Serero out to prove him­self in Cape Derby

Young Ajax star is at­tract­ing the at­ten­tion of top clubs

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

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.”

GALLO IM­AGES

FLAG BEARER: Thu­lani Serero has proved a prime ex­am­ple of Ajax Cape Town’s out­stand­ing youth pol­icy.

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