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
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