Serero out to prove himself in Cape Derby
Young Ajax star is attracting the attention of top clubs
A FOOTBALL club is only as strong as its youth policy.
Neglect the next generation of footballers and a club is doomed.
In contrast, by investing in, developing and nurturing bright young footballers, a club safeguards its future.
This is the philosophy of Ajax Cape Town and it has certainly been the foundation for the continuing emergence of the ambitious Cape PSL side.
And as Ajax head into tonight’s Cape derby against neighbours and arch-rivals Santos at the revamped Athlone Stadium (kick off 8.15pm, live on SuperSport4), one of their youth academy’s recent products, Thulani Serero, carries the weight of expectation.
Serero starred for the South African national Under-20 side at the recent World Youth Championships in Egypt and has already caught the eye of many other clubs, not just in the PSL but overseas as well.
In what was a major feather in the cap for Ajax’s youth development structures at the recent South African Football Association awards ceremony, Serero won the Safa U20 Player of the Year Award and Bafana Bafana and Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar won the Safa Senior Player of the Year Award.
Both are products of the Ajax youth system.
Pienaar set the local PSL alight as a teenager before signing for Ajax Amsterdam in Holland, transferring to Borussia Dortmund in Germany and then finding his niche at Everton in England.
Serero was thrown in at the PSL deep end towards the end of last season by then-Ajax coach Craig Rosslee.
He took to the top flight swimmingly and scored some vital goals from his offensive position in midfield. Serero, this season, has battled to find the same level of form.
Fatigue has played a role – because of his influential role for the SA U20s – but indications are that he is slowly working his way back to top form.
Tonight at Athlone represents the perfect stage for Serero to give notice of his allround class and undoubted ability.
With Ajax having appointed Dutchman Foppe de Haan as head coach, they are gaining a mentor who believes in youth.
De Haan was the man responsible for preparing the next generation of talent for Holland, as he was in charge of his country’s Under-21 team for a long time.
Many a Dutch football great – former and current – has De Haan to thank for the development and progress of his game.
De Haan now wants to bring that same nous to Ajax in Cape Town, and he had some words of encouragement for Serero.
“He has some good qualities,” said De Haan.
“He just has to keep working hard. Talent is not always enough… it’s about working on it all the time, every day, and then it grows.
The Dutch coach has been in charge of Ajax for three games, for a win, a loss and a draw.
He has no doubt what the major problem in the Ajax team is at the moment.
“We are defending well, we are creating chances, but we have not been able to score goals,” said De Haan.
“You cannot play 17 games and just score 14 goals.
“By now we should at least have had about 23 or 24 goals, that would be more normal.
“It’s a part of the game we need to work on… and have done so.
“Now we just need the hard work to be put into practice on the field.”
FLAG BEARER: Thulani Serero has proved a prime example of Ajax Cape Town’s outstanding youth policy.