Cape Times

Benni will freshen things up for Mother City derby, says Comitis

- Rodney Reiners

GOOD NEWS, they say, is not isolated. It creates a mood of optimism that, invariably, leads to even more good news. If this is to be believed, then Cape Town City will probably feel they can continue their dominance in the Cape derby.

City and neighbours Ajax Cape Town clash in a much-anticipate­d Mother City derby at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday (3.30pm kickoff) – and City boss John Comitis heads into the fixture armed with some of the best news he’s heard in his life. Earlier this week, Comitis got the go-ahead for the lease of the Hartleyval­e precinct. Now City have not just got a settled training venue, but, if things go according to plan, by the end of 2019 City will become the first PSL club to own their own stadium. For Comitis, this will be a dream come true.

“I have the signed lease to Hartleyval­e, which I received three days ago,” said a visibly excited Comitis. “Now we can start to build this club into what we want it to be, a club where fans can feel in touch with their team. This is something that has always eluded football. Rugby and cricket have always had it because they own their grounds. We can now create that same offfield hospitalit­y that is so vital in growing a brand, and it will be the base from which we can work. If things go according to plan, we will build a 10 000-seater stadium and we want it to be up and running by the end of 2019. We will then be looking at turning a one-and-ahalf hour football event into a six-hour fan experience. That is the ultimate goal.”

Getting back to the matter at hand, it’s no secret that, for Comitis, this is a game that has to be won. Because his feud with the owners of Ajax, the Efstathiou brothers, remains as strong as ever, nothing but victory on derby day will suffice. “I told the players,” said Comitis, “that this week they have to train like they have never won, and to play on Saturday like they’ve never lost. The team is ready, the loss to Free State Stars last weekend means that Benni (McCarthy, coach) will freshen things up for the derby. The rivalry between the clubs and the owners is still alive. And I think that the arrival of Muhsin (Ertugral) as the new Ajax coach adds more flavour to the occasion. Previously, he (Ertugral) has been vocal about supporting me, and he was also instrument­al in making the transfer of Lebogang Manyama to Turkey possible. So the rivalry is on, it’s always on … but I’m confident we can pull off the win – again.”

In fact, the Mother City derby between City and Ajax has taken on so much value and significan­ce that McCarthy has chosen to eschew the media spotlight this week. The former Bafana Bafana striker now in charge of City instead wants to utilise all his time and energy to focus on his preparatio­ns for the clash against Ajax.

McCarthy sent Comitis to face the media at a press conference yesterday – and the club boss said he fully understood his coach’s reasoning.

“I have big shoulders, so I’m carrying things for the coaches,” said Comitis. “Benni wants to stay under the radar till match day. The pressure is on, the desire is there. Ajax have never beaten us, but we are not under-estimating them. We are aware of the challenges that face us. On their day, Ajax can match any team in the PSL and so can we. It makes for a mouth-watering occasion on Saturday. And, because these two teams know each other so well, Benni feels it is better that he keeps his thoughts and plans under wraps.”

There is enormous interest in the derby and Comitis urged supporters to get their tickets early.

“Current sales are much higher than what I’ve seen at this stage of a derby on previous occasions. If people don’t want to be disappoint­ed, it’s best that they get their tickets at their earliest convenienc­e.”

 ?? Picture: CHRIS RICCO, BACKPAGEPI­X ?? THE BIG-SHOULDER BOSS: Benni McCarthy sent John Comitis to face the media yesterday, as he prefers to keep his plans for Ajax under wraps.
Picture: CHRIS RICCO, BACKPAGEPI­X THE BIG-SHOULDER BOSS: Benni McCarthy sent John Comitis to face the media yesterday, as he prefers to keep his plans for Ajax under wraps.

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