Pi­rates a tough chal­lenge for new coach

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - ROD­NEY REINERS

IT hasn’t taken Foppe de Haan long to set­tle in at his new club, Ajax Cape Town.

The leg­endary Dutch coach, highly re­spected in his na­tive land, ac­cepted the chal­lenge of com­ing to South Africa to coach the am­bi­tious Cape club.

Af­ter a suc­cess­ful coach­ing spell at Ere­di­visie side Heeren­veen – where cur­rent Ajax goal­keeper Hans Vonk played at the time – De Haan was then un­ri­valled in his work with Dutch ju­nior na­tional teams. Many cur­rent and for mer Dutch in­ter­na­tional greats can credit De Haan with aid­ing their de­vel­op­ment and progress.

Now De Haan faces an al­to­gether dif­fer­ent chal­lenge, in a coun­try where he has not coached be­fore.

But he is al­ready mak­ing his pres­ence felt and the Ajax squad are rev­el­ling in adapt­ing to his fresh and in­no­va­tive coach­ing meth­ods.

Tonight, Ajax take on Or­lando Pi­rates at the Or­lando Sta­dium in Soweto (kick off 8.15pm, live on Su­perS­port 4) – and De Haan will want to en­sure that his team con­tinue mak­ing progress, and im­prov­ing on their weak ar­eas.

With the PSL’s two-week break for in­ter na­tional fix­tures, De Haan used the time to get to know his new play­ers a bit closer dur­ing train­ing ses­sions. It was a two-way thing, as play­ers also had to be­come ac­cus­tomed to yet an­other new coach.

Af­ter the de­par­ture of Craig Rosslee ( now the as­sis­tant­coach at Pi­rates) at the end of last sea­son, the play­ers had to ac­quaint them­selves with the then new man Muhsin Er­tu­gral. Er­tu­gral de­parted to take up a lu­cra­tive of­fer in Turkey and the club’s tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor Jan Pruijn stepped into the hot seat in a tem­po­rary ca­pac­ity.

De Haan was then ap­pointed and the play­ers have had to get used to an­other new man.

But signs are that the play­ers are warm­ing to De Haan.

Cap­tain Brett Evans (still in­jured but is ex­pected to be ready in two weeks’ time) this week spoke of the new coach’s keen sense of hu­mour, how train­ing was fun again and that the play­ers were happy with De Haan.

For De Haan, it has been just as much a get­ting-to-knowyou ex­er­cise.

“I had to get used to the play­ers,” he said. “I had to get to know them and they had to get to know me and the way I work. There is a great spirit go­ing and I think we are up for the chal­lenge tonight.”

Pi­rates rep­re­sent a ster n chal­lenge for De Haan and his men.

Up against them is Rosslee, still smart­ing from be­ing dumped by Ajax, and Pi­rates Dutch coach Ruud Krol, ea­ger to show De Haan that his coach­ing pedi­gree is as good as the new Ajax man.

While De Haan was rel­ish­ing pit­ting his skill against Krol, he was more fo­cused on get­ting his team to at­tack more and get­ting more play­ers into the op­po­si­tion penalty area.

“I can as­sure you the play­ers are fit and mo­ti­vated,” said De Haan. “We have been work­ing on fin­ish­ing, and scor­ing goals, and it has been go­ing well. Now we have to put that into prac­tice dur­ing games. Con­cen­tra­tion, fo­cus and com­po­sure are crit­i­cal... and this is what I have im­pressed on the team.

“I want to bring my phi­los­o­phy, the Dutch way, to Ajax. I want us to play pos­ses­sion foot­ball and get for­ward more.

“The ball has to get to the wingers and to the for­wards and from there chances are cre­ated.”

Ger­man fix­ing

PIC­TURE: GALLO IM­AGES

DUTCH PHI­LOS­O­PHY: Ajax Cape Town’s new head coach, Foppe De Haan, wants to bring pos­ses­sion foot­ball to Cape Town… and get his team to play for­ward.

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