Those few magical months back in 2015 when AjaxCT reached two cup finals are starting to feel like a fading dream. Since winning the MTN8 in Nelson Mandela Bay the side has proceeded to lose in the first round of every single cup competition it has entered. Of course, that does not include the MTN8 because they have not been able to even qualify for the competition. This weekend’s defeat at Polokwane became the sixth first round exit in a row, which have occurred over three seasons in which the team has been permanently anchored in the bottom half of the table, and frequently in the relegation places. It was reported back in 2015 that the team were suffering an MTN8 hangover. It is starting to feel more like they have gone into a coma.
Some credit must go to the side for keeping a clean sheet at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium. With Jody February having to replace Brandon Petersen in goal and the defence rearranged again, with Mosa Lebusa moving to a central role there was the potential for confusion. However, this seems to have been avoided and there seems to have been a fairly even match played out judging from match reports. It sounds like the sort of game where one goal would have won the fixture and both sides became more cagey as time went on. Inevitably it drifted into a penalty shootout, which saw AjaxCT lose out yet again.
This was also the fourth consecutive penalty shoot-out the side have lost since 2015. Another sign that not much has been going right for some time. The coach made a point of stating that the side would be practicing penalties in the run up to the game. Some people prefer to think a penalty shoot-out is a game of chance. This includes the club’s official twitter feed who reported the “Lottery of penalties to decide this one…” after extra time was concluded. If it really was a lottery there would be little point practicing. If it really was a lottery we would not expect to lose four in a row. It is often said that the pressure of a penalty shoot-out cannot be replicated in an actual game situation. It surely was a daunting task for Abbubaker Mobara to step up in that Nedbank Cup Final two years ago, but is the same pressure there against KwaDukuza United and Polokwane in smaller, less well attended venues? We missed four penalties in these two defeats – a 40% failure rate. Painful.
In addition to the pain of yet another defeat, we can now look ahead to even more weekends without football to watch. There is no first team game scheduled for the next three weekends. For those fans needing a football fix there always seems to be something happening at Ikamva from the MDC side to the youth teams. This was the case on Saturday when the ABC Motsepe game with Santos took place and the club boldly announcing the screening of the Telkom Knockout fixture on a big screen afterwards. For those that could not make it there was an opportunity to watch the game on TV or so many of us assumed. Three separate channels showed the Golden Arrows vs Pirates game, nobody covered the AjaxCT game. It could be argued that blanket TV coverage of these fixtures is not good for our local game anyway, but with three channels showing the competition do they all need to show the same game? Champions league and EPL games that kick off at the same time are split across different channels giving us a choice of what to watch.
Maybe it was just as well. We would only have endured a long afternoon of frustration anyway. Many supporters probably watched the Currie Cup final instead and saw a truly successful local side – or like me watched England U17 win the world cup by beating Spain 5-2 and so becoming the only second nation ever (after Brazil) to win two world cups in one year (U20 world cup won in June). Every weekend there is so much sport to watch from around the world, which is a good thing because we have a long month ahead of no AjaxCT to keep us entertained.