Ajax juniors keep shining

2014-05-04 15:00

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Ajax Cape Town have proven time and again they are the best team in the junior ranks of local football.

Last week, the UrbanWarriors won their sixth Under-19 Metropolitan Premier Cup title and a second in succession against a tough Mamelodi Sundowns outfit.

On Thursday, they lost 1-4 on penalties to SuperSport United in the SA Football Association Under-19 ­Championships in Bloemfontein.

More than 10 players in the current Ajax senior team have come through the club’s development structures.

The club’s “no youth, no future” policy, which has been fruitful over the years, confirms their belief in a solid development programme.

According to the team’s spokesperson, Thabiso “Shoes” Mekuto, Ajax’s development success can be attributed to consistency and professionalism.

Mekuto’s sentiment is shared by Ajax youth coach Maahier ­Davids, who added that the common coaching and playing philosophy from Under-12 through to the senior side was producing magical results.

Davids was the team’s assistant coach last year, but was ­promoted to the hot seat when David Nyathi, who was then head coach, moved up to the senior team.

“This is the consistency that I am talking about. For instance, I coached most of these boys at Under-17 level three years ago and we have now reunited at this level,” said Davids.

“There is an understanding that already exists, which makes things easier for me and the boys.”

Ajax do not groom players to warm the bench but to aim high. The norm is to send the best-performing youngsters overseas instead of selling them to domestic clubs, added Davids.

“The UrbanWarriors do this in their capacity as a feeder team to Netherlands giants Ajax Amsterdam. The partnership is getting stronger every year.”

Benni McCarthy, Steven Pienaar and Thulani Serero are some of the players who have benefited from this partnership.

Ajax defender Rivaldo Coetzee, just 17, recently tried out in Amsterdam and is said to be ready to join the Dutch side in a season or two. The Cape side’s participation in international tournaments for juniors was another weapon in the development arsenal that gave the club the upper hand.

“The experience the players gain from these tournaments shows in how they perform against their local counterparts,” said Davids.

His charges will visit the Netherlands next month in Juneto defend the Copa Amsterdam title they won last year. “After doing it in the Metropolitan Cup, I don’t see why we can’t do it in Holland too,” he said.

According to Mekuto, the club would have set up ­development academies across the country, but a ­limited budget was the stumbling block.

“We lay the foundation for players no matter where they come from, and turn township and street footballers into professionals and stars,” said Mekuto.

McCarthy, who played for Portuguese giants FC Porto, is one such footballer. He was born in Hanover Park on the Cape Flats – an area notorious for gang violence and among the ­poorest in Western Cape. But he has defied the odds to become arguably the country’s most decorated footballer.

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