No sooner had Roger de Sa left the building than the new man had taken his place. The swift appointment of Stanley Menzo as new first team coach was revealed to the world in a live Facebook stream just two days after RDS had ‘resigned’. The speed of the changeover suggests that, as the media is now reporting, there may have been more to the departure of RDS than was initially reported. Subsequent events do seem to imply that Ari Efstathiou may have lost patience with RDS and forced him out of the door, with his replacement already lined up and ready to go.
It all left our local football correspondents in a mad dash to find out just exactly who this new man is. Wikipedia was consulted and web sites were downloaded. We now know that he is a former Dutch international, with World Cup experience as a player and coach, as well as having played for ten years at Ajax Amsterdam during the height of his career. That is an impressive pedigree, but after taking it all in there still seems an element of risk attached to the appointment. Most of his coaching experience has been as an assistant or as a youth coach. His one first team appointment was with Belgium side Lierse SK, who sacked him in 2014 after he left them stranded at the foot of the Belgium First Division. Like RDS he was a goalkeeper in his playing days and many of the AjaxCT supporters felt this contributed to his style of defensive football. There is no reason to believe Senzo will also be the same of course, but his first team selection on Wednesday night saw a side packed with defenders. Perhaps of most concern is the fact that he has only been in South Africa for six months and has only coached the youth sides at Ikamva. The role of Mich d’Avrey is going to be crucial in getting him up to speed with the mindset of the local footballer.
Wednesday night’s game saw him earn a point at Free State Stars in what was clearly a must-not-lose fixture. Stars are the side everyone predicted to struggle this season, given the fiasco over their ownership earlier in the year. They are the side that AjaxCT will have in their immediate sights in the struggle to escape the drop zone. Defeat would have been a disaster. That was quite a baptism of fire for the new coach and perhaps you could not blame him for setting up a defensive looking side under the circumstances. For many fans this will have been the first game they did not get to watch this season as there was no TV coverage, but reports suggest that AjaxCT did push the home side and created enough to be deserving of the point. Although AjaxCT remain bottom of the log they should be the happier of the two sides with this result.
Much of what has happened in the past week has forced the spotlight back onto Ari Efstathiou. The AjaxCT hierarchy are often criticised for putting money first ahead of progress on the field and rumblings of discontent about the owner and his management style have once again circulated in the press. It is true that many AjaxCT fans would have preferred to see John Comitis remain in charge after the acrimonious split between the former business partners, but ultimately we were just so pleased that it was all over that Efstathiou was seen as an acceptable choice. From a fans perspective what can we ask from an owner? That he acts decisively and promptly in times of crisis. Well that has certainly been the case this week. That he manages the players contracts well and ensures that we get maximum profit from the sales when they occur. Since Efstathiou took over Ajax have held onto their better players for longer than we have seen previously. Rivaldo Coetzee and Travis Graham are still here and bids were turned down for Bantu Mwazakali, who is now tied down on a longer contract. Anssi Jaakola was sold at the right time for a good price (now revealed as just under R5 million) with two young goalkeepers coming through. We don’t know how much money his family make personally from his work at AjaxCT, and neither do the ex-players and media that have criticised him. What we do know is that any business owner has the right to earn a reward as long as the business is prospering. For sure, AjaxCT are not prospering right now, but they have in the past under Efstathiou and thanks to his actions this week they may prosper again in the future.