We are getting ready for action to resume in the PSL, although as ever the fans are left in the dark about the upcoming action. Players are back in training around the country, but there are no fixtures and the people that will be buying match tickets don’t even know when the season starts. Players are moving between clubs, but we still await the awards ceremony for the last PSL player of the season. Around the world other leagues that run in the same period as the PSL have had fixtures for weeks now. Fans are buying season tickets, arranging their diaries, and making arrangements with friends to go and watch games. We are still digesting just how bad Orlando Pirates were in last season’s cup final that has only just been completed. We will shortly be again playing games in near-empty stadiums, with fans following by twitter and asking the same old question of why do people not turn up to watch live football? Telling them when it is being played well in advance would be a good start.
Maybe Rivaldo Coetzee is just as confused as the fans, given that he has not turned up for the first week of training. After many excellent years at the club and being named player of the season for 2016-17, how sad that the coach now has to admit that he has no idea of the defenders whereabouts. Coetzee is not the first South African footballer to go AWOL and for sure he will not be the last. Bigger names in bigger leagues also resort to this sort of action to further their careers, as we have seen in the EPL where Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez failed to turn up to pre-season training in an attempt to force a move to Arsenal. However, this sort of situation always seems particularly disappointing when the player involved is seen to disrespect the club that had initially developed him from a youngster into a professional footballer.
Soccer Laduma have tracked Coetzee down and have reported that his is unhappy that his salary does not reflect the clubs valuation of the player. Given that he is under contract for the next two years and a potential replacement for his position has already been signed (Isaac Nhlapo) perhaps a better move would have been to instruct his agent to negotiate a wage increase. Longer established players earn more due to their experience, young players start on smaller salaries, but can command large transfer fees due to their potential – and Coetzee clearly has lots. This is basic football economics. Coetzee should be wary about taking the club on while still under contract. AjaxCT have shown in the past with Riyaad Norodien that they are prepared to play the long game. A long spell out of the game due to a payment dispute is not what Coetzee’s game needs right now.
We should remember that Coetzee was only 17 when he made his debut and is still a young man. We all made bad decisions when we were as young and many of us listened to bad advice from people we look back and realise we should not have trusted. Whether Rivlado is acting alone or on the advice of others there are large sums of money involved and a lucrative transfer that could see him develop into one of the best players in the country. With such rewards on offer maybe we all would have made such bad decisions at his age, and perhaps should not be quick to judge. Most of us expected him to leave this year, some of us even wanted him to leave. All we can really hope is that his situation is resolved as swiftly as possible, and we should be glad it is being played out away from the training ground where the emotions involved could affect the pre-season preparations. Maybe in the future we could see a more mature Rivaldo back in AjaxCT shirt, giving back to the club in the same way we have seen Nathan Paulse, Franklin Cale and Dominic Isaacs do in these past few seasons.
We know that the AjaxCT model is to develop players like Coetzee, bring them into the team and sell them on. Some fans may feel that this is being done just to benefit other clubs, but AjaxCT often get as much out of these players as the sides they sell to – sometimes even more. So far Coetzee has represented AjaxCT 84 times. It cost time, money and effort to develop him, but the compensation will come when his transfer is finalised. Will the club that eventually buys him get the same outcomes? Many of the big spending clubs do not get so many games out of their signings and do not recoup their costs. Often they perform no better than AjaxCT – look at Orlando Pirates who finished even lower than an underperforming AjaxCT side last season despite buying Mobara and Norodien. Sundowns only got 28 games out of Keagan Dolly before he moved on. Good value? After paying one of the most expensive transfer fees in South African football at the time (2009), Sundowns only got 36 games out of Franklin Cale. AjaxCT got 171 games and a reported fee of R5.5 million. Even our neighbours from Mpumalanga – who are not a selling club remember and are totally different from how every club has ever operated before – are not getting as much value from their players as they like to tell their fans. Matt Sim (9 games), Bhongolwethu Jayiya (21 games), and Aubrey Modiba (2 games) – all demanded to leave, with no fee received. Good value?
Two consecutive 10th place finishes is not good enough, but the AjaxCT model works as we know from the achievements of earlier years. The coaching structure seems to be in place to improve this now. If you only buy and sell players that is also fine, but despite the criticism AjaxCT receive we see good players in the red and white shirts as often as many other clubs do. In an ideal world we would see a smoother transition when they leave, but if you work with youngsters you are inevitably going to be dealing with immature behaviour when it comes to transfer time. There is some anger now regarding Rivaldo Coetzee, but also some humour going around as seen via the internet memes. We got three and bit seasons, and 84 games from Rivaldo. If we get 3-4 seasons and 80 -100 games from our players that seems fine to me – as long as we have a competitive side in place while they are here with us. For that its over to the new look coaching set up.