It was a sad weekend for Ajax Cape Town as the club formally gave up their title of MTN8 champions. Congratulations to the new holders, Bidvest Wits, who deserved their comprehensive success and celebrations, just as we did in Port Elizabeth 12 months ago. It is just so frustrating that our PSL form last season prevented us from having the opportunity to defend the hard earned title.
As good as that cup final victory was many supporters, and even some players, later felt that success so early in the season caused a loss of focus on the PSL. The slump in form that set in from that moment onward is still affecting the team even now. Since winning the MTN8 Ajax Cape Town have only won 5 of the 29 PSL games played. It is virtually a full season of games and if that form is repeated over the coming full season it will result in relegation. There are some mitigating circumstances, such as the tragic death of Cecil Lolo shortly after the final, but it is a year long run of poor form that would put any coach under pressure, anywhere in the world. It is slightly strange then to see local football correspondent Rodney Reiners criticizing Ajax fans for calling for the coaches head after last week’s Cape Derby defeat. From Jose Mourhino to the ordinary guy that runs your kids school team – any coach with a 5 in 29 win record is going to come under pressure from the support.
We could have had the opportunity to get straight back into action this week, but our game against Wits was postponed to allow them time to prepare for the MTN8 final. It seems this competition is destined to affect our form even when we are not in it. The Cape Derby was a chastening defeat and many coaches would have welcomed the chance to play again quickly and get it out of their system. You have to wonder why the PSL scheduled a full round of midweek PSL games that included the eight MTN entrants. They surely realised that at least two of them would have to be postponed to prepare for the final. Administration has never been a strong point for the PSL.
The constant international fixtures, MTN weekends and midweek postponements have left us with another break in action of three weeks. By the time we play our fifth game of the season, at Kaizer Chiefs on 15 October, many teams in other leagues that started the same time as the PSL will have played over a dozen games. Some journalists have gone to print this week claiming this a good thing, because it will allow our teams to sort out their mistakes and inconsistencies. But, surely it is this stop-start nature of the PSL that leads to inconsistency. We play three high tempo PSL fixtures in ten days and then it is back to playing three weeks of training matches against local sides.
Looking at the PSL log as it currently stands it is difficult to know who is doing well and who is struggling. Clearly Sundowns are in a false position, but Free State Stars have played four more games and are still only one point ahead of them. We might feel a little more comfortable knowing we already have a game in hand over Baroka and Maritzburg, but who knows when we will ever win again given our current form.
Every year at this time it is the same thing, with delays due to internationals and the MTN8. Blogs and twitter feeds are filled up with disgruntled PSL fans. It is high time we prioritized our league like other nations do. Play the tournament in pre-season like we used to. Play cup games midweek where possible. Keep the weekends for the PSL, which should be the jewel in the crown of our football. Just like La Liga is in Spain, the Bundesliga is in Germany and the EPL is in England. The world’s biggest and best leagues play at weekends and stick their cups in midweek slots. They do not announce fixtures and then cancel them so that teams can prepare for cup games. If we did the same here in SA maybe we would not see so many inconsistent performances and low scoring games. If we played the next 29 PSL games on consecutive weekends maybe Ajax could even squeeze in 6 wins.