Will Coetzee join Dolly on European adventure?
KEAGAN Dolly’s lifelong dream to play his football on the European stage came to fruition when he finalised his transfer to French side Montpellier on Friday. Now the big question is when will Ajax Cape Town’s highly-rated central defender Rivaldo Coetzee,
pictured, follow suit? While Dolly’s move to Montpellier – for a £1.5-million (R25m) fee – is from Pretoria club Mamelodi Sundowns, it was, of course, at Ajax in the Mother City where he came to prominence. He has since set the local scene alight, playing a starring role in Sundowns’ success in the PSL and on the continent, the SA Under-23s at the last year’s Rio Olympic games, and with Bafana Bafana.
The exciting 24-year-old winger most certainly deserves a shot at the big-time football in Europe.
From a South African perspective, it’s critical that the country’s best footballers graduate from the PSL to the bigger, more competitive leagues in Europe. In this way, the players improve as individuals and, when they return to play for the national team, they are able to transfer that knowledge and experience to their teammates. And it also stands to reason that the more South African footballers better themselves as individuals, the more it improves the national structure as a whole.
It is with this sentiment in mind that it becomes increasingly important that a player like Coetzee, sooner rather than later, finds his way overseas. To be honest, he is just far too good for the PSL. Now 20 years old, he made his Ajax senior debut as a 17-year-old and has never looked out of place. From the very first game, he has been a mature, commanding presence.
The national selectors were quick to notice the undoubted ability of the lad from Kakamas in the Northern Cape – and he even made his Bafana debut at the age of 17. For the last few seasons, he has been among the first names on the team sheet at Ajax, the SA U23s and Bafana.
The Ajax academy has a reputation for churning out topclass, young players season after season. Steven Pienaar started the European trend when signing for Ajax Amsterdam in 2001 (and we all know what he went on to achieve) and he was followed by Cameroonian midfield strongman Eyong Enoh a few years later.
In recent years, though, the European transfers have dried up. Dolly has revived the memory of Pienaar (and remember that the two players come from the same Johannesburg township, Westbury). But, surely, it’s now time for Coetzee, too, to test his talent on the European stage. Over the last two years, there has been much transfer rumour and speculation with regard to Coetzee, but Ajax have always been tight-lipped, refusing to comment on what the future holds for the player. Dolly’s transfer to Montpellier last week will again ratchet up debate and discussion around Coetzee, the star Ajax central defender. South African football needs its best to grow and mature in the hurlyburly of the top European leagues – and there’s no doubt that Coetzee is one of the best.