With Ajax Cape Town’s relegation confirmed, their importance to South Africa’s top flight should not be disregarded. DEAN WORKMAN explores.
After failing to beat Kaizer Chiefs at the weekend, Ajax Cape Town finished 15th in the Absa Premiership and were preparing to do battle against Black Leopards and Jomo Cosmos in the promotion/relegation playoffs. That was until news broke on Wednesday that they have been found guilty of fielding Tendai Ndoro and have subsequently been automatically relegated after being docked nine points and finishing below Platinum Stars, who now hold the playoff spot.
Ajax have been in the PSL since the club was formed in 1999 via the amalgamation of two Cape Town-based teams, Seven Stars and Cape Town Spurs. The side has their obvious links to Dutch giants AFC Ajax and forms a part of their worldwide talent-feeder network.
Due to their Dutch links, a focus on youth has always been a high priority of the Urban Warriors. They have imported the AFC Ajax philosophy and effective youth development schemes to the Western Cape and as a result, they have produced a number of talents over the years.
Keagan Dolly, Steven Pienaar, Benni McCarthy and Thulani Serero may be some of the most famous academy products but when you take a closer look at the PSL as a whole, you may be surprised at the impact of the club’s academy graduates.
Almost every team in the PSL has a player who has in some way been influenced by the Cape Town-based club – not to mention the first team of the club itself which is filled with players who have come through the ranks.
In modern football, the ability to bring through the youth has become more difficult with the need to remain constantly competitive, resulting in young players not being given the opportunity or coaches not being patient enough.
So what will become of all these players now that the Urban Warriors are in the National First Division (NFD)? Will we see a pool of talent go unnurtured and unnoticed?
Another aspect that is worrying about Ajax being relegated is the effect it would have on the state of Cape Town football. With the formation of Cape Town City FC in 2016, the province’s game looked to be on the rise. The Cape derby was fast turning into one of the highlights of the season and provided the people in the province with a competitive edge that has been missing for a number of years.
Ajax’s relegation will harm all that hard work done by the two clubs over the past few years. Rivalry among teams and fans is one of the aspects that attracts people to the game, so losing Ajax would undoubtedly have an adverse effect on the growth of the supporter base of Benni McCarthy’s City side.
Muhsin Ertugral’s team will now look to bounce straight back into the PSL, but the troubles of the NFD cannot be underestimated. It will not be easy, but for the benefit of the entire league, let’s hope that Ajax’s stay out of South Africa’s top flight is not a lengthy one.