Menzo’s Ajax seal top duo deal
AJAX Cape Town take a mood of optimism into the second half of the PSL season.
In October last year, they were mired towards the basement of the standings and struggling to win a football game.
Fast-forward a few months and Ajax are in a comfortable ninth position on the PSL log, having accumulated 18 points, and enjoying a newfound sense of belief in their ability as a unit.
The Capetonians swing back into action on February 7 when they are away to secondplaced Wits in Joburg.
The catalyst for the club’s revival has, undoubtedly, been the appointment of former Ajax Amsterdam and Netherlands goalkeeper Stanley Menzo as the new coach.
“There was no change in the playing staff, just the coaching department, and that has made all the difference,” said Ajax chief executive Ari Efstathiou as he contemplated the second half of the season. “Essentially, we’ve gone back to our roots, and are doing things the Ajax way. If you remember when Foppe de Haan (former Ajax mentor and a Dutch coach respected all over the world) was here, it’s similar to that under Menzo. It’s not just about discipline, in that nobody steps out of line, but it’s also that Menzo is a teaching coach, and that’s a great help developing and nurturing players.
“Going back to the Ajax philosophy is also key to the change in the team because there are 17 academy players in the PSL squad. They are brought up in the Ajax way and it has been easy for them to adjust to what Menzo wants. They know what’s expected and it has been a very positive change under the new coach.”
Efstathiou, though, is the first to admit that there’s still a long way to go. While Ajax have shown vast improvement under Menzo, the challenge now is to build on the team’s recovery and plot a surge further up the PSL table. Two new players have come in, defender Rheece Evans and Zambian midfielder Rodrick Kabwe, and Ajax are confident the duo will make a big contribution to the team during the second half of the campaign.
“Obviously, the first objective is to get to 30 points, which takes away any threat of relegation,” said Efstathiou. “Once that has been achieved, then we can focus on a top eight position. After that, if it’s going well, we’ll see …
“We’ve got Kabwe in and we are expecting a lot from the Zambian international, while Evans will steady the defence,” added Efstathiou. “We are still in the market for one or two more players, but we’ll assess what’s available and decide accordingly.”
As for the elephant in the room, Efstathiou remained as tight-lipped as ever.
The PSL rumour mill has been abuzz recently – especially because of former Ajax midfielder Keagan Dolly’s imminent transfer to Montpellier – with suggestions that star central defender Rivaldo Coetzee could be in line for a move overseas as well.
Dolly is expected to sign with the French club later this week – but, while there has been endless speculation surrounding Coetzee, when Efstathiou was asked, his only response was: “No comment.”