Ajax want to pol­ish Lu­peta un­til he shines

‘Ju­cie’ is a beast and this may be the sea­son he’s un­leashed ...

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

AJAX CAPE TOWN are hop­ing that Por­tu­gal’s vic­tory at Euro 2016 last week is a good omen as they pre­pare for the new PSL sea­son.

The Cape side has added 23-year-old Por­tuguese striker Joaquim Lu­peta to their squad, and while the big for­ward may not as yet be in the run­ning for his na­tional team, Ajax are con­fi­dent the in­ter­na­tional flavour he brings will be a ma­jor as­set.

The PSL’s trans­fer win­dow closes at the end of next month, but Ajax have al­ready beefed up with three new sign­ings – Lu­peta, Zim­bab­wean de­fender Eric Chipeta (signed from Chippa United) and for­mer Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria winger Thabo Mosadi.

Lu­peta played for Wits last sea­son but Ajax be­lieve the burly at­tacker can re­alise his true po­ten­tial this sea­son.

“I don’t think there is a stronger striker than Lu­peta in the PSL,” said Ajax’s new as­sis­tant coach Mich d’Avray.

“He’s a beast… his game is still lack­ing in a few ar­eas and, while he’s not the fin­ished prod­uct yet, we think he will do well. He of­fers us a dif­fer­ent op­tion in at­tack.”

Lu­peta, also known as “Ju­cie”, hails from Lour­inha, a small vil­lage close to Lis­bon. He had a stint at Videoton FC in Hun­gary be­fore re­turn­ing home to play for Vi­to­ria de Se­tubal.

Last sea­son, be­cause Wits have a con­nec­tion with Sun­der­land in the English Premier League, Lu­peta agreed to come to South Africa. The idea was that he would do well at the Stu­dents and im­press Sun­der­land, with a view to a move.

But things never went ac­cord­ing to plan.

“It didn’t go very well at Wits, I never played all that much,” said Lu­peta. “But I stayed pro­fes­sional and kept on work­ing hard.

“I’ve now got an­other op­por­tu­nity at Ajax… I’m feel­ing com­fort­able at the club, the play­ers like me, while the coaches have made it clear what they want from me.

“At the mo­ment, I’m just tak­ing it step by step. My first game for the team will be very im­por­tant, not for the fans or club, but for my­self. It will be a chance for me to test my­self.”

Lu­peta has been so wrapped up in his new chal­lenge that he hasn’t yet been cap­tured by beauty of the Mother City.

He’s am­bi­tious, which is why he’s blink­ered in the man­ner in which he tack­les his task. So far, he says, it’s just been “from the ho­tel to train­ing, and back to the ho­tel”. No time for any­thing else.

But Por­tu­gal’s crown­ing as Euro­pean cham­pi­ons cer­tainly has him brim­ming with pride.

“I am happy that my coun­try won,” he said. “It’s a big thing for us. We lost a few fi­nals pre­vi­ously, so it was good that we fi­nally man­aged to win it.”

While Lu­peta may not have set the PSL alight with the Clever Boys, there’s no doubt- ing his raw abil­ity. And as the ex­pe­ri­enced D’Avray says: “We just have to pol­ish him a bit…”

Al­ready there’s a buzz around the cor­ri­dors at Ajax’s Ikamva train­ing ground that they may have un­cov­ered a gem in the pow­er­fully-built Lu­peta. And while the Stu­dents may not have found a way to un­lock his full po­ten­tial, the Ur­ban Warriors be­lieve they can.

Lu­peta has ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing in Europe. Of­ten, play­ers need a pe­riod to adapt to their new sur­round­ings, and this is per­haps why he strug­gled at Wits.

As he sug­gests: “In South Africa, the game is faster and stronger, while in Europe it’s all about tac­tics and tech­nique.”

With that in mind, and Ajax hav­ing ac­quired a more set­tled and mo­ti­vated Lu­peta, per­haps this is the sea­son for “Ju­cie” to make his mark on the PSL.

THE WAR­RIOR WAY: Joaquim Lu­peta gets bet­ter ac­quainted with new team­mates Toriq Losper and Ai­dan Jen­niker.

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