Absa Premiership

OPINION | Efstathiou leaves partnership with Ajax Amsterdam on brink of collapse

Hans Vonk of Ajax Cape Town during the National First Division, Warm Up match between Ajax Cape Town and Cape Umoya United at Ikamva on July 27, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Hans Vonk of Ajax Cape Town during the National First Division, Warm Up match between Ajax Cape Town and Cape Umoya United at Ikamva on July 27, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa.
EJ Langner

Cape Town - With reports of behind the scenes chaos at Ajax Cape Town and allegations against CEO Ari Efstathiou, the club's partnership with parent club Ajax Amsterdam appears untenable, writes Baden Gillion.

The sudden departures of head coach Andries Ulderink and technical director Hans Vonk have left the Urban Warriors reeling after the duo scathingly blamed their departure on a boardroom battle with Efstathiou.

"Unfortunately‚ things were turbulent behind the scenes," a statement read.

"Since January 2020 Ari Efstathiou had again taken over all football-related matters‚ against the wishes of Ajax Amsterdam‚ Ajax CT’s major shareholder and to our disquiet."

One needs to go further back to the club's relegation from the Absa Premiership in May 2018 to find the root of the friction between the two warring parties.

Efstathiou's poor decision-making - such as the purchase of the ineligible Tendai Ndoro - resulted in relegation for the first time in the club's history.

Ajax Amsterdam summoned Efstathiou to a crisis meeting and sought to salvage their investment by removing him as CEO and taking 100% control of the club.

A compromise was reached where Efstathiou remained as CEO with Hans Vonk taking over all football-related matters with Ulderink's appointment following shortly thereafter.

Ulderink was previously an assistant to former Manchester United legend Jaap Stam at Reading FC.

The Ulderink/Vonk duo helped take the club from 11th position in the GladAfrica Championship to the brink of promotion as they currently sit atop the league standings.

Ajax and Ajax Amsterdam were already at loggerheads after Ajax Amsterdam CEO Edwin van der Sar made it known he wanted Vonk to have an even greater role at the club and become CEO at Ajax Cape Town.

Ulderink admitted recently in a Dutch publication that he had only extended his contract to remain in Cape Town as he believed Efstathiou would be leaving as CEO.

Efstathiou as now forced Ajax Amsterdam in to making a decision on their future partnership with his recent behaviour.

A number of accusations have been levelled at Efstathiou:

- Paying players poor salaries

- Selling players with the objective of raising the highest profits over player development

- Using the club's status to create personal revenue and further his own business interests

- Frequently accused of lacking any football knowledge or acumen

This was detailed by former player Abbubaker Mobara after he was sold without any prior knowledge to Orlando Pirates in 2016.

"It's frustrating when I can see a player deserves better money because of what he's contributing. Then again, you have a boss at Ajax (Ari Efstathiou) who's got a mind of his own.

"When they said he's the new boss, we all knew he didn't know anything about football. Running a business is probably his strong point, but for a big club like Ajax, you need someone who knows football too."

Ajax in recent years have become a shadow of their former selves - from the early days of utilising Dutch tactics with a mixture of local talent - to now where the only resemblance is the playing kit.

Having an owner who lacks football knowledge and places his personal interests ahead of the club has seemingly broken a 22-year partnership between the clubs.

The two remaining solutions for the Ajax Amsterdam board would be to gain 100% ownership of the club or to sell their shares and pull out.

With only four really successful acquisitions - Steven Pienaar, Eyong Enoh, Thulani Serero and Lassina Traore - in 22 years, the probable decision would be to end this dysfunctional relationship.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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