A weekly opinion piece from Paul Giess
Pre-season training has been in full swing for a couple of weeks now and much of the news filtering out to supporters has focused on the new faces in the squad. This of course includes the seven youngsters promoted from the academy. Only RDS knows for sure, but surely they will be introduced gradually to the first team line-up. Seven youngsters in one go is a big move even for a club with an academy as strong as Ajax Cape Town.
We will however be looking to see a more immediate impact from the four new senior players that have come on board. This includes Ali Abondo who many may not consider a new signing given his appearance in the last couple of fixtures last season. The Kenyan midfielder started well but faded slightly in the games he played, but he did admit the PSL was faster than the football he is used to. Given time to settle he could be a good replacement for Granwald Scott who was sorely missed in the second half of last season. He did not look like an overly physical player in his brief appearances for the club, so Ajax fans may be surprised to know his nickname in Kenya was “Teargas”. This follows an incident when one of his tackles in a derby game resulted in a red card that prompted a riot in the stands that had to be quelled by police using tear gas. Let’s hope we don’t see too much of that side of his game.
Zimbabwean defender Erick Chipeta, also joins on a three year deal from Chippa United. On paper this looks like a very good signing given his strong record in South African football and his international calibre. Chipeta has played 40 times in the PSL during the last two seasons and regularly represents his country. It would be no surprise to see him coming straight into the starting eleven.
The signing of Joaquim Lupeta, from Bidvest Wits is less thrilling, even allowing for his pedigree having come through the academy at Porto FC in Portugal. It is hard to get excited about a striker who scored exactly zero goals in the previous campaign. But, we felt the same about Prince Nxumalo last year. When Prince joined Ajax he had not scored for two successive seasons and was seeing very little game time. Fast forward to May and he finished the top South African goalscorer in the PSL. Who knows if Lupeta will enjoy the same level of success? On paper it looks like a gamble or perhaps one for the future, although there are signs that the club feel his size and physical strength may allow him to make a rapid impact on the PSL.
The fourth new signing for the new season was confirmed last week when Thabo Mosadi agreed to move from relegated University of Pretoria. At 25 Mosadi joins Ajax in the prime of his career and is likely to be introduced into the first team straight away following the departure of Riyaad Norodien. Our paths have crossed before of course, with Mosadi playing in one of the most infamous games in our recent history – the 5-1 home defeat to University of Pretoria that was the final nail in the coffin for Maarten Stekelenburg. Mosadi even set up one of the goals on that fateful day, as he made his way into the University of Pretoria first team. In the following two seasons he only missed one PSL game, as the Pretoria side established themselves in the PSL. This clearly suggests he is a consistent performer, as well as having both a good fitness and disciplinary record. We were continually frustrated with the in-and-out form of Riyaad Norodien last season. We now have a potentially more consistent performer to take his place.
There is still well over a month to the end of the transfer window, and there could still be plenty of movement in and out of the squad for the new season. So far it looks like the new season could see a side that is slightly less reliant on the local players coming through the academy.