Ajax want to polish Lupeta until he shines
‘Jucie’ is a beast and this may be the season he’s unleashed ...
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.