CAPE TOWN - Ask footballers what they hate most about football and, invariably, they’ll tell you: injury. No player likes standing on the side-lines watching his teammates train or play competitively; he wants to be in the cauldron of action, contributing to the cause. And then there’s the recovery, the hard work to get back to match fitness, and the struggle to get back into the team again.
Ajax Cape Town striker Tashreeq Morris has, over the last two years, had to endure the frustration of injury, not once but twice. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during Ajax’s victory in the 2015 MTN8 final and spent a long time out of the game. On his return, he was starting to make strides again, and played for the South Africa Under-23 team at last year’s Rio Olympics in Brazil. But he was then to be struck down by something called osteosis, an injury affecting the pubic bone. Again, he was out for several months.
Now, as Ajax prepare for two tough fixtures on the road - Wits tonight (7.30pm kickoff) and Chippa United on Saturday - both at the Bidvest Stadium in Johannesburg, Morris is slowly getting back to the type of form that once counted him among the more exciting rising stars of the PSL.
The 23-year-old from Mitchells Plain admits he’s not fully tuned up yet, but he’s getting there - and he’s continuing to work very hard on his fitness, his attitude and his overall game. He’s shown some promise in recent weeks and even scored in the 2-2 draw with AmaZulu two weeks ago.
“It’s good to be back,” said Morris. “I haven’t played all that much over the last two years and, with the recovery and rehabilitation, I struggled to get back. But I’m feeling good again I may not be fully there yet, but it’s great just to be playing again.
“Coming to work with the physio over the last few months was frustrating. You watch the rest of the team training and work hard, and you can’t help. It takes a lot out of you emotionally.”
Massive week for the #UrbanWarriors in the #AbsaPrem as we take on @BidvestWits & @ChippaUnitedFC
Both games will take place at Bidvest Stadium on Wednesday and Saturday evening respectively. #WeAreAjaxCT 🔴 pic.twitter.com/drHS7IuKQN
On his return to action, Morris has found Ajax struggling. He is fully aware of his own responsibility in assisting the team to turn things around.
“As a striker, I know I have to get goals,” said Morris. “I also know that I can do better. If I score goals, it will be good for the team and we can start to get more points on the board. At the moment, my ambitions go hand in hand with the team. I want to score more. If I can score more goals, then the team will improve and start doing well again. I just want to focus on my job and, when I get the opportunity, to put the ball in the net. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself, I just want to approach things with a clear mind.”
It has been a rather strange season in the PSL. All 16 teams in the league, from top to bottom, are separated by just 10 points - and goalless draws have been the order of the day. In short, goals have been in short supply in the league. Why is that?
“I think what’s lacking in the PSL is consistency,” said Morris when asked for his opinion. “If you look at the other leagues in Europe, you will see the same names getting goals season after season. For example, in England, every year you will see Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy - the same players are among their top scorers every year. In the PSL, you see different names every season, because there is no consistency.”
As for Wits tonight, Morris has no doubt that Ajax are in for a difficult evening.
“I think both Wits and Ajax are the same, in that our log positions are not a true reflection of where we should be,” he said. “Both teams should be far higher up the standings. At Ajax, we have been good in the last few games, but have just been a bit unlucky. But we just have to soldier on and keep going.”