was as Roger de Sa’s assistant at Ajax. Now Links has an opportunity to make his mark as a head coach.
“We inherited 14 players from FC Cape Town and we are in the process of adding to the squad," added Jenkins. “We have signed Bukhosi Sibanda, who was the top scorer in the Zimbabwe Premier League, while we are also excited to have Ethan Sampson returning to Cape Town. Ethan came through the African Soccer Development Academy in the Cape and played for Vancouver Whitecaps in the American MLS.
“We will also be promoting a few of our own youngsters. It is an opportunity for them to develop, though we are aware of the need to bring them on slowly rather than throw them in at the deep end.”
Considering the difficulty of the competitive NFD, what are Ubuntu expecting from their debut season?
“We are not thinking about promotion at this stage," said Jenkins. "The focus is on people, process and structure. We want to be competitive, but the top priority at the moment is to get the structures right. We want to make sure that we build the right foundation and, I think if we get success with the process and the people, and we build the right culture, we could even surprise ourselves.”
Ubuntu will be joined in the NFD by three other Cape representatives, Cape Town All Stars, Milano United and Stellenbosch FC. Santos were relegated from the league last season.