Will Coet­zee join Dolly on Euro­pean ad­ven­ture?

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - ROD­NEY REIN­ERS

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.

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