As the transfer speculation continues around the PSL one thing that we do know for sure is that many of the foreign players currently in Cape Town have packed their bags and left for new opportunities. This includes both AjaxCT – where Ali Abondo and Joaquim “Juicy” Lupeta have left – and neighbours Cape Town City, who have released three of their allotted five foreign players since the start of the season. Cape Town is a city that attracts foreigners from around the world to live and work, but footballers are finding it difficult at the moment.
Abondo and Lupeta may well be the victims of a managerial change, being brought in under RDS, but not seeming to fit the style of play that Stanley Menzo is looking for. Lupeta always looked a bit of a gamble given his lack of success at Wits, and with Prince and Paulse ahead of him in the pecking order up front. He never looked like succeeding as a wide man in the front three, which was where he was given some game time in the limited apperances he did make. Tashreeq Morris is a more talented footballer and is also struggling to make an impact from that position. Lupeta will probably benefit from a move to a club that will play him in a more traditional centre forward role and we wish him well. Abondo is perhaps more unlucky having initially looked like a decent fit for the departed Granwald Scott. Injury seems to have robbed him of the chance to make an impact and the club have decided it is time to move him on and open up places in the squad for new overseas players.
There seems to have been some organization and planning by AjaxCT to release their players, which is clearly not the case across the city. Just days after John Comitis told the world, “We are not a selling club. We promised Cape Town a team that they could be proud of”, he was forced to release Australian midfielder Matt Sim and Latvian defender Renars Rode. Sim was the second Australian to leave after the earlier departure of James Brown. Sim was also a key squad member on a two-year contract, having scored in both of their games against Kaizer Chiefs this season. Not a selling club? He was released for personal reasons, but clearly wants to play in the Australian league again rather than the Cape Town franchise project. Remember that City also sold their key defender Aubrey Modiba after just two games, who has since gone on to be a key player for Supersport United. Not a selling club? Imagine the stories the press would write about AjaxCT if the equivalent players had been sold this season.
The acquisition of overseas players is not an area that AjaxCT have excelled in in recent years. A succession of overseas players have come in and made bit-part contributions to the squad. In recent years George Akpabio (Nigeria), Koen van de Laak (Netherlands), Noah Sadaoui (USA), and Wanderson (Brazil) all made promising starts that they could not maintain. Since 2010, the only overseas players that I can recall having made a significant impact on the PSL in an AjaxCT shirt are Anssi Jaakkola (Finland) and Khama Billiat (Zimbabwe). Perhaps it is the quality of the young locally based players that are constantly coming through from the academy that prevents foreign players getting a solid run in the team while they are settling into life in Cape Town.
Maybe another exciting overseas talent is about to be unleashed as the club were quick to announce the signing of Zambian international midfielder Rodrick Kabwe from Zanaco. The Zambian side won their league last season, with Kabwe scoring ten times. He also has 25 international caps and at the age of 24 looks like the type of player we should expect to see make the first team squad regularly. It seems that Orlando Pirates were also keen, but AjaxCT invited him on a ten day trial, during which he impressed and have now snapped him up. The length of that deal – 1.5 years with a 3 year option – means that if he does impress and Pirates come sniffing back AjaxCT can name their price should they decide to sell.
Kabwe’s statistics look impressive and he was immediately listed as one of the five AjaxCT players to look out for in 2017 by local journalist, Rodney Reiners. There seems to be more planned as Ari has indicated the club are looking at another foreign attacker. It could be another Zambian with attacking midfielder, Aubrey Funga, also having a trial at the club. This all comes on top of the earlier capture of Rheece Evans – the man Cape Town City (not a selling club remember) tried but failed to sign when they sold Aubrey Modiba. It seems the club that everyone thinks of as selling is now in the buying market.