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The Raging Battle of Cape Town Football

The Raging Battle of Cape Town Football
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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

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Written for The Pundits by @thatWallace

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12 Comments

  1. I don’t think fans are educated enough about the pros and cons of developing talent.

    1) Running a football club is not sustainable, and by that I mean not easy to make profits.
    2) It costs R2-3 million to raise a player through the development ranks.
    3) It’s easy for City to take the “not selling club” stance, because Ajax are far ahead already.
    4) It’s good for Cape Town to have 2 good teams in the PSL. It can’t be easy for fans to decide indeed, because John C is a top football man. Ajax too have their own reason to boast.

    Good piece!

  2. Ajax choose to do things the hard way by developing their own players rather than buying talent in – or buying a whole new football club as Comitis has done. The key to success in such a system is knowing when to sell players on and how long to keep them to ensure that the side remains competitive. It is always a difficult balancing act and requires patience from the supporters. The advantage is that when they get it right they have a side that represents the people of the city. Winning the MTN8 with a side containing 10 local academy players was a remarkable achievement.

    It is not yet clear what City are, other than a vanity project for Comitis to wind up the Ajax owners that he so despises. Neither side fills the stadium, neither side engages with supporters any better than the other, both have active social media, both have won cups recently, neither will win the league this season. The main difference really is the players. Ajax largely have locally based youngsters and city largely have a bunch of guys from Mpumalanga who are a bit more experienced and are likely to therefore finish a few places higher on the log this season. Ajax clearly have long term plans. Not sure what City will be in a few years time – or even where they will be.

  3. People shouldn’t be ‘switching’ just cos CPT City are doing well on the pitch at the minute,where’s their loyalty to Ajax?
    Hopefully the Cape sides in the NFD can get promotion this season via the playoffs seeing as Thanda are running away with it.
    Imagine 3 Cape teams in the PSL?

  4. You are plastic fans of a plastic club. You say that you don’t agree with Comitis buying Black Aces, but you then choose to support CTC instead of boycotting them of following Ajax. What message does that send out then?
    Ajax certainly haven’t done everything right, but Comitis has certainly done everything wrong. Your support for him and his antics is confusing and hypocritical. I wonder who you are going to support when he takes his money and team to some other town?
    But that probably won’t bother plastic fans like you.

  5. We must remember City are 6 months old. What they have done in 6 months is simply remarkable. And yet I find myself unsurprised… why? John Comitis. People forget he engineered the entire existence of Ajax, the youth, the foreign link – basically everything that keeps the otherwise crumbling Ajax CT together. He will bring the same level of professionalism, youth structures, and football acumen to CTCFC, but I think it’s becoming apparent that this time he’s going one step further: cultural success. How many times do you wish you could do something again with the knowledge you gained during your mistakes? This is what is happening at CTCFC. Ajax is clearly a cultural failure. While the foreign link allowed a much needed youth structure to uplift SA football, it clearly missed the hearts of Capetonian people, creating an ever growing divide between club and fan. A feeling of unwarranted elitism, Ajax current management are simply lazy and unqualified for the job at hand. In stark contrast CTCFC starts where Ajax ended, and in some way I feel this is Mr Comitis’ way of rectifying the one thing Ajax will always miss. Heart. With a gridlocked boardroom and the club mostly owned by Amsterdam, Comitis was never allowed to maximize his ability. We are now seeing how powerful that can be as he owns 100% of CTCFC. All the big European players Ajax produced came through him. His relationships with his players are unmatched – you got to see this guy, he’s something else. His business acumen, coupled with his ability to understand his players’ emotions (being an ex pro himself) puts him in a unique position that allows him to produce a top quality football environment with relative ease. CTCFC have put their best foot forward and so far each move has been better than the last. Teams don’t win things by accident and the log never lies. For me the proof is in the fact that we’re even debating this… a team has been around for 17 years, has a massive budget, assistance from a top overseas club, sponsors, full facilities setup… these two clubs shouldn’t be comparable, but they are… CTCFC will surpass Ajax with grace in every way. Rome wasn’t built in a day, watch this space.

  6. I really would like to add one more thought: can anyone honestly look themselves in the mirror and say that Cape Football culture and public opinion and awareness is something to be proud of over the last 10 years? Let’s not lie to ourselves as the few interested (that make up quite a measly total number).

    But what has happened in the last 6 months has brought back hope. Public interest, trophies, attractive football to watch. Purely positive for Cape Town. Anyone who thinks the CTCFC project is a hit and run is going to be consistently proven wrong, look what they’re doing with that DreamClub100 project that links with and uplifts 100 youth clubs in Cape Town. Anyway, in my opinion CTCFC is our last hope at anything remotely worth calling a pro football team with a potential for fan culture in Cape Town. Some embraced it from day1, some a short while after, some waited until the victories, and others still look with skepticism form their couches as they do literally nothing for professional football in Cape Town.

    We will sit at home watching “our” EPL teams forever from our couches – it’s time to take ownership… and CTCFC is ripe for the taking.

  7. Also could the author please acknowledge the fact that he has only reserved franchise purchase criticism for CTCFC – when almost all current PSL teams have a similar foundation???

    Ajax – CT Spurs, 7 Stars (don’t call it a merger, the dutch newly purchased 51% at the time)
    Baroka Simple Yellow football club (lower league team, more palatable)
    Bloem Celtic – Mangaung United
    CTCFC – MP Black Aces
    Chippa – Mbekweni Cosmos
    Free State Stars – Maholosiane
    G Arrows – Ntokozo FC
    Platinum Stars – Silver Stars
    Polokwane City – Bay United (NFD) – Maritzburg United
    SSU – Pretoria City

    Some were bought by individuals, others by corporations, some included relocations, some didn’t, some were top-flight, others were second tier, some lower…

    But we must be cognisant when our main criticism of CTCFC is ultimately something that all SA top-flight clubs share.

  8. I think there is a very big difference between the origins of CTC FC and Ajax Cape Town. AjaxCT were formed from a merger of two existing clubs within the same geographical location. This has been the mechanism of formation for many famous clubs around the world – Roma, Sampdoria, Newcastle United, FC Koln, Benfica. The clubs are never removed from their communities.

    In contrast, CTC FC were removed from one community and taken to another community in a different geographical location.This practice is not considered best practice by FIFA and is actually not permitted in many leagues around the world with higher standards of professionalism. Just because other clubs have done it does not make what Comitis has done morally justifiable. You may think the situation is fantastic right now, but how would you feel if he sells out again to a buyer in the north and the club moves yet again? Would you continue to support them in Mpumalanga? If we just casually buy into this our clubs will forever be the playthings of businessmen and never represent their local communities. For all those people who you claim are buying into the new franchise there are just as many who will never see it as representative of their city and culture.

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