CAPE TOWN - The Mother City’s two PSL clubs are already hard at work in preparation for the new season. And the important thing about sport is that whatever happened before, counts for nothing.
Cape Town City captured the imagination of the public in their debut campaign last season, but how will they go this time around?
Ajax Cape Town continued their erratic form last season and only managed to move away from the danger of relegation towards the end of the campaign. Will they improve this season?
The answers to the questions will only be revealed once the new season gets under way next month. For now, here’s a brief update on what’s been happening at the two Cape clubs:
AJAX CAPE TOWN
The big news at Ajax is, of course, the shake-up in the technical department, with prominent roles for two of the Mother City’s most famous football sons: Boebie Solomons and Duncan Crowie. Undoubted stars of the sport during the era of segregated football, both Solomons and Crowie have transferred their playing success to the craft of coaching.
Former Santos stalwart Crowie has focused primarily on youth football and this season he takes up the position of head coach of Young Ajax, which refers to the Diski Challenge (Reserve Team) and the club’s Second Division outfit.
Much-travelled former Cape Town Spurs midfielder Solomons, now 62-years-old, who has worked at Santos, Wits, Maritzburg United, Black Leopards, Winners Park, Polokwane City, Cape Town All Stars, Milano United and FC Cape Town, takes up a new role as an assistant coach to Stanley Menzo.
Former Ajax Amsterdam goalkeeper Menzo continues to serve as the head coach, while last season’s assistant, Mich d’Avray, is now the club’s Head of Football, a position which will see the former Cape Town Spurs and Perth Glory coach in charge of all football matters at the Urban Warriors.
Former Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Hans Vonk is the Head of Youth and he will be assisted and advised by respected Dutch mentor Foppe de Haan.
On paper, it’s a real dream team - but football is not played on paper. It’s played between the four white lines by fickle and temperamental footballers. Considering how poorly Ajax have performed over the last two seasons, the one thing they are going to need is a quality, settled squad, determined to give their all for the club.
Already, a month before the start of the new season, the situation around Rivaldo Coetzee is threatening to derail their preparation. The 20-year-old Bafana central defender, who still has two years left on his contract, is currently absent without leave. He has not returned to pre-season training, and the word is that he is not a happy chappy. Nobody is talking, not Ajax, not Coetzee and not the player’s agent, but speculation is that the defender wants clarity on his future. He believes his high-profile role at the club deserves a better salary - and, if Ajax are not prepared to meet his financial demands, then he wants to leave.
In addition to Coetzee, another player far from happy with the manner in which he has been treated is veteran Nathan Paulse. The 35-year-old has been released because the perception is that he has “retired”. Not so, says Paulse. The striker has not yet retired and is hoping to meet with his former employers to get some clarity on his situation. While Paulse, who gave Ajax many years of loyal service, is already focusing on the next phase of his career - he is currently doing the Caf C coaching licence - he believes he still has the energy, the drive and the hunger to perform in the PSL.
New signings at Ajax include striker Sedwyn George, who picked up the NFD Golden Boot at the PSL awards ceremony last night for scoring 20 goals for Royal Eagles last season, and powerful central defender Isaac Nhlapo, signed from Platinum Stars.
CAPE TOWN CITY
City’s preparation for the new season is spearheaded by new coach Benni McCarthy, who will be assisted by Ian Taylor.
McCarthy, in his first season as a head coach, will rely heavily on the support of Taylor, who was also Eric Tinkler’s number two last season. The former Battswood player is a quiet yet intelligent presence behind the scenes; he knows the PSL inside out and has a shrewd tactical brain.
All eyes will be on McCarthy, though, to see whether he can emulate his playing success as a coach.
The former Bafana striker’s famous quote about his new role is “everybody has to start somewhere”, which is why he is not putting himself under too much pressure. He is just taking it one day at a time - but, one thing is certain, there’s no doubt that his charisma and exuberance will rub off on those around him.
City’s new signings include striker Ayanda Patosi, Mozambican defender Jeitoso and former Bloemfontein Celtic winger Lyle Lakay.
It’s a welcome return home for Lakay, originally from Silvertown in Athlone. The son of well-known left-footer Sean Lakay, who played with distinction for Stephanians and the Western Province Football Board team in the 1980s, City’s new man certainly has the right genes. And Lakay could have an influential role to play early on in the season as Aubrey Ngoma makes his way back from a knee operation.
A big loss for City, however, is Thato Mokeke, who has returned to SuperSport United. The versatile footballer was an influential presence for the Cape side last season, in a number of positions on the field, and he will be missed.