This is my story about the raging battle of Cape Town football and the bid for two clubs to win over the harts of the Mother City’s football community…
Many don’t know it, but Cape Town has a very rich football culture that used to draw thousands of people to matches in the Mother City over weekends. In recent years, however, the city’s clubs struggled to make it into the Premier Soccer League, and those who did, struggled to maintain their status in the league. The only real constant, has been Ajax Cape Town – in 2016, however, all of that changed.
Just when it seemed like the heydays of Cape Town football were behind us, ex-shareholders of Ajax Cape Town, the Comitis family, purchased Mpumalanga Black Aces and moved the club down to the Mother City. And that, is how Cape Town City FC were born.
Now, the ethics of buying and uprooting a club is something that I do not agree with, but that’s a discussion for another day. Having said that, what Cape Town City have done since then, has really been quite impressive.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been associating myself with Ajax Cape Town when it comes to local football. I made a pact to myself that I would become more interested in South African football, in a bid to understand the local game, players and fans. Naturally, I was drawn to Ajax Cape Town as they were the only PSL club based in Cape Town at the time.
As I started getting more involved, I noticed a couple of things that worried me – the biggest being the massive divide between the club and their fans. The club had no official fan club, and the group of people who were operating as Ajax Cape Town Fans, weren’t on speaking terms with anyone at Ajax. We even went so far as to try and act as middle-men between the club and the fans but that did not really work either.
After several meetings with the club, @KeeganKruger and I came to the conclusion that the club were content with the masses of empty seats in the Cape Town Stadium every week. We took suggestions from our readers to the club and nothing seemed to be done about any of their concerns. The only campaign that bore fruit was the #Block116 initiative that we punted aggressively on The Pundits as well as to our followers on Twitter and Facebook.
At first, #Block116 seemed to pick up some traction with Ajax Cape Town fans filling most of the seats in the block. But as soon as the big boys (Pirates and Chiefs) arrived, the block turned to chaos as poor policing resulted in opposition fans infiltrating the block that was intended for Ajax fans only. The club never seemed overly concerned about this.
When Cape Town City FC made their announcement, I immediately took notice – I was very excited to see how many “fringe” fans would make the leap and switch allegiances. One of my mates, Dylan, (@MrCpt) was one of the first people that I saw who ‘switched’. A new club with a great brand and exciting new players certainly attracted the attention of many of Cape Town’s football fans. I for one, am on the sideline at the moment – I think many people are. Come next season, if Cape Town City continues their good performance on the field, I think a lot of fans will start streaming to their home games in Cape Town. Thus far, the club have handled their fans very well – they are very interactive on Social Media and always keep the public informed about the daily activities of the players and the club as a whole.
Another major issue I have with Ajax Cape Town, is their reputation as a “selling club”. Their youth academy is second to none and have produced some of the best footballers in the country. But then most of this talent is being sold off to opposition clubs in the PSL. The first three names that come to mind is Keegan Dolly, Abubaker Mobara and Khama Billiat – all three of these players were absolutely brilliant at Ajax and now ply their trade for other PSL clubs who directly rival Ajax for trophies every season. In my opinion, the only route out of Ajax should be abroad – selling players to rivals should never be a thing for them.
In stark contrast, Cape Town City just secured new long-term contracts for Lebogang Manyama and Aubrey Ngoma, with John Comitis taking a dig at Ajax’s selling mentality: “This sends a clear message that Cape Town City FC is a club for the future. One that strives to play a dynamic brand of football, keeping the talent necessary to compete for trophies every season. The idea of “cashing in” is not part of our strategy. We are not a selling club, we are here to win. Our fans and trophy cabinet are what is ultimately important as we strive to bring fan culture and pride back to the mother city.” – John Comitis, Cape Town City FC Chairman
At the moment, Cape Town City are sitting 3rd on the Premier Soccer League log, having already won the Telkom Knockout Cup in their first top-flight season. In stark contrast, Ajax have found themselves towards the bottom of the log under Roger de Sa this season. Since his departure, they have managed to climb back to 9th place – where they eventually end up remains to be seen.
The contrasts between the clubs are becoming increasingly clear and it is something that I will certainly keep an eye on. Come the iKapa derby-day on 11 February 2016, I might just do the unthinkable and wear the blue of Cape Town City FC…
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE DYNAMICS AT THE TWO CLUBS? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW
Written for The Pundits by @thatWallace