Who will be the guardian in goal for the Ur­ban War­riors?

Hun­gry Petersen ready to chal­lenge heroic Fe­bru­ary to be De Sa’s No 1 choice

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

AN­TIC­I­PA­TION is build­ing as the Mother City’s foot­ball fol­low­ers sali­vate at the prospect of a cap­ti­vat­ing PSL sea­son. The ar­rival of the re­gion’s new topflight club, Cape Town City, has stim­u­lated in­ter­est – and the ex­pec­ta­tion of at­tend­ing a blood- and- thun­der Cape derby with Ajax Cape Town is al­ready high on the to-do list of many.

But there are also a few other sub-plots that have cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of foot­ball fans. One such sce­nario, es­pe­cially if you’re an Ajax sup­porter, is the highly an­tic­i­pated duel between the Parow club’s promis­ing two goal­keep­ers – Bran­don Petersen and Jody Fe­bru­ary – for the num­ber one jersey.

The sit­u­a­tion has arisen af­ter the reg­u­lar Ajax goal­keeper, Anssi Jaakkola, signed for Read­ing in the English Cham­pi­onship. The gi­ant Finn had given the Cape side great ser­vice since his ar­rival in 2013, but had also made no se­cret of his wish to re­turn to play­ing in Europe. The Read­ing deal has granted Jaakkola his wish, which means that Petersen and Fe­bru­ary, both highly touted, are next in line.

So who will be the Ajax num­ber one goal­keeper this sea­son? Your guess is as good as mine. In fact, even Ajax head coach, Roger de Sa, as it stands right now, is not yet sure as to who he will pick for the club’s open­ing game.

Strand­fontein’s Fe­bru­ary has al­ready been in the spot­light for his heroic ex­ploits with the SA U23 squad. The 20-year-old keeper is cur­rently in Brazil, where the U23s will on Thurs­day open their cam­paign in the foot­ball event at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Petersen, who ma­tric­u­lated at Elsies River High School, is a lit­tle be­hind in his progress be­cause of an hor­rific in­jury sus­tained in De­cem­ber 2014. He col­lided with Mamelodi Sun­downs’ An­thony Laf­for, dur­ing which he se­verely rup­tured his knee lig­a­ments, and was out of the game for 12 months. He made his re­turn to the Ajax start­ing team in May this year, 18 months af­ter the ter­ri­ble in­jury.

Be­cause of the time spent on the side­lines, 21-year-old Petersen is now hun­gry, mo­ti­vated and de­ter­mined.

“The in­jury kept me out for a long time, it was frus­trat­ing,” said Petersen. “But, at the same time, it made me stronger men­tally. Com­ing back from such an in­jury wasn’t easy, but I al­ways had sup­port. For that, I have to thank the med­i­cal staff and my fam­ily and friends…

“Now, I’m ready. I’m mo­ti­vated. I’m pre­pared for any­thing. I was with­out foot­ball for more than a year, it was tough. Now I just can’t wait for the sea­son to start. I want to do my best for the club and my team­mates, and to help the team suc­ceed this sea­son.”

Petersen, though, is fully aware that he can ex­pect some tor­rid com­pe­ti­tion from Fe­bru­ary for the po­si­tion of num­ber one Ajax goal­keeper.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to fight­ing it out with Jody for the num­ber one jersey,” said Petersen. “The two of us have al­ways pro­vided good com­pe­ti­tion for each other… We push each other to be­come the best we can be.

“Ob­vi­ously, only one can play. But both of us be­lieve that, who­ever the coach chooses, will be the right man at the time. And we will then still keep push­ing each other to be even bet­ter goal­keep­ers.

“As for Jody at the Olympics, I’m con­fi­dent he will do well. Re­mem­ber that he was the one re­spon­si­ble for tak­ing the U23 team to the Olympics in the first place… There has been all this talk about Itume­leng Khune be­ing se­lected as an over-age player in the Olympics squad, but I’m con­fi­dent that Jody will go there with the right mind-set. If he gets to play, he’ll give his best. If he doesn’t, then he’ll en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence and use it as a learn­ing curve.”

Petersen was also quick to heap praise on the role Jaakkola played at Ajax and the in­flu­ence the Finn had on the two young Ajax keep­ers.

“Anssi is a great goal­keeper, and I feel priv­i­leged to say I was his team­mate,” said Petersen. “I’m sure he will do well at his new club, Read­ing. It’s a good move for him.

“Anssi helped me to im­prove my game and he al­ways sup­ported me. The one thing I learnt from him is about work­ing hard. The coaches can only take you so far… af­ter that, you have to go the ex­tra mile, and do the ex­tra work on your own, if you want to im­prove and be bet­ter than you are cur­rently are.”

Ajax come off a dis­ap­point­ing cam­paign in the PSL last sea­son. Af­ter win­ning the MTN8 com­pe­ti­tion, it was ex­pected that the team would kick on and per­haps be among the chal­lengers for a top four fin­ish.

But they flat­tered to de­ceive, fell away badly, and had to be con­tent with a mid-ta­ble po­si­tion.

Petersen is adamant that it will go bet­ter this sea­son.

“We are busy with pre-sea­son train­ing at the mo­ment and I can tell you the spirit is very good,” said the young goal­keeper. “I think we will do well this sea­son… If we can work as a unit, stay to­gether, fol­low the coach’s in­struc­tions, per­form as a team and at the top of our po­ten­tial, then we can do it.”

BRAN­DON PETERSEN: Fully mended and rar­ing to get back on the field

JODY FE­BRU­ARY: Has al­ready cast him­self in the spot­light

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