It is that time of year that AjaxCT fans love to hate – the transfer window. The media narrative every six months is that the club is about to implode under a mass exodus of players. If you believe what you read then you would think that AjaxCT will struggle to put out a six-a-side team in the coming season. The reality is that we knew Rivaldo Coetzee was going, we suspected Travis Graham was going and we all thought Mark Mayambela had already gone. Rather than constantly focusing on these players it would be nice to read something about any of the 14 new faces (2 new signings, one promoted from the academy, one player returning from loan, 8 trialists) that are currently with the squad.
Several media pieces caught my eye this week. SABreakingNews.co.za tweeted this article about Travis Graham and asked “Why does the #PSL club struggle to keep its best players?”. Of course the simple answer in this case is they don’t. Travis has been at AjaxCT since he was a youngster and has made 103 first team appearances over 5 seasons. Compare that to the constant coming and goings at other PSL teams. The Orlando Pirates team that started last season’s Nedbank Cup final featured only two players that were at the club prior to 2015. The reality is that all clubs bring in and move on players. Many clubs have a faster turnover of players than AjaxCT, but do not seem to get such negative press. It appears that because AjaxCT develop so many of their own players that there is a section of the media and supporter base that think these players should commit themselves to the club for life. No club could really begrudge Travis the opportunity of a new challenge elsewhere after giving five seasons of service.
Rather than reflect on the positive side of his AjaxCT career or his possible replacements the football media have done their best to spin his departure into a crisis. The worst culprit seem to be Kick-Off magazine who find it hard to understand the simple logic that a player that is not in the first team does not always train with the first team. Travis is still training at the club of course and has been extremely professional in his attitude and very complimentary of the club. Photographs of AjaxCT training sessions shared by fans on social media at the weekend show Travis training with the rest of the squad. Given that he is likely to be playing at one of AjaxCTs rivals in the near future it is however understandable that the coach would not want him to always be part of the tactical thinking and first team planning right now. It is hard to believe that a professional football reporter could not make this link before putting their words into print. But then given that Travis is actually training with the first team it seems the story was completely made up anyway. However, it spread widely across several football twitter threads and fan discussions over the past weekend. It is at best lazy journalism and at worst it is completely moronic.
Consider this statement from the Kick-Off article:
The midfielder has also not taken part in any pre-season friendlies with his name left off all match-day squad lists.
Really? Do teams usually play transfer listed players ahead of established first team players and trialists in pre-season preparations? Just what do Kick-Off expect the club to do? Should they put the trialists in the gym and play the guys that will be gone in a few weeks time? I read these articles and sometimes think there is not just a fundamental lack of understanding about how an academy club like AjaxCT operate, but also a lack of understanding about the basics of how any football club operates.
The constant negativity associated with selling players at AjaxCT was only reinforced by an opinion piece in Goal by Sandile Mazibuko, titled “WHAT IF AJAX CAPE TOWN HELD ON TO THEIR STAR PLAYERS?” Sandile presents an AjaxCT XI that have left the club and gone on to play elsewhere – sometimes in successful sides, sometimes not. It is an interesting exercise, although I would argue that the set-up based on a 3-2-4-1 is not a typical AjaxCT formation. The point is that you could do this for any club. It would be just as easy to do this exercise for Kaizer Chiefs, Liverpool, even Walsall (yes there is such a team – go and look them up on Google). Once again – the reality is that all clubs bring in and move on players. Sandile’s team includes Alexander and Manyama who were not pulling up any trees at AjaxCT – many other clubs would have moved them on at the time they left.
The real story with Sandile’s piece is that AjaxCT developed all of these players themselves. Not all clubs can do this. So this is in fact a positive story, highlighting the success of the AjaxCT academy and how fortunate we are as AjaxCT fans to see these players in our local team for at least part of their career. His team includes Nazeer Allie (173 games for AjaxCT) and Granwald Scott (204 games for AjaxCT). We saw virtually all of their careers. It includes Thulani Serero who we saw play for AjaxCT 63 times and no other PSL supporter has ever seen in their team’s squad. In general I enjoy Sandile’s articles and I appreciate the time he takes to actually talk to the players at the club. I just despair that a piece by someone who reports so well on the club can also come across so negatively.
Of course the real negative in this transfer window remains the conflict between the club and Rivaldo Coetzee. As supporters it is difficult to know exactly what is going on here and – with the exception of one or two prominent journalists – we certainly cannot trust the local football media to provide us with anything informative. As supporters we can only look on at a situation and wonder if each of the club, agent and player are overplaying their hand. The clock is ticking away on this transfer window and as that door starts to shut we can only hope that a compromise position – perhaps a reduced fee, but with a sell on and/or performance clause – is finally accepted. It will not be long before some actual football games take place and we can put all this nonsense behind us. When we can all actually see what is happening on the field in front of us we can get back to talking about the football rather than the scandals that are manufactured in the media.