Ajax clash: first test for new coach and new-look United

2008-08-26 00:00

NEW boys Maritzburg United and last season’s runners-up, Ajax Cape Town, will kick off the Premier Soccer League season tonight when they meet at Athlone Stadium.

Promoted United have a tough opening programme. After Ajax, they face Kaizer Chiefs in Durban on September 14, then travel to Bloemfontein Celtics’ feared Seisa Ramabodu Stadium on September 28.

Ajax may have lost a few of their top players to Europe, but are still a classy combination. Many felt less that SuperSport United had won the league last season than that the Capetonians had lost it.

Among the players whom Ajax have retained are exciting right-back Nazeer Allie, cantering winger Franklin Cale, central midfielder Clifford Ngobeni, striker Dipsey Selolwane, Brazilian defender Eduardo Ferreira and experienced left-back Brett Evans.

Despite losing Bryce Moon, Russell Mwafulirwa, Nathan Paulse and Terror Fanteni to Europe, and goalkeeper Hans Von’s retirement, Ajax have not gone on a buying spree like some of the big-name Gauteng teams. Striker Mabhuti Khenyeza from Kaizer Chiefs and defender Thomrick October from Cape rivals Santos are their headline additions.

The Capetonians have also beefed up the squad with Ghanaian striker Joseph Masel; goalkeeper Sean Roberts and right-back Nhlanhla Kubeka from Wits University; and defender Martin Carelse from AmaZulu.

The uncertainty over last season’s star midfielder, Cameroonian Enoh Eyong, who has been on trials in Europe, has meant American goalkeeper Morgan Cathey might still be released. One of the Cape side’s form players in the pre-season friendlies, which included a 2-1 defeat against Portsmouth, has been midfielder Sameegh Doutie (19).

For Maritzburg, the game will be a vigorous first test for coach Gordon Igesund’s new-look squad, and an early indicator of how the team might fare on its return to the PSL. It should be remembered, though, that United began their preparations for the new season late. An almost entirely new set of players, many who joined in the last two weeks, might take a few matches to gel.

“My biggest worry at the moment is that we haven’t played many pre-season friendlies. When you’ve got 12 new players they can’t suddenly just start to gel together,” said Igesund, who arrived with the team in Cape Town yesterday morning.

“But other than that, I think we’ve got a decent chance against Ajax. I think we’ve managed to put together a strong combination of players, and the guys have been working hard and training … they’re hungry to play a match, and I’m quietly confident we can get something out of this game.”

The former Ajax coach said United will be a largely unknown quantity to his old team.

“I don’t think they will know quite what to expect from us. I’ve been purposefully keeping a low profile. When the Sunday papers call me, I say to them, ‘Speak to me next week’‚ and no one really knows too much about Maritzburg at this stage.”

With so many new players, it will be interesting to see whom Igesund fields. Bageta Dikilu in central defence, John Arwuah in central midfield and Tony Tsabedze on the left all seem certain starters. With new signing Tico-Tico Bucuane having barely trained with the team, Fadlu Davids and Ivorian Brice Aka should be the preferred strikers.

Igesund has not managed to beat Ajax since leaving the team in 2006, famously losing four times to the side coached by Muhsin Ertugral in 2006/07. The coach might not quite have had the time to whip United into shape yet, but a shock first victory would be just the confidence boost the team needs on its return to the PSL.

Tonight: Ajax Cape Town vs Maritzburg United (Athlone Stadium, 7.30 pm — broadcast delayed on SABC1 from 10 pm);

Wits University vs Santos (BidVest Stadium, 8 pm — live on SuperSport 4)

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.