FEATURE: Ajax limp into Cape Derby in need of redemption

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Old Cape boys Ajax look to humble City’s high flying new boys in the Cape Town derby on Saturday evening

High flying Cape Town City are set for their second ever local derby when they take on a wounded Ajax Cape Town in a Premier Soccer League clash at the Cape Town Stadium.

Given their early rise – clinching the Telkom Knockout title, finishing as MTN-8 semi-finalists and also walking out 1-0 victors in the first derby- City holds the bragging rights.

Tuesday evening’s convincing 3-0 thumping of Highlands Park might have spurred the Citizens further, whilst a determined Ajax side were thrashed 5-0 by Bidvest Wits in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Though, when it comes to derbies, previous results do not really matter which is why you cannot write off Ajax yet, despite their marauding by Wits. On the day, it is all about who grinds for the desired result. Rivalry, reputation and of course bragging rights are at stake and this is one of the reasons both sides will head out of the tunnel to leave everything on the pitch. 

 


THE HISTORY


 John Comitis

Ajax were formed in 1999 by Rob Moore and John Comitis through the amalgamation of two Cape Town-based teams, Seven Stars and Cape Town Spurs, as Ajax Amsterdam expanded their worldwide talent-feeder network to South Africa.

After stepping down as CEO in 2009, Comitis was then appointed honorary life chairman of the club by former Amsterdam CEO Rik van den Boog in May 2011 but  the appointment was marred by a power struggle involving the Comitis brothers – John and George – the current Ajax executive, the three Efstathiou brothers, Ari, Alex and Nick. In July 2013, the Comitis brothers sold their shares to the Efstathiou’s.

Two years and 10 months later, Comitis confirmed that he bought Mpumalanga Black Aces and relocated it to Cape Town where he later renamed it Cape Town City.

Currently, City have four former Ajax players in their books – Lebogang Manyama, Thato Mokeke, Samora Motloung, Ricardo Ndiki and the floor-crossing of some fans will also add a pint of flavour to the encounter.

 


THE KEY PLAYERS


 Manyama Collage

Both sides went on signing rampages during the recent transfer window. Ajax roped in Sameehg Doutie, Aubrey Funga, Rodrick Kabwe (both from Zanaco in Zambia) and Rheece Evans from Mamelod Sundowns. Whilst City signed National First Division duo Letsie Koapeng and Siyabonga Dubula, Edmilson Dove, Raphael Georgiades and Luyolo Nomandela.

But Lebogang Manyama’s nine goals, and five assists in 15 matches makes him a key figure for Eric Tinkler’s men. His presence, comfort and creativity allows him to dictate play for City and has proven to be a thorn for any opposition in the league. Whilst Aubrey Ngoma has proven to be equally integral for City, Manyama is the one to look out for.

Many thought Mark Mayambela was finished when he signed for the Parow based outfit but he has proven otherwise. The former Orlando Pirates attacker has been integral for Ajax with his eye-catching displays which has also seen him walk away with a series of man-of-the-match accolades.  He evidently struggled to establish himself in the 5-0 thrashing by Wits on Tuesday but he definitely cannot be written off.

 


WHAT THE COACHES SAID


 Ajax Cape Town head coach Stanley Menzo

Eric Tinkler (Cape Town City)

“It is obvious that the momentum is with us [Cape Town City]," said Tinkler.

“But then again you can’t take the game lightly and that is just the harsh reality because the most important thing is that form goes out the window.

“Yes, the confidence and moral going into the game you have that, we have that at least. But if you underestimate the opposition you become unstuck and that’s just the harsh reality.

“Also there is another point to remember which I’ve explained to the players. When you are sitting up there, everybody is looking to bring you down and they are going to come to the game highly motivated. Forget about the hammering they got from Wits. I promise you they are going to put that out of the window... we can redeem ourselves by beating the leaders.

“So we can’t underestimate them, we got to get out there and work extremely hard."

Stanley Menzo (Ajax Cape Town)

“As a coach for me, it is very important to try and get the points that we need because we are still in a position that is really good,” said Menzo.

“Of course a derby is a very nice moment, a very nice game. I have never coached a derby before but of course it is a very special moment for the people and so it is a three dimensional match.

“We always say the log does not lie and they are third, so they are the favourites, but a special game.

“A derby is a very special game and at the moment you don’t look at the log. Yes, they have a good squad, I saw them playing when we played away and have important players, their captain Manyama, who is carrying the team as the leader, a good squad, not easy to beat and I have noticed they can even win matches in extra time.

“So, they are a side who will go on from the first minute until the final whistle. What we want is to play the kind of football that we spoke about, but first we have to get results and results give confidence. And when you lose 5-0 it does not boost you or give you confidence. What I saw at the end of last year was a team that played with fire and heart and that’s actually what I missed on Tuesday.

“So I hope and I know they will give us that fire and heart on Saturday.” 

 


THE FANS


 Ajax Cape Town fans

Given Comitis’ devotedness to Cape football, his involvement with Cape Town Spurs in the 1990s and then Ajax, when he announced that he would be renaming Aces to Cape Town City, a number of fans crossed the floor to reunite with him. Some fans he had brought over from Spurs seemingly. They came over to reunite with him.

“You can give them credit where it is due, they ae playing well and if it was my team that ended so high on the log, I would expect them to play that same kind of football,” said Ajax’s passionate supporter Mark Kulp.

“So, they won the first leg but this will be a different ball game, what happened on Tuesday we will have to cancel it out, this is something bigger.

“I can say there was a handful of our supporters that crossed over to City, but if you go back to the history, they were not even on our database.

“So, we don’t even count the few that went over. But if we get to the nitty-gritty, Saturday’s game is going to decide actually where the rest of the Cape Town supporters are going.

“We need to win because we were two Cape Town teams that merged to become Ajax Cape Town, remember Seven Stars and Cape Town Spurs. We never came from another province.

“We were sold out but the owner of ‘Aces’, but I am still here and he is not here. He could have had this but money was more important to him.

“So, it’s not only JZ [Jacob Zuma] that must pay back the money, JC [John Comitis] must also pay back the money.”

 

 

Current Situation #WeAreAjaxCT

A photo posted by AjaxCTfans (@ajaxctfans_official) on

Rival fan -Damian Whatley- believes City are on the front foot and does not see Ajax standing in their way.

“Cape Town City FC are playing positive football, that's what attracted me to the team,” he said.

“As fans, we want to see good football and goals. The club's ambitions goes beyond a business philosophy, they see the bigger picture and everyone benefits. I believe City will win tomorrow, we are on the front foot and the team is united, you can't buy that. It's a derby so I'm expecting a tough match but I'm confident in my team."

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