Absa Premiership

Cosmos, Ajax struggling in National First Division

Muhsin Ertugral (Gallo Images)
Muhsin Ertugral (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - In a bizarre turnaround, Ajax Cape Town and Jomo Cosmos, both one-time respected forces among the top PSL echelon, are presently battling to hold their own in the subsidiary National First Division - and with little prospect of fulfilling a boast to negotiate a return to the Absa Premiership in the current season.

Ajax, relegated last season in controversial fashion after being stripped of points for fielding what was deemed to be an incorrectly registered player, are currently in eighth position in the 16-team NFD log with 15 points from their 11 matches and a crippling eight points behind leaders Stellenbosch FC.

Cosmos are one place further back in ninth place with 14 points from their 11 games, with club owner Jomo Sono already conceding "the NFD title belongs to Stellenbosch" - and other clubs can only hope to secure the second potential promotion place via a playoff in which the second and third-placed NFD teams compete with the second-bottom Absa Premiership club.

With Ajax's main shareholder and parent club in Holland's famed Ajax Amsterdam, the Cape Town version of the club can expect to receive ongoing support to ultimately climb back to the Absa Premiership - although the shock resignation earlier in the week of renowned coach Muhsin Ertugral is further evidence it might not be as easy and straight-forward as had initially been predicted.

Ertugral, a passionate perfectionist, who had earlier expressed the intention of helping Ajax regain their top-flight status, might have come to the conclusion that his volatile temperament is not ideally suited to second division soccer, expressing the view that his departure is probably in the best interest of both himself and the club.

Also, it is known that the volatile Turkish-born coach was disappointed by the manner in which Ajax had surrendered their controversial demotion from the Absa Premiership prematurely instead of fighting the issue to the bitter end when they had a strong hand to continue the struggle.

Cosmos, unlike Ajax, appear to be confronted with a more hazardous return to the PSL big-time, with the former league champions and Telkom and Top Eight winners having spent six of the last eight seasons outside the realms of the Absa Premiership and now blighted by financial issues - with numerous players having complained of not being paid.

But comebacks are not entirely out of vogue in the Absa Premiership: under their previous name of Vasco da Gama, a frustrated Stellenbosch were battling to regain a place in the Absa Premiership when the club made a name change and switch of home venue in 2016.

The rest is history, with Stellenbosch going from strength to strength and already at this early juncture of the season looking like NFD winners.