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[FM19] From Ajax to Ajax


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Ajax Cape Town.svgAjax Amsterdam.svg
From Ajax to Ajax- The Aim
I’m going to be honest here: starting a project like the Red Jackals of Prague was a bad idea. I was home from college on winter break and wanted a new save and story to dive into for the six weeks I was home. I created a detailed story outline, wrote profiles for north of 20 characters, and had even started figuring out which weird references I was going to start shoehorning in. But I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to write narrative, and before I knew it, I was back at school. I haven’t been able to get in that frame of mind since, but with my studies now done for the year, I’m confident I will at some point this summer.

But I’m almost always in the frame of mind to play FM. So a little while back, I started a new save that would keep me engaged with FM without having to worry about constructing a narrative, which is guaranteed to hold me back because of how much effort I put into my narratives. I’ve decided to document that save here, and it’s called From Ajax to Ajax. This means I’ll be beginning my career down in the South African second tier with Ajax Cape Town, with the goal of managing Ajax Amsterdam in the future. I wanted some change from the usual European routine that I’d gotten used to (this is the first time I’ve ventured out of Europe since my Aldosivi save three years ago), but the goal will be to get back to that routine eventually. However, I don’t anticipate the path from Ajax to Ajax to be a perfectly straight line, so there will be three distinct stages to this save, each with its own set of goals:

1. Ajax Cape Town– Gain promotion to the Premiership, win the Premiership, win the CAF Champions League
2. Unknown second-tier Dutch club– gain promotion to the Eredivisie, qualify for European football, win a trophy of some kind
3. Ajax Amsterdam– Dominate Dutch football, sign South African youth, win the UEFA Champions League, win the FIFA Club World Cup

As I’ve never managed in the Netherlands before, I’d like to experience all the country has to offer before taking the step up to the giants from Amsterdam. I think each of these stages will be loads of fun in its own way, as there are unique challenges to fulfill in all three.

Game Setup
I’ve loaded only the top two tiers in South Africa and the Netherlands as playable, with the top two leagues in the major European nations and the top tier in Portugal and Belgium on view only. The other leagues will be added as playable once the save reaches European territory. All African and European internationals are in the database, as well as all South African players.

So without further delay, we shall begin the first leg of this journey in beautiful Cape Town!
Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

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Ajax Cape Town- The Club
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Ahh... Cape Town Stadium. It's lovely, isn't it?

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We’ve won all three of South Africa’s main cup competitions in the past, but never a Premiership or a continental title. This must change.

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We’re very well-endowed with our facilities, as we have excellent ratings in all the important facility categories. After all, we’re a cog in the wheel in one of the best youth systems on the planet! The 64,000 capacity Cape Town Stadium was built for the 2010 World Cup, where it hosted eight matches up to the semi final stage. We share it with our foremost rivals Cape Town City, with whom I hope we will be contesting the Ikapa Derby soon.

We’re not doing too well financially, however, as we’ve slipped into the red after just a few months. Hopefully promotion to the Premiership will right the ship.

Edited by oriole01
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Ajax Cape Town- The Squad, Tactics, and Manager
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I’m pretty happy with the squad’s balance; there’s no gaping holes I need to worry about filling. Instead, I can focus on building for the future when the transfer window comes around. We have the maximum of four foreign players allowed for the second tier, and since none of them are first choice and three of them are out of contract in the summer with strict rules in place for foreign players’ contract renewals, I can see some change coming there. Also, we have two high-quality players whose transfers are already arranged for the summer in keeper Brandon Petersen and striker Prince Nxumalo, both of whom will be moving to Bidvest Wits for a measly sum. That’s disappointing, but hopefully they’ll put in a good shift in their last season here. Here are five of our most exciting young players:

Kiyaam Bull|Thendo Mukumela|Riyaaz Koopstadt|Grant Margeman|Tashreeq Morris

I think all of these players will be very successful for us, and have the potential to follow me to Europe as well. Margeman and Mukumela in particular look like they could become really good players if given the right platform to develop. We have even more young talent in our Reserve and U19 teams, which I’ll address when those players earn promotion to the senior squad. If I receive a reasonable bid from a European club for any of my players, I won’t stand in the way of their dreams, but other African clubs will have to look elsewhere. Overall, this squad is more than good enough for promotion and should easily get us back to where we belong, but a good amount of work will be necessary to turn it into the best side in Africa. I look forward to that process.

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Tactically I’ll be using a similar setup to what I used on the FMCU Joint Save at Valencia, which is a 4-1-2-3 Vertical Tiki-Taka tactic with a Regista as the main creative outlet, two Inside Forwards, overlapping Wing-Backs in the defensive strata, and a lone AF up top. We’re planning on attacking everybody in the second division with impunity, so I don’t really have a settled second tactic yet. That’ll be something I’ll revisit after we’re promoted, when we’ll start to face tougher sides.

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And this is how I plan to arrange the squad this season, between a first XI that will play two thirds of our games and a second XI to cover the remaining third and to come off the bench for the first XI. While we only have the league and Nedbank Cup to deal with this season, I’m a firm believer in using two XIs to make the most out of an entire squad and to develop as many younger players as possible. I'll be updating these XIs after each transfer window, to keep tabs on how the squad is progressing and share my opinions on players.

To explain my rating system, red denotes a player who isn’t good enough to play for me (none at the moment, thankfully), blue denotes an expendable squad player, green denotes a quality starter or a good prospect, and yellow denotes a star player or a top prospect that I wouldn’t sell for any price (to another African club at least). Morris will be the lucky player who gets to feature in both XIs, switching between wings. Masilake Phohlongo is the odd man out at the moment- he’s an AM and doesn’t fit the tactic- but he has good potential and I’ve started retraining him as a striker, where he will hopefully be ready to play a part next season.

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As this won’t be a narrative-based save, I won’t be giving my manager a story to follow along with, but nonetheless I’d like to introduce you to one Shaka Roosevelt, a South African-Dutch dual national with grand ambitions on two continents. Born in Johannesburg, Shaka came up with Orlando Pirates as a central midfielder before moving to Ajax, where he stayed for ten seasons and gained Dutch citizenship until he moved back to Orlando Pirates to finish his career. Shaka has been hired at Ajax Cape Town on the strength of being a former Ajax player, and hopes to build an impressive enough CV to take on his dream job at his former club someday.

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I’ve started off with a Continental B License, meaning I’ll need to gain two more licenses along the way.

I’m excited to start this journey, it should be a lot of fun. Hopefully, some of you will stick along for the ride as well.
Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

Edited by oriole01
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4 hours ago, oriole01 said:

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Ajax Cape Town- The Squad, Tactics, and Manager
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I’m pretty happy with the squad’s balance; there’s no gaping holes I need to worry about filling. Instead, I can focus on building for the future when the transfer window comes around. We have the maximum of four foreign players allowed for the second tier, and since none of them are first choice and three of them are out of contract in the summer with strict rules in place for foreign players’ contract renewals, I can see some change coming there. Also, we have two high-quality players whose transfers are already arranged for the summer in keeper Brandon Petersen and striker Prince Nxumalo, both of whom will be moving to Bidvest Wits for a measly sum. That’s disappointing, but hopefully they’ll put in a good shift in their last season here. Here are five of our most exciting young players:

Kiyaam Bull|Thendo Mukumela|Riyaaz Koopstadt|Grant Margeman|Tashreeq Morris

I think all of these players will be very successful for us, and have the potential to follow me to Europe as well. Margeman and Mukumela in particular look like they could become really good players if given the right platform to develop. We have even more young talent in our Reserve and U19 teams, which I’ll address when those players earn promotion to the senior squad. If I receive a reasonable bid from a European club for any of my players, I won’t stand in the way of their dreams, but other African clubs will have to look elsewhere. Overall, this squad is more than good enough for promotion and should easily get us back to where we belong, but a good amount of work will be necessary to turn it into the best side in Africa. I look forward to that process.

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Tactically I’ll be using a similar setup to what I used on the FMCU Joint Save at Valencia, which is a 4-1-2-3 Vertical Tiki-Taka tactic with a Regista as the main creative outlet, two Inside Forwards, overlapping Wing-Backs in the defensive strata, and a lone AF up top. We’re planning on attacking everybody in the second division with impunity, so I don’t really have a settled second tactic yet. That’ll be something I’ll revisit after we’re promoted, when we’ll start to face tougher sides.

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And this is how I plan to arrange the squad this season, between a first XI that will play two thirds of our games and a second XI to cover the remaining third and to come off the bench for the first XI. While we only have the league and Nedbank Cup to deal with this season, I’m a firm believer in using two XIs to make the most out of an entire squad and to develop as many younger players as possible. I'll be updating these XIs after each transfer window, to keep tabs on how the squad is progressing and share my opinions on players.

To explain my rating system, red denotes a player who isn’t good enough to play for me (none at the moment, thankfully), blue denotes an expendable squad player, green denotes a quality starter or a good prospect, and yellow denotes a star player or a top prospect that I wouldn’t sell for any price (to another African club at least). Morris will be the lucky player who gets to feature in both XIs, switching between wings. Masilake Phohlongo is the odd man out at the moment- he’s an AM and doesn’t fit the tactic- but he has good potential and I’ve started retraining him as a striker, where he will hopefully be ready to play a part next season.

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As this won’t be a narrative-based save, I won’t be giving my manager a story to follow along with, but nonetheless I’d like to introduce you to one Shaka Roosevelt, a South African-Dutch dual national with grand ambitions on two continents. Born in Johannesburg, Shaka came up with Orlando Pirates as a central midfielder before moving to Ajax, where he stayed for ten seasons and gained Dutch citizenship until he moved back to Orlando Pirates to finish his career. Shaka has been hired at Ajax Cape Town on the strength of being a former Ajax player, and hopes to build an impressive enough CV to take on his dream job at his former club someday.

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I’ve started off with a Continental B License, meaning I’ll need to gain two more licenses along the way.

I’m excited to start this journey, it should be a lot of fun. Hopefully, some of you will stick along for the ride as well.
Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

Great opening post and interesting career idea.

I don't know if its possible to do this but you could start at Ajax Cape Town then go to Ajax's reserve team Jong Ajax and then Ajax itself but I don't think you can manage reserve teams but would be cool if you could.

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11 hours ago, Ronaldo Beckham said:

Great opening post and interesting career idea.

I don't know if its possible to do this but you could start at Ajax Cape Town then go to Ajax's reserve team Jong Ajax and then Ajax itself but I don't think you can manage reserve teams but would be cool if you could.

Thanks Ronaldo. It's a good question you've asked, as it's one I considered myself recently. I think it is possible to manage reserve teams (I'm not 100% sure), but I don't think that would be very enjoyable, as you'd be constantly at risk of losing your players to the senior side and ineligible for promotion, which doesn't align with the goals I have for the second stage of the save. If I'm having trouble finding a job in the Netherlands, I might take the Jong job temporarily if it's offered to me, but I'm hoping that I won't need to.

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3 minutes ago, oriole01 said:

Thanks Ronaldo. It's a good question you've asked, as it's one I considered myself recently. I think it is possible to manage reserve teams (I'm not 100% sure), but I don't think that would be very enjoyable, as you'd be constantly at risk of losing your players to the senior side and ineligible for promotion, which doesn't align with the goals I have for the second stage of the save. If I'm having trouble finding a job in the Netherlands, I might take the Jong job temporarily if it's offered to me, but I'm hoping that I won't need to.

Yeah I look forward to see what route you take.

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2 hours ago, noikeee said:

Good idea for a career, good luck. I really fancy Ajax so don't feel too much pressure when you get to the Netherlands. ;)

Thanks mate, I feel like we have a lot of Ajax supporters on here and out in the wider FM community as well. I'll admit I was pretty indifferent to them until the Champions League run last year, but that's exactly the sort of thing that would cause me to sit up and pay attention. Not to say I'm a true fan now necessarily, but I have much more of an appreciation for them than I used to, and would love to get there on this save.

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Ajax Cape Town
2018/19 Pre-Season
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We’re odds-on favorites to go up as champions, so you don’t just have to take my word for it when I say we’re going to be playing Premiership football next season. Furthermore, that’s what the board expect as well, with any failure to do so sure to provoke some serious scrutiny. They also expect me to reach at least the quarter finals of the Nedbank Cup (South Africa’s main national cup), so that means winning at least three ties there. No pressure, eh?

Mukumela and Margeman- who I rated as our two best prospects in the squad intro- are also predicted to be our key men this season, so go figure.

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I didn’t take charge of the club until before the first Zizwe United friendly, so let the record show that the scoreless draw with The Magic WAS. NOT. MINE. Why might I care about that, you might ask? You can see if you scroll down the page. Ikapa Sporting paid a heavy price in my second friendly, and we improved in our second outing against Zizwe after a lackluster performance in the first.

Let's get it started.
Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

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Ajax Cape Town
Opening Third
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Well, there really isn’t a start better than this. Ten wins from ten, six of them clean sheets, and four total smackdowns of the opposition.

It was a great sign when the first of those smackdowns came against Tuks in our opening match of the season at the Cape Town Stadium, as Prince Nxumalo opened our account 23 minutes on and Thabo Mosadi followed up with the first of several hat tricks we would see throughout these first ten games.

Supposed title rivals Cape Umoya gave us our toughest game of the season up to this point to start September, as we raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first half but conceded two brilliant goals in the early stages of the second half. However, a stoppage time trip on Mosadi gave Nxumalo the opportunity to win it late from the spot, which he took well. We then breezed through the rest of September with easy wins over Witbank Spurs*, Maccabi, and Uthongathi, the last of which saw Morne Nel record our second hat trick of the season.

October began with another big win over relegation-threatened Jomo Cosmos*, but fellow strugglers Mbombela gave us much more of a game. Tashreeq Morris bagged a brace in the first half thanks to two goalkeeper errors, but they got a goal back on 89′ and had an equalizer disallowed for offside, in a match where we also had two goals chalked off. We finished the month with a routine win over Richards Bay, the highlight being Riyaaz Koopstadt scoring a brilliant long-range goal to open his account for the club.

November started with our most dominant performance so far, a 7-1 thrashing of local rivals Stellenbosch* at the Cape Town Stadium. The second XI really showed their value here, as they recorded a result more explosive than anything the first XI have put up so far. There were a lot of good things to speak of here, but a particular highlight was our bright young center back Kiyaam Bull quite incredibly netting a hat trick and providing an assist for fellow young CB Keenan Abrahams. All three of Bull’s goals came off headers from set pieces taken by Mosadi, who ended up with four assists in total. There was also an especially ruthless goal from our Dutch striker Thomas Verhaar, who has given a decent account of himself in this first third of the season. I suppose it was fitting that Stellenbosch’s only goal came from a set piece as well, but it was only the most puny of consolations in a special victory for us. We did have a huge comedown in our next game against Ubuntu Cape Town, but we still managed to get our tenth consecutive win, with center back Isaac Nhlapo heading in his first of the season from another Mosadi corner to break the deadlock in a poor game.

* denotes a second XI match
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League Table
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It shouldn’t be hard to see why we’re first. While promotion is expected and was always going to be likely, even I couldn’t have seen us starting this well. While it’d be silly to predict that we’re going to keep this exact form up, it doesn’t look like we’ll have any trouble going up based on these performances, and an unbeaten season isn’t out of the question if we remain focused.

However, it’s worth noting that we’ve yet to play second-placed Tshakhuma, who have also started very well and look like the only side close to our level in this division. We will face likely our toughest test of the season away to them in our last league fixture before the winter break. We’re also yet to play third-placed Real Kings, who we will play the week prior to the Tshakhuma game. They’re currently leading a very tight race for third place, which is the second promotion playoff spot. To provide a quick explanation, the champion of the First Division is the only team guaranteed to go up, with second and third joining the 15th-placed team in the Premiership in a four-game miniature league, with the team finishing top either retaining or gaining the right to play in the Premiership. I’m glad we’re on pace to avoid that playoff so far.

At the other end of the table, Witbank Spurs, Jomo Cosmos, Mbombela, and Maccabi have all been particularly poor, with Witbank unable to find a win in their first ten games. It’s also worth noting how TS Galaxy appear to have adopted Tony Pulis tactics, as they have drawn seven times with just one win but only two losses, having neither scored nor conceded more than two goals in a match so far. I hope we can put a dent in that record, in our favor of course.

The middle third of the season will take us through February and thus the winter transfer window. We’ll also begin play in the Nedbank Cup and face several tests against top half sides in the league.
Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

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Ajax Cape Town
January Transfer Window

It’s about time I spoke about the contract rules in the First Division. The rules state that players can only be signed to one-year contract extensions, unless there is an extension clause negotiated with the player included. With nearly all of our senior players out of contract in June, this meant I wasted no time getting to work on offering new contracts to everyone I plan on keeping next season. Everyone I approached agreed to a pre-contract deal beginning at the end of the season, including key players/prospects Thabo Mosadi, Tashreeq Morris, Thendo Mukumela, Isaac Nhlapo, Raymond Monama, Riyaaz Koopstadt, and Kiyaam Bull.

As I mentioned in the previous update, South Africa also has strict foreign player rules that make it difficult to keep those players at the club. In addition to a four-player registration limit (five in the Premiership) and a First Division stipulation that only three of those four can be in the same team sheet for matches, there is also a rule in both divisions that in order for a foreign player’s contract to be renewed, he must play in 70% of the team’s games in his previous contract period. As none of my foreign players are in the first XI and three of them- Gerald Phiri (Malawi), Gerald Takwara (Zimbabwe), and Rodrick Kabwe (Zambia)- are out of contract in June, I put those three players in the shop window hoping to make some money off them before I lost them for nothing, but there were no suitors for them or first XI left back Sibusiso Khumalo, whose wage demands were far too high for my liking. I even failed to loan out our fourth-choice keeper in what seemed to be a frigid January market, despite January being a hot summer month down here…

Therefore, there is no January business to speak of. However, I have secured two (and potentially more) exciting future transfers for next season, who I will describe in detail when they arrive in July.

Middle Third
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Though we certainly weren’t as dominant as we were in the first ten league games, winning seven out of our next ten is nothing to be ashamed of.

November finished with a routine win over top half side Royal Eagles away, where Mosadi scored a screamer from outside the box and Prince Nxumalo tapped in a rebound to propel us to victory.

December began with two narrow 1-0 wins, despite total dominance over TS Galaxy* and Real Kings. An early goal from our captain Yagan Sasman settled the former while a late point-blank winner from Mosadi settled the latter. I knew the away fixture against second-placed Tshakhuma was going to be difficult, and it did indeed serve as our first dropped points of the season. Things started spectacularly on 2′, when our outbound keeper Brandon Petersen- who is also one of our best free kick takers- slammed one in to become the first goalscoring keeper I’ve managed in my FM career. Tshakhuma would find an equalizer on the counter on 25′ though, thanks to some poor hustle and marking from our back line. Things looked to be going downhill when Morris was sent off for a two-footed lunge on 50′, but our opponents didn’t do much with their man advantage and we instead regained the lead on 81′ from Monama, who superbly fired into the bottom-right corner from 25 yards out. It was Tshakhuma who had to settle for a draw, as although they found their second goal quite brilliantly three minutes later, we gave a better account of ourselves overall in Thohoyandou. Our last game of the year saw us take part in the Preliminary Round of the Nedbank Cup, in which all 16 First Division sides face off for a spot in the competition proper. Our opponents were strugglers Maccabi*, who we dispatched easily with brilliant long-range goals from Takwara and Monama, plus a late cushion from our third-choice striker Sedwyn George, who scored his first goal of the season. We will play Cape Umoya in the First Round at the end of February.

After the 16-day Christmas break, we returned to action in the new year, but January is where our form took a dip. We battered TS Sporting, but only won 1-0 by way of a long-range thumper from Nxumalo. Then came our first loss of the season, a total FMing away to Tuks where we outshot them 47-5 and their goal came from a free kick. Sometimes it just happens like that, I suppose. We got back to winning ways against relegation-threatened Witbank Spurs* courtesy of a brace from Phiri, but we still shouldn’t have been conceding two goals against them. That was quickly erased by another rough loss, this time to Cape Umoya at the Cape Town Stadium in what became our first dropped points at home this season. We again dominated- outshooting them 27-4- but we did ourselves no favors, as Nxumalo missed a penalty in the first half and Morris had a goal called back for offside in the second half. By contrast, all four of Cape Umoya’s shots were on target and their winning goal was taken well on the volley. So while this wasn’t as undeserved as the Tuks loss, there was actually more reason to be disappointed to finish January.

February has started very well, however, as we swept aside Maccabi again in the league, this time thanks to twin 20-yarders from Grant Margeman, a second free kick goal for Petersen, and a token (but excellent) goal for Masilake Phohlongo, who’s been limited to only bench appearances this season. We then smacked down on Uthongathi* as well, with a Thomas Verhaar hat trick and a Monama screamer serving as highlights in a simple 5-1 win.

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Some Brandon Petersen GIFs for @Jimbokav1971's viewing pleasure. It really is a shame we can't keep him next season...

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League Table
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Our solid form has kept us comfortably clear atop the table, but we did lead Tshakhuma by more than eight points at some stages of our most recent run-in. It’s still a larger gap than it was after 10 games though, so I’m happy with that. It’s a shame the boys from Limpopo Province won’t get automatically promoted for finishing second, as they have been a cut above everyone else except us so far, and we even have the same number of losses through 20 games. The fight for third place is the real promotion battle, as seven teams still have a chance of claiming it with 10 games to play. Ubuntu Cape Town currently hold that spot, but that could change in an instant. Mbombela’s form has drastically improved to move them out of the relegation picture, whilst Uthongathi and Stellenbosch could afford to be safer and Maccabi, Witbank Spurs, and Jomo Cosmos are the trio in the thick of it.

The closing third of the season will see us continue to compete in the Nedbank Cup and face a tough May slate of exclusively promotion chasers, but I’m hoping we’ll have the title as good as wrapped up by then.

Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

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13 hours ago, Crazy_Ivan said:

Cape Town City fan but still respect Ajax CT. Good luck I will be following this.

Cheers! I can tell you we will be having our first Ikapa Derby of the save a season earlier than expected:
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Stay tuned for the next update.

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  • 5 weeks later...

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Ajax Cape Town
2019 Youth Intake

While I forgot to take a screenshot of the intake itself, I have taken screenshots of the best prospects from this year’s youth class.

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Mkhize is easily the best player in the intake, and already looks to be on the edge of the first team. I can see him playing a part as early as next season, or two seasons from now at the latest. I plan to train him as a Mezzala to get the most out of his creative abilities, and before long I expect him to replace 29-year-old Raymond Monama in the 2nd XI spot for that role.

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The brilliantly-named Shakes Abrahams adds some much-needed depth at the right back position, where we had only three natural fits at the entire club before the intake. Shakes looks a good prospect, but he does need some work on his technicals to become an effective wide player, especially crossing. His path into the first team is much trickier, however, as Thendo Mukumela and Sirgio Kammies are quality young players in their own right that Abrahams will have to develop especially well to surpass. With that in mind, it might be a while before we see this guy in action for the senior squad.

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Sono is the youngest player in the intake at 15, but he certainly isn’t the shortest on talent. Since we don’t have an AM in our primary tactic, I’ll also be training him as a Mezzala to give him more versatility. That’ll inevitably increase the time it takes for him to be useful to the team, but he’s such a young player that I don’t think that’ll matter too much.

I also signed another seven players from the intake, who will definitely be shown if they ever break into the first team.

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Ajax Cape Town
Closing Third (-2 Games)

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We were unstoppable in both the league and cup up until mid-April, but deep progression in the cup has come at the expense of our league form since then.

We ensured February would be a perfect month in the league with an easy win over in-form Mbombela at home. Thomas Verhaar added to his hat trick in the previous match with a brace here, with a Thabo Mosadi header and a 20-yarder from Gerald Phiri to support him. The month finished with an insanely entertaining but frustrating cup tie against First Division rivals Cape Umoya* in a game that had everything, including two red cards for the opposition. Their first sending off occurred on just 19′, though it was in truth a very harsh decision by the referee. That gave us license to dominate the game in the attacking third, but we couldn’t quite polish off our chances in normal time, the best coming from Morne Nel who got clear on goal but hit the post from long range. In extra time Cape Umoya’s resistance finally seemed to crumble, as they had a man injured with no subs remaining and then gave us a penalty for a trip on Gerald Takwara. The foul also resulted in their second red card of the match, which brought their numbers down to just eight men. But Prince Nxumalo missed the penalty, leaving the responsibility to finding our winner to a rather unlikely source. 2nd XI right back Sirgio Kammies had only put up a handful of shots all season, but in the 110th minute he scored a beauty, taking a cross-field pass from his opposite full back Yagan Sasman and blazing the ball into the back of the net from 20 yards out. We should have scored more with our huge man advantage, something we almost achieved through Nxumalo’s header on 116′, but it was called back for offside in what was a disappointing day for our departing striker. A win is a win, and it was an unforgettable one at that, but we should have performed a bit better here given the circumstances.

March began with a routine win over relegation strugglers Jomo Cosmos*, with another goal from Phiri- this one from a difficult angle- and a delightful cannon header from Kiyaam Bull off Phiri’s corner giving us the points. We then thrashed local rivals Stellenbosch by a six-goal margin for the second time this season, in a match where we were truly firing on all cylinders. Nxumalo and Nel both bagged much-needed braces to end their respective goal droughts, center back Isaac Nhlapo scored his second goal of the season from a looping header off a corner, and Masilake Phohlongo also grabbed his second goal of the season off the bench, who seems to have embraced the “supersub” role for us as he gets more comfortable as a striker. Encouraging signs all round. We then faced our first big test in the Nedbank Cup, where we travelled to Pretoria to take on Premiership big boys SuperSport, and emerged victorious thanks to a truly inspirational second half performance. The first half, however, was the opposite of inspirational. We went behind after just three minutes when some poor defending on a cross gifted Siyabonga Nhlapho a tap-in at the back post. We struggled to find our footing in the game in the rest of the half, and were punished shortly into the second period, as their prolific striker Bradley Grobler got clear on goal to force a terrific save off Brandon Petersen… but easily put in the rebound. Two goals down with 30 minutes to play, we needed a serious change in fortunes to save ourselves, and thankfully a switch from a conservative 4-4-1-1 to our usual attacking strategy provided just that. Shortly after Rodrick Kabwe had shown the first signs of threat by hitting the bar from a free kick, Nel crafted a brilliant finish on 68′, driving into space and finding the bottom-left corner from outside the box to provide us an avenue back into the game. Five minutes later, and we were well and truly back in it, as SuperSport put all of their defensive eggs in the basket of marking Raymond Monama on a counter, who found an unmarked Verhaar surging forward to slam in our equalizer on the volley. We didn’t stop the attack at level pegging; shortly after Nel had a second denied by the post, Tashreeq Morris got our winner on 87′, taking an inadequate clearance outside the box, cutting in to the edge of the 18, and fooling the keeper with a shot down the middle that could only be parried into the back of the net. A sensational comeback and a massive result that gave us confidence heading into the quarter finals of the cup, and potentially beyond. We finished March with a dominant win over Royal Eagles at home, though the first highlight of the game on 9′ was a negative one for us, as Nxumalo missed another penalty, ensuring he won’t be taking one again in a red and white shirt. Morris quickly erased that memory with two goals on 14′ and 22′, continuing his good form from the cup game. Nel also made it two consecutive games with a goal on 38′, and four minutes later Nxumalo redeemed himself with a strong headed finish from Mosadi’s cross. Royal Eagles did get one back very late on, but having done our job well in the first half and outshooting them 43-7 over the entire game, the margin of victory was fully deserved to cap a second consecutive perfect month in all competitions.

April began with our most recent league win against Ubuntu Cape Town down the road at the Athlone Stadium. Though we were easily the better team in the first half, we couldn’t quite find a way to score, but that was immediately corrected once the second half whistle blew. With 47 minutes on the clock, a delicious deep cross from Yagan Sasman found the head of Verhaar rising high, who steered the finish into the back of the net. Ubuntu threatened an equalizer with two dangerous free kicks, but the crossbar and Petersen were equal to them. Then we found the insurance goal on 78′, as Bull headed home from a set piece for the fifth time this season, this time drilling Mosadi’s corner into the ground which zipped into the bottom-right corner at high velocity. A solid win over a decent team, but our league form would dry up after this. Our next game saw us return to cup action, with a mouth-watering iKapa Derby in the quarter final against Premiership title contenders Cape Town City. We quite unbelievably got on the board in the very first minute, when in our first attack of the game a heavy touch by Verhaar looked to have ended the chance, but in trying to clear the ball, right back Thami Mkhize clattered the ball off center back Thato Mokeke, which rolled over the line for 1-0. City were determined not to let that embarrassment eliminate them from the competition, so they took the initiative in the rest of the first half and into the second half. That got them an equalizer on 75′, as winger Riyaad Norodien was shown the inside by Sibusiso Khumalo, which enabled him to launch an absolute screamer into the top-left corner from 20 yards out. But just two minutes after their goal, we got our winner, as Kabwe caught the City defense napping at the back post with his free kick delivery to Nhlapo, who headed home in stride to cue wild celebrations in the overwhelmingly red and white support at the Cape Town Stadium. City certainly tried their best to get level again, but this time our defense held them off and we advanced to the semis at the expense of our foremost rivals, who I certainly look forward to facing again next season. We would follow up that big result poorly however, as we dropped points to mid-table TS Galaxy* away at the Kameelrivier Stadium. The 2nd XI dominated in the attacking third but were insipid in front of goal, and a late red card for Kammies didn’t help either. We were never in danger of losing, but this was a quite forgettable performance in a match where a win could have secured the title. Our next game also ended up being one to forget, as Richards Bay handed us just our third defeat of the season at the Cape Town Stadium. We again dominated, outshooting them 31-3, but we were again poor in front of goal and Promise Mkhuma was a lethal weapon for our opponents, sinking one from 20 yards on 14′ and tapping in a bungled clearance from Tamsanqa Teyise at the back post on 57′. Despite putting 16 shots on target ourselves, their keeper saved each and every one of them, and we walked away with a rather shameful goose egg in the score column and another missed opportunity to get our hands on the trophy.

We started May with our most important remaining league fixture against Tshakhuma at home, the team chasing us for the title. Now only one point was enough to win it, and one point was indeed what we got, but I’m still disappointed that we didn’t win this game. It was a game of few chances, but we took our first good one, as Morris knocked in a rebound from Thendo Mukumela’s saved effort on 30′. Edward Manqele missed a golden chance to equalize midway through the second half, and as we failed to find a second goal, it was Manqele who took his second chance in the first minute of stoppage time, putting in a free header that our defense should have covered. The rest of the added time yielded nothing, so although we lifted the trophy after the game, there was still reason to not be fully satisfied with the day’s events. We went from a bittersweet result in the league to an absolutely astonishing result in the cup, where we took on the Premiership’s joint-most successful club and CAF Champions League finalists Mamelodi Sundowns in the semi final. And we completely obliterated them, sending shockwaves through the entire country and sailing into the final in the process. Sundowns bossed the early goings and looked likely to score, but we grabbed a goal against the run of play on 18′, as Nel took a pass from Grant Margeman in space and rifled the ball into the heart of the net from 20 yards out. Sundowns oddly seemed less threatening after that goal, and Verhaar nearly got us a second at the end of the first half. Shortly into the second half came the key moment, as their right back Anele was dismissed for a second yellow card on 53′. After that, the floodgates opened, as Verhaar slotted in our second on 56′ and Nel got his second and our third just two minutes later. Phiri headed in our fourth on 67′ after a horrible miss in similar circumstances shortly before, and 90 seconds later Morris would head in our fifth from Mukumela’s brilliant deep cross. Nel would claim his hat trick on 72′ with another brilliant long range drive that arrowed into the bottom-left corner, then his midfield partner Monama powered in our seventh from just outside the box on 79′. A beautifully ruthless attacking performance was capped by a Sasman-induced own goal in stoppage time for a whopping eighth tally on the scoresheet and ensuring a complete humiliation for our supposedly formidable opponents. A special result that I’ll put up there with my best ever on FM, and one that gives us enormous confidence that we will emerge from our final matchup with Orlando Pirates victorious. Somehow we followed that result up with another disappointing one in our penultimate league fixture, settling for a 1-1 draw with playoff contenders TS Sporting* at home. We had more trouble in front of goal in the first half, and then went behind against the run of play to Mondli Miya’s sizzling half-volley on 54′. Thankfully we were able to avoid defeat in this one, as third-choice striker Sedwyn George skated past the opposing defense on a counter from their corner and coolly rolled his finish past the wrong-footed keeper. We should probably have lost to a wide-open volley late on, but it was fired just over the bar and we kept hold of the point. Our winless run in the league now stands at four after this, something I’ll hope to rectify against Real Kings in our final game of the season. Though the title is wrapped up, we could break two league records with a win in that game and match another, so there is still something of value on the line other than pride.

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The scenes at the Cape Town Stadium once we got our hands on the First Division trophy.

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League Table
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The gap to Tshakhuma was made insurmountable with two games to play, and we could still win the league by as many as ten points. Tshakhuma have secured a playoff spot, with either Cape Umoya or TS Sporting set to join them depending on how the last round of fixtures go. As described in a previous post, the playoff teams will face the 15th-placed team from the Premiership in a mini-league, with the “champion” either keeping their place or going up, depending on who it is.

Mbombela have continued their incredible form, rising all the way up to 6th from 11th at the last update. They’ve climbed above the likes of Real Kings, Royal Eagles, and Richards Bay, all of whom were playoff contenders that fell off in the last couple of months.

Maccabi are the first team to suffer relegation, and there are still four different clubs who could join them with one game to play. Witbank Spurs are currently in the second drop spot, but a win for them could save them if either Jomo Cosmos- who are on great form at the moment- or Stellenbosch- who are on terrible form at the moment- drop points. It’s certainly shaping up to be a tense final day on that front.

The Nedbank Cup final will be live-blogged here and on FtCS, followed by a season review. Winning a double without even being in the top flight would be quite the achievement, and our results have been more than worthy of it, so let’s go on and win it!

Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

Edited by oriole01
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Ajax Cape Town
2019 Nedbank Cup Final

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The stage is set for the final at the sold-out Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein. Ajax Cape Town, First Division champions and 8-0 semi final winners, against Orlando Pirates, who have struggled to a 10th-placed finish in the Premiership this season but have fared much better in cup competitions, winning the MTN 8, reaching the quarter finals of the CAF Champions League, and making the final in this competition off the back of a huge semi final win of their own, a 5-0 smashing of Bidvest Wits. Orlando will have three men missing from this final due to injury, while we will be missing the injured Sirgio Kammies (who wouldn't have started anyway) and starting defensive midfielder Riyaaz Koopstadt, who is at the U-20 World Cup with South Africa. Orlando are slightly favored, but we have every reason to believe we can win this match, especially considering how many better Premiership teams we have already beaten to get here. It'll be up to the players to go out and get the job done.

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And here are the players, as we set up in our usual holding 4-3-3 against Orlando's 4-4-2. Brandon Petersen gets the nod in goal for us, who could end his time at the club with glory. The standard 1st XI back line is in place except for Khumalo, who I've replaced with the more productive Sasman (who will be replacing him for good next season). Bull is waiting on the bench as both an excellent defensive option and a huge set piece threat. Takwara fills in for the missing Koopstadt, the former having quietly had an outstanding season for us but will leave due to work permit concerns. Margeman and Nel start ahead of him, with Monama as a dangerous replacement on the bench. Morris and Mosadi fill the wings as usual, with Phiri also primed to enter from the bench if needed. Verhaar has become the 1st XI striker over Nxumalo, so his inclusion here is now the norm.

On the opposing side, I'll be hoping Brilliant Khuzwayo doesn't perform as his name suggests in goal. I'll also be wary of both left back Innocent Maela, who has the exact same stats as Sasman, and striker Justin Shonga, who has scored an impressive 24 goals this season.

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We are underway in Bloemfontein. It's time to go out there and win this.
Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

Edited by oriole01
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8 minutes ago, Crazy_Ivan said:

The final was in Free State Stadium? Thats a very PSL thing to do. :D

It'd be nice if it was in Soccer City or the Cape Town Stadium even, but I suppose selling out a 45,000 capacity stadium isn't bad. 

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7'- Seven minutes in, and Ajax Cape Town have the lead! Orlando started aimlessly passing the ball around their area, and Thomas Verhaar had the awareness to make the interception off Xola Mlambo and immediately unleash a fiery drive past Khuzwayo in goal from 20 yards out! What a goal for the underdogs so early in the match! How will Orlando Pirates respond?

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16'- Nine minutes later, and it's two! Yet again Ajax Cape Town prove their quality from set pieces! Mosadi's corner found its way to Takwara 16 yards out, who was unlucky to hit the bar, but it's none other than Verhaar who's there to volley in the rebound from close range! Not even 20 minutes played and Ajax Cape Town have a strong lead here!

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28'- This is unbelievable! Ajax Cape Town up three before the half hour mark! A quick one-two from a free kick gives Mukumela the space to ping an absolutely outrageous cross to the back post, where Mosadi is waiting to fire it past Khuzwayo for 3-nil! Surely this match is over already?

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33'- Hold on, there might be a way back into this game for Orlando Pirates! They've been quiet all game so far but they've struck here, a deep cross from the right back Lorch finding Shonga close in, who scores his 25th goal of the season. There's still a mountain to climb here for Orlando but it's significantly shorter now!

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HT- A comfortable lead for us at half time, buoyed by a clinical opening half hour. I will be playing it safe in the second half, dropping all our instructions to standard levels. 45 more minutes and we will have the trophy, all we need to do is keep our heads.

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64'- It's a second for Orlando Pirates! Mahachi's venomous free kick is dispatched on the header by Gabuza, who Ajax's full backs Sasman and Mukumela failed to pick up. This game looked done and dusted but it's anyone's to win now!

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90'- We enter three minutes of stoppage time here at the Free State Stadium. Orlando Pirates have really come into the game in this second half, but they still trail Ajax Cape Town two goals to three. Ajax went defensive with five at the back after that second Pirates goal and it seems to have worked so far, but the men in black will be pushing even harder now. Can the underdogs hold on in these last few minutes?

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90+3'-

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That's it! They have held on! Ajax Cape Town are this year's Nedbank Cup champions! The second-tier side have shown they belong among the big boys not just tonight, but throughout their whole run! They've beaten SuperSport, Cape Town City, Sundowns in that incredible semi final, and now Orlando Pirates in the final! An amazing achievement for Shaka Roosevelt and his players, who we will definitely look forward to seeing in the Premiership next season! Good night from Bloemfontein! 

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Wow, what an incredible cup run this has been. As confident as I was that we would be getting promoted this season, I definitely wasn't expecting a double. The result against Sundowns was the highlight of our season, and this win in the final is just the icing on the cake, even if we didn't end up defending our big lead as well as we should have.

This cup run has given me reason to be very optimistic about our potential performance next season, as we’ve already beaten some of the best sides the Premiership has to offer with the squad that was given to me at the beginning of the save. With three future transfers secured for next season and more likely to follow, I can only imagine how dangerous our squad will be before long. Also, whoever got this side relegated in 2018 ought to be even more ashamed of themselves now!

The biggest reward of this cup win is a spot in the CAF Confederation Cup (Africa's Europa League equivalent), so we will be playing continental football next season, which is way ahead of schedule. I genuinely can't wait to play on the continent, as nothing excites me more in FM than trips to faraway countries to play teams I've never heard of!

I'll put up the season review later today, after I play the Real Kings match. Then it'll be time to crack on with next season! Something tells me it'll be even more exciting than this one... stay tuned.

Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

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8 minutes ago, Crazy_Ivan said:

Brilliant season, that's an epic cup run. Well on the way to being on the werklike Ajax shortlist.

Thank you mate, I appreciate you following along this morning! I think it'll be some time before I'll be ready for the werklike (had to look that one up :D) Ajax, but I'm sure someone up in Amsterdam is watching what's going on down here with intrigue.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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Ajax Cape Town
2018/19 Season Review
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This was the best season we ever could have hoped for before we started, as we conquered the First Division with ease to return to the Premiership, and then shocked everyone by defeating four Premiership teams en route to lifting the Nedbank Cup. I’ve already won as many trophies this season as I have in four previous years of playing FM, so that should tell you how happy I am at how this season went!

Awards
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Our young star at right back Mukumela wins player of the year, though I think Mosadi was more deserving for an incredible body of work on the left wing, with 8 goals and 13 assists to his name. Verhaar should have been in the conversation too, leading our scoring with 14 goals and providing 5 assists as well. Kabwe’s only goal this season- a curling free kick- was declared the best, but he’ll be leaving at the end of June.

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Our wise-beyond-his-years captain Sasman won young player of the year for the Nedbank Cup, and finished third in the general player of the year running. Nel took second for scoring 4 goals in the tournament, including a hat trick in the semi final.

Squad | League Overview | Fixtures 1 | Fixtures 2 | Finances

Cape Umoya finished top of the mini-league ahead of Tshakhuma and Chippa from the Premiership, so they will be going up alongside us despite finishing 15 points behind Tshakhuma in the regular season. After being rock bottom earlier in the season, Mbombela finished an incredible 5th. Witbank Spurs were the second and final team to go down, losing on the final day while both teams they could have surpassed won.

The only big negative surrounding the club at the moment is our financial situation, as we’re nearly a million dollars in debt, but the projections say we’ll be back in the white by the end of next season as a result of our promotion to the Premiership. That’s a relief.

Youths
Our youth and reserve teams were very successful this season, as the reserves played 28 friendlies throughout the season and didn’t lose any, and our U19s obliterated their regional league, winning every single game en route to the title. They also reached the U19 Cup final, where they suffered their only loss of the season against Wits’ academy. The reserves will be in a proper reserve league next season, and the U19s will almost certainly defend their title. I plan to promote multiple members of the youth academy to the first team next season, which will be detailed in a transfer/squad update.

Contracts
After our mass contract renewal in December that saw the vast majority of our players signed up until next season, there were still a few decisions to make in regards to who would continue on with us into the Premiership.

Zambian Rodrick Kabwe and Zimbabwean Gerald Takwara were the first out the door, as they would have failed to obtain a work permit. I wish I could have kept Takwara though, as he performed very well for us in the 2nd XI and Registas are hard to come by. Malawian Gerald Phiri would have been able to get a permit, and he provided a decent return of 7 goals this season from the right wing, but I already have two new wingers lined up to join in July and he had little room for growth at 26, so he leaves the club as well to free up all but one of our foreign player spots, occupied by our free scoring Dutchman Verhaar.

The two tougher decisions came with regular starters Sibusiso Khumalo and Tamsanqa Teyise. Khumalo actually had the highest average rating of any of our players this season from left back, but his 2nd XI counterpart Sasman had far more end product, and I’d already decided he’d be moving into the 1st XI next season. Add that to that fact that Khumalo is 29 and was asking for a huge pay rise and key player status, and it wasn’t hard to see that it was best to let him go. Teyise gave me the most thought, as although he’s 32 and didn’t contribute to the attack at all this season in the BPD role, he is our experienced vice captain and was willing to take a pay cut to remain at the club. However, with one particular center back prospect in the youth team ready for first team football, there was no room left for him in the squad, and he’s too old to retrain anywhere else, so I reluctantly parted ways with Teyise as well.

And as for the most important contract of all:
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I’m now under contract with the club until 2021! Considering how well this first season has gone, there might even be a chance I could have achieved all my goals at Ajax Cape Town by the time this contract runs out. That does sound overly optimistic, but having already won two trophies and secured continental football isn’t something to sneeze at, so we very well could ride this train of momentum on to bigger and better things sooner rather than later.

Expectations for 2019/20
Premiership: The side I’ve been given is already incredibly strong, and will only get stronger with incoming transfers. Our results in the cup give me reason to believe we can immediately contend for the Premiership title next season, or at least break into the top half. The best thing is, the squad are even more ambitious than I am, and got upset when I suggested top half as a safety aim! That’s how you know you’ve got a good group of lads.
Nedbank Cup: We’ve already won it, so I don’t see any reason why we can’t try and win it again. I’d like to return to the semi finals at least.
Telkom Knockout: This league cup type competition isn’t that important, but I’d still love to reach the semi finals there as well.
CAF Confederation Cup: I don’t really know what to expect from other teams on the continent, but we’ll surely find out quickly enough once we start the qualifiers in December. I’d like to reach the group stage at a minimum, with passage into the quarter finals a more satisfying prospect.
Other Goals: Promote as many youth players to the first team as is reasonable, sign a (relatively) high profile player, do the double over Cape Town City, and increase attendance at the Cape Town Stadium.

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Thank you for reading along this season, and I hope you will stick along for our adventure into the Premiership and all across Africa next season. I’m very excited for it, if I haven’t mentioned it enough!
Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

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2018/19 African Review
South African Premier Division - Wikipedia
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Kaizer Chiefs are champions for the 12th time, having snatched the lead late in the season from Bidvest Wits, who led for most of the year. Our rivals Cape Town City finished 3rd, just short of a Champions League place. Maritzburg finished an impressive 4th, while Sundowns disappointed in 5th. SuperSport were in the title race for the first half of the season but completely dropped out of it in the second half, and ended up all the way down in 6th. Black Leopards were the big surprise in finishing top half, while Orlando Pirates were seriously disappointing in finishing 10th, having flirted with relegation until the last month or two of the season. Baroka went down automatically after a dreadful season, and Chippa went down in the playoff as mentioned before.

Nedbank Cup Winners:
Ajax Cape Town (2nd title)
MTN 8 Winners:
Orlando Pirates (10th title)
Telkom Knockout Winners:
Kaizer Chiefs (14th title)

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ES Tunis have won back-to-back Champions Leagues and their 4th overall after a 5-2 aggregate win over Sundowns, whose mediocre league performance was not offset with a trophy here.

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Tunis beat Club Africain and Ismaily, while Sundowns beat ES Sahel and Al-Ahly to reach the final.

CAF Confederation Cup - Wikipedia
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Chiefs secured a treble by winning their first ever Confederation Cup late in the second leg, despite blowing a 3-0 aggregate lead from the first leg against Al-Hilal Omdurman of Sudan.

Africa Cup of Nations - Wikipedia
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Senegal have won their first Cup of Nations title after a long wait, defeating surprise finalists Guinea with two goals from Sadio Mané and Badou Ndiaye deep in extra time.

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An incredible run to the semis for Gambia, who took third place! Guinea probably had the hardest road of any to reach the final, beating Algeria, Ivory Coast, and Egypt. It was also nice to see Mozambique, Gabon, Cape Verde, Uganda, and Zimbabwe make the knockout stages. South Africa, hosts Morocco, DR Congo, and Mali were the surprise early exits at the group stage. That meant South Africa's manager was sacked, and I tried to apply for the job, but was not considered reputable enough yet. That will have to wait for another day.

Player of the Tournament:
Ahmed Musa (Nigeria)
Top Goalscorer:
Trézéguet (Egypt, 5 goals)

Let me know if you'd like to see anything else.

Edited by oriole01
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Ajax Cape Town
2019/20 Pre-Season


January transfer window 2019: When does it open and close ...

Transfers Out
Released

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Here’s a reminder of the players we let go. Everyone from Jacobs down was a youth player who wasn’t going to make it here, and all of whom have found new clubs. Among the first team players, Khumalo has signed for SuperSport and Teyise has signed for Orlando Pirates, but the rest remain free agents for now.

Sold
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Total: $155,000

We’d been preparing to lose Petersen and Nxumalo to Wits for a long time: their transfers were pre-arranged at the start of the save. Mukumela, however, was a sale we weren’t planning for. But I’ve made a rule of letting my players go to Europe if they want, and Eredivisie runners-up Groningen made an acceptable offer for our star right back, so off he goes to the next step of his career. I’ll certainly miss him, but I wish him all the luck in the world.

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With those transfers out, our depth chart looked like this, with a lot of 2nd XI spots to fill for the upcoming season. Thus, my work began.

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Transfers In
Internal Promotion

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We filled our backup keeper spot with 23-year-old Darren Johnson, our Reserves keeper who moves up from fourth choice to second choice with the departures of Petersen and Shu-aib Walters. Though he doesn’t quite look like #1 material, he is a very capable backup and will get plenty of match experience this season.
Rating: Blue

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We filled the center back spot with 18-year-old Keegan Johannes, an incredibly talented young prospect who jumps straight from our U19s to the first team. He looks a natural fit for the standard CD role behind another big young talent in Kiyaam Bull. Like Bull, he should be part of our plans for years to come.
Rating: Gold

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I had to be a bit more creative to fill the holding midfield spot behind Riyaaz Koopstadt. With good natural Registas very hard to come by in South Africa, I decided to give another 18-year-old in Cade Erickson a go there instead of taking a risk in the transfer market. While Erickson is far more suited to standard CM roles and is one of our best prospects there, his attribute spread matched up well with those required for the Regista, despite having no familiarity there. I’m hoping he can now become a dual-threat player, able to contribute at both DM and CM. His potential certainly indicates that he could.
Rating: Gold

Purchased
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Total: $525,000

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Our first transfer in was 20-year-old midfielder Jesse Donn from fellow iKapa club Ubuntu Cape Town on a free. I was initially looking at Donn to be our new Regista, as he can also play DM, but his lack of flair meant he probably wasn’t suited to such a creative role. Instead, he will serve as our second-choice BBM behind Grant Margeman, but he very well could challenge for the 1st XI spot immediately. He looks like the perfect workhorse to drive forward moves, and I couldn’t be happier to have him at the club.
Rating: Gold

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Next in was Jomo Cosmos’ 18-year-old winger Kyle Christian, also on a free. Christian is understandably raw at 18, at least as far as his technicals go… he’s absolutely rapid physically. Though he’s listed as a right winger, I’m going to use him as an inside forward on the left, as that’s the role we use on both wings and he’s right-footed. If that works out, he’ll be a weapon on both sides of the pitch, and although it might take some time for him to truly break through, he’s someone the club sorely needed in a position with few legitimate prospects.
Rating: Gold

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The first player we’ve spent money on is 20-year-old winger Kamohelo Mahlatsi, who was listed for cheap at SuperSport. He’s another right winger by trade, but we’ll actually use him there, unlike with Christian. He will be trained on the left to try and make him a dual-threat as well, but it won’t be a problem if it doesn’t work out. My scouts thought he had more potential than my coaches do, but I think he’s still a smart signing for the price we paid.
Rating: Green

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Coming in for a significant sum from AmaZulu at left back is 20-year-old Sbusiso Mabiliso, who I’d been tracking as a Khumalo replacement for months. Though Sasman is ahead of him in the pecking order (and for good reason), this guy has way more potential and has all the makings of an extremely dangerous attacking wing back. I don’t mind overpaying for him, as he’s exactly the kind of player I’m looking for in this position. He should be one of the key players in the 2nd XI this season, with serious 1st XI potential to boot.
Rating: Gold

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Mabiliso’s teammate Boiki Modisakeng follows him here on the opposite flank on deadline day, taking the 2nd XI spot of a promoted Sirgio Kammies following Mukumela’s departure. I’ve taken in Boiki on a loan basis to start with, with an optional $120K future fee clause in place. I’ve done this because I’m not convinced he’s a fit for our system, as his crossing attribute is well below what we expect of our wing backs, but I was having trouble finding other suitable players and he certainly has the potential to be of great use to us if he can develop the way we need him to. Let’s hope he comes on leaps and bounds this season, so I can be confident that he’s the guy for us.
Rating: Green

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I’ve saved the biggest transfer for last. Nxumalo’s replacement comes in the form of 19-year-old Mamelodi Sundowns youth product Promise Mkhuma, who looks to be one of South Africa’s most promising young strikers. He lit up the First Division last season in a half-term at Richards Bay, including a brace against us that handed us just our third (and final) defeat of the season. That certainly made a big enough impression on me to chase him, though we did pay a small fortune (by South African standards) of up to $375K to bring him here. I’m hoping he makes good on that fee’s promise by scoring plenty of goals here in Cape Town. He does have some glaring weaknesses- his strength, jumping reach, and determination all need huge lifts- but overall he looks a terrific signing for us who should be the danger man for years to come.
Rating: Gold

Finalized Depth Chart
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With our transfer business complete, the squad now looks like this heading into the season. February, Kammies, Bull, Sasman, and Verhaar have been promoted to the 1st XI, and Nhlapo has switched from CD to BPD to accommodate Bull’s promotion. Masilake Phohlongo is still the odd man out, but I plan to switch formation to a 4-2-3-1 at times to incorporate him as either an Enganche or Trequartista, so he won’t be out in the cold by any stretch of the imagination.

Kammies and Abrahams’ ratings have decreased from Gold to Green as a result of their potential taking a hit, and Monama’s has increased from Blue to Green thanks to some excellent performances last season.

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Prediction
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The media predicts that we’ll finish in 7th this season, with a 16-1 shot of winning the whole thing. Sundowns have the best odds at 3-1, but I’d be surprised if they did after a poor 5th-placed finish last season. Fellow new boys Cape Umoya are predicted to go down, with last season’s surprise packages Black Leopards slated to finish in the relegation playoff spot. Nel and Bull are expected to be our key players, which shows how far they’ve both come already.

The board expects that we finish in the top half in the Premiership, reach the quarter final of the Telkom Knockout, reach the semi final of the Nedbank Cup, and go all the way from the qualifiers to the quarter final in the CAF Confederation Cup. That’s a bit higher than I thought it would be for our first season back in the big time, but I’m confident that we can meet most- if not all- of those goals.

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Friendlies
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Our friendly campaign started routinely, but got truly impressive at the end, when we held Argentine champions Boca Juniors to a scoreless draw and then comfortably beat Mexican giants Chivas 3-1 at the Cape Town Stadium. I don’t know exactly what this means in terms of how good we are, but it was delightful to watch and gives us even more confidence heading into the season.

I can’t wait to get this show on the road. As I’ve said many times before, I think it’s going to be another incredible season.
Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

Edited by oriole01
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Ajax Cape Town
First Period

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The first period of our Premiership return has seen us play 8 league games but a whopping 19 in all competitions. And it’s gone brilliantly at every turn, as we have yet to lose a contest and sit at a ridiculous 24 games unbeaten stretching back to last season.

August
August began with our first test in the CAF Confederation Cup with a Preliminary Round tie against Nigerian side Kano Pillars, but it was a test we passed quite easily. The 1st XI won the first leg in Kano 3-0 thanks to a second half surge with goals from Thomas Verhaar, Thabo Mosadi, and new signing Jesse Donn, who scored a beautiful volley. The 2nd XI finished the job with a 2-0 win in Cape Town, as Morne Nel and Yagan Sasman each opened their accounts with excellent goals. I expected a bit more from our opposition, but there was no doubt we played more than well enough to advance to the next round of qualifying.

Then came the big day at the end of the month, as we marked our Premiership return with an emphatic 3-0 victory over AmaZulu in Durban. Our first goal came 16′ in, as Raymond Monama walloped in a sensational long-range effort to quiet the opposition crowd. We got another just seconds into the second half, as an unmarked Grant Margeman volleyed in from Mosadi’s corner. Margeman would complete our scoring a few minutes later, as a Monama free kick freed him up to slot one in at the back post at pace. A deserved victory that shall have served as our statement of intent in the top division.

September
September started with another impressive league victory over Polokwane City* at home. The 2nd XI completely dominated our opponents, who in my opinion look out of place in the division. Monama continued his hot start, first by curling in a free kick off the post on 24′, then launching another long-range drive into the bottom-left corner on 41′. The second half saw Mosadi get our third from point blank range on a rebound from Kamohelo Mahlatsi’s crossbar-rattling effort, as well as Tashreeq Morris rounding off the smackdown with another close-range finish from Sbusiso Mabiliso’s sweet cross. An easy victory that could very well have been a complete humiliation on another day.

We got one of the easiest possible draws in the Confederation Cup First Round, drawing Lesothan side LDF*, which stands for “Lesotho Defence Force”. Yet despite their name and the presence of a true Badboy in their side, our 2nd XI annihilated them 9-0, which meant a lot of goals for our young stars. New signing Kyle Christian scored his first for the club, academy graduate Cade Erickson bagged a brace from holding midfield, and both Mahlatsi and Mabiliso improved on their assists from the previous game with goals here. Monama, Nel, and a brace from third-choice striker Sedwyn George rounded off our scoring in what was a fun trip to Lesotho’s capital.

We returned to league play with a third straight win, this time against Black Leopards in Thohoyandou. Verhaar got us off the mark on 14′, then Margeman continued his impressive start by sticking one in the bottom-left corner on 56′, with Mosadi assisting both goals. Another comfortable win that saw our confidence continue to soar.

We then faced our first big test against defending champions Kaizer Chiefs at the Cape Town Stadium, and we so nearly won it. We traded chances with Chiefs for most of the first half, including a Mosadi goal that was spuriously disallowed, but we did make the breakthrough on 44′ through an incredible strike from Nel, who clobbered in Verhaar’s looping cross on the volley from just outside the box. Chiefs came out of the break aggressively chasing an equalizer, which led to a few heart-in-mouth moments, but we survived the initial pressure and ended up doubling our advantage on 75′, as Mosadi’s cross on a counter found Verhaar’s head, where he didn’t put all that much on it but still beat a bumbling Itumeleng Khune in the Chiefs net. We would concede our first goal of the season just a minute later, however, as a very deep ball from Siphesihle Ndlovu found Ryan Moon on the volley from close range to reduce Chiefs’ arrears. We went into full defensive mode after the goal, which looked to have worked, but we were undone again by a moment of quality from George Maluleka, who smashed their equalizer into the top-left corner from outside the area in the first minute of stoppage time. Naturally we were heartbroken to have surrendered what would have been a massive win in such fashion, but there was still plenty to be proud of in our effort against a top team.

Needing a pick-me-up, we scored so many goals against LDF* in the home leg that my screen isn’t wide enough to show who scored them. Masilake Phohlongo scored 4 goals (twice as many as he scored last year), George got a hat trick, Donn bagged a brace, plus Christian, Morris, and an own goal rounded off our scoring. 12-0 on the night, 21-0 on aggregate. Something tells me LDF are going to need a lot more Badboys to challenge us next time.

October
October was a short month with just two fixtures. Against fellow promoted and iKapa side Cape Umoya*, we dropped points at home again, but this time there wasn’t much to be proud of in our performance. Even after scoring 12 goals in our previous game, our 2nd XI struggled to create chances, and after just 17′ we were behind to Toriq Losper’s brilliant volley. We endured a painful barren stretch with few highlights for most of the game, but we did find a way to rescue a point on 77′, as a free kick eventually found its way to academy graduate center back Keegan Johannes to head in from close range for his first senior goal. Though we couldn’t find another goal to win it, we probably didn’t deserve it in what became a performance eagerly put behind us.

After a 24-day gap in fixtures, we faced Zambian champions Zanaco in the first leg of the Confederation Cup Second Round. I had more reason to fear Zanaco than our other opponents; they’re national giants, they’d given Egyptian powerhouse Al-Ahly a scare in the Champions League before being eliminated and dropping down, and their keeper is a man named Toaster. However, we beat them 3-0 in Lusaka with no trouble at all. Nel scored just 50 seconds into the match, then two Verhaar goals were disallowed late in the first half to prevent us from building our lead further. We instead waited until the end of the game to do so, as Johannes made it two in a row with another headed goal from Mosadi’s corner on 79′, then George rounded it off on 85′ to virtually ensure safe passage to the group stage.

November
We indeed secured that passage to start November, as the 2nd XI won 2-1 in Cape Town behind goals from Christian and Nel, who secured a comeback victory after Zanaco had gone in front on
the night with their only goal of the tie. 5-1 on aggregate and through to the Group Stage, where we drew Nigerian side Sunshine Stars, Ivorian side AFAD Djekanou, and Cameroonian side Canon Yaounde.

We did draw for a third consecutive match in the league just two days later, in what was becoming a very crowded fixture list. This time, a modified 1st XI were held scoreless away by Bloemfontein Celtic, despite putting 13 shots on target and comfortably winning possession. Our best chances came through Erickson- who hit the bar with a volley- and Mosadi, whose goal was disallowed for offside. Credit to Celtic’s keeper, but this was without doubt a disappointing result.

We got what looked to be a difficult draw against last year’s Premiership runners-up Bidvest Wits in the First Round of the Telkom Knockout, but a red card for them just 9 minutes in meant we ran riot at the Cape Town Stadium. Daylon Claasen was the offending player for Wits, who tripped Mosadi off the ball. Verhaar then scored from a penalty that he won on 21′ and slickly grabbed another on 39′. An own goal put us 3-0 up just before the half, after which Christian truly announced himself with a pair of well-taken goals on 64′ and 78′. The thrashing was lastly rounded off by Nel on 85′ to make it 6-0, in what became our second-best cup performance of the save.

The Quarter Final saw us match up with Cape Umoya, who we’d never beaten convincingly before, but we changed that here with a 4-0 smacking despite being reduced to just 13 players in the squad due to an inconveniently-timed youth international tournament. We dominated the first half but couldn’t score, though we opened the floodgates in the second half. Nel scored a delicious volley on 53′, Christian dropped in another goal on 61′, a youth CB named Sinawo Topi shockingly headed in from a corner just three minutes later on a debut forced by major unavailability, and Verhaar finished them off with a trademark low drive on 75′. Through to the Semis with almost no resistance from a Cape Umoya side that really didn’t turn up this time.

And we just kept on rolling through the Semi Final, dispatching Free State Stars 3-0 through a brilliant Morris hat trick, scored on 8′, 22′, and 87′. Another thoroughly dominant performance that ensures we will play in our second cup final of the save in December, where we’ll meet Maritzburg United with the opportunity to lift the club’s third ever Telkom Knockout title.

We returned to league play at the end of the month following a long break, but our confidence had clearly lifted from the cup results as we beat SuperSport 3-1 at home for our first league win since mid-September. Verhaar got us started early on 8′ with a venomous drive into the top-left corner, then Nel doubled our advantage on the half volley on 29′. The second half was uneventful for the vast majority of proceedings, but a counter goal from SuperSport’s Evans Rusike made it interesting on 88′, after it looked like they were never going to truly threaten our goal. I thought we were going to need to dig in defensively and hold on for a win, but Kiyaam Bull had other ideas, smashing in a Sasman corner with his head on the stroke of 90′ and making victory once again a certainty. SuperSport will be disappointed they couldn’t avenge their rough Nedbank Cup elimination at our hands last year, but we definitely deserved to win this one.

December (Part 1)
The month of December- which will be an insanely dense month spread over this update and next- began with our first Group Stage match in the Confederation Cup against Ivorians AFAD Djekanou*. We won 2-1, but it was a poor performance in truth. We were wide open at the back in the first half, and paid for it with a counter goal by an unmarked Christian Boli on 27′. We were also lucky not to go two behind shortly into the second half. But eventually we turned the screw on the attack, and got our equalizer through Promise Mkhuma’s first goal for the club, assisted by a deft headed flick from Christian. And then we found a way to win on 86′, Erickson instinctively crossing first time from a throw in and finding Nel on his head to score from six yards out. Djekanou probably deserved a point from this for their effort, but it was a crucial win to start group play for us.

We went away to Pretoria to face Mamelodi Sundowns for the first time since we obliterated them in the Nedbank Cup last season, but again there would be no vengeance had here. Verhaar continued to be our scoring machine by finishing coolly off a splendid Sasman assist on 17′, but we were equalized not long into the second half by Jose Ali Meza’s goal off a free kick. We needed someone to step up, and Margeman not only did that, but went above and beyond with a hat trick of goals out of the top drawer. He scored twice in as many minutes on 74′ and 76′, first volleying in a tame clearance then ripping a 25-yard screamer past a hapless Denis Onyango in the Sundowns net. Margeman’s third and our fourth came in stoppage time, when he curled another long range strike into the bottom-right corner to beat Onyango at his near post. Another excellent performance against a supposed top side.

Our second group match came against the Nigerian side Sunshine Stars*, and while we had already beaten Nigerian opposition comfortably earlier in the competition, I was never expecting us to win 7-0. We started scoring early and didn’t take our foot off the gas until early in the second half. Mkhuma got a brace and Mahlatsi scored an impressive hat trick from the wing to get us up to 5-0 in the first half, then Riyaaz Koopstadt launched a beauty into the top-right corner from outside the box for our sixth just after the break and Monama bagged our seventh and final goal on 53′. An unexpected but welcome destruction that has us convinced we’ll have no trouble getting out of the group.

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Tables

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We sit at 5th in the Premiership table for the moment being, but we have two games in hand on the top two and three on Wits. We won’t quite catch our rivals Cape Town City at the top just yet if we win them, but we would make it a real chase. Chiefs and Wits are up there after they each had a shaky start by their standards, but the shaky start is still ongoing for Pirates, SuperSport, and Sundowns. Highlands Park and Cape Umoya are each exceeding expectations in the top half at the moment, and my assessment on Polokwane appears to be correct, as they are sitting at the foot of the table with Free State Stars and AmaZulu not doing much better.

We top the Confederation Cup group by three points and with a +8 goal difference, and even with four matches to play it feels like we’re already through. We will play Canon Yaounde at the end of December, but we’ll have to wait until February to start the second round of fixtures.

The second period of our season will take us through the end of the year and into February 2020, with any potential January transfers to be detailed. We’ll also be playing the Telkom Knockout Final, so stay tuned for that!

Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

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Ajax Cape Town
Second Period

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Contracts
With our promotion to the Premiership, we can now sign players to multi-year contracts, which gave me a big sigh of relief. We have again been able to secure extensions for our most important players, with only two senior players slated to be released. Those two are third-choice striker Sedwyn George, who is on way too much money for a backup, and 30-year-old midfielder Raymond Monama, who admittedly has put in some great performances this season, but wanted too much money for a 2nd XI player and has a tailor-made replacement in last year's intake standout Ayanda Mkhize waiting in the wings. However, I don't think they'll be too upset to leave the club, as they each have a free transfer arranged to Kaizer Chiefs for next season. I'll make sure Monama gets a proper sendoff for his service over these past two seasons, hopefully with lots of silverware.
Fixtures
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December (Part 2)
We continued our perfect start to December with a solid 3-0 win over Maritzburg United in the league, which laid down a marker for our upcoming Telkom Knockout clash. Thomas Verhaar got us off the mark with another early goal, hooking in low from Thabo Mosadi's through ball. Maritzburg certainly tried to threaten our goal, but they were toothless, and we killed the game off late with a brilliant finish from Morné Nel on 75' and Yagan Sasman's second goal of the season that was well-placed from a tight angle on 83'.

We weren't all that convincing against Golden Arrows* at home, despite having a man advantage for a large majority of the match. One of their forwards was sent off for a two-footed challenge on 25', which led me to believe we'd be winning by the ridiculous margins we usually post when a man up, but we would struggle to be clinical and only found the net once, through a poorly-handled strike from Grant Margeman just past the hour mark. We got the points, but we knew we couldn't afford to be this wasteful in the cup final (will be in separate post).

Following the cup final, we deployed the 2nd XI again against overachieving Highlands Park* away, but they did better than in their previous outing. We took the lead on just 6' from Jesse Donn's 20-yard screamer, then got the insurance goal in first half stoppage time, as Kyle Christian mopped up the scraps from a scramble in the box. Highlands Park gave us another red card gift minutes into the second half, which took them out of the game for good. I was frustrated that we didn't score any more after the dismissal, but we did more than enough with even strength to win this one.

I was expecting Bidvest Wits to get their revenge in Johannesburg for the 6-0 thrashing we handed them in the Telkom Knockout, but we beat them again here, albeit with a lot of luck. Verhaar was the hero of the night, wrapping the scoring up early. He benefited from a wonderful team move on 4', as an outrageous ball from Riyaaz Koopstadt reached Sasman at the byline, who put his cross on a platter for the Dutchman to head home from close in. The second on 22' was all his doing, as he curled in a free kick from close to 30 yards. But Wits without argument created the better chances in this match, somehow failing to score any of their 3 CCCs or 4 half chances. We were way too loose at the back after we took the lead, and gave away enough opportunities to lose the match, but the woodwork and Wits' inability to keep their nerve were our friends as we quite unbelievably held onto a clean sheet and three points that triggered a slide down the table for our opponents.

We finally dropped points against rivals Cape Town City, something we hadn't done for the best part of two months. It's just a shame we picked this team to do it against though, as we missed an opportunity to go top of the table and leapfrog our opponents. We scored in the 4th minute for the second game in a row, this time through Monama, who made a smart overlapping run for Verhaar to find him and slot it into the bottom-right corner in stride. That allowed the game to be open, as both sides created chances throughout the match. I suppose I shouldn't have been too surprised when City eventually found an equalizer on 85', though it certainly wasn't their best chance of the game that we conceded from. We had forced their substitute winger Craig Martin into a wide position where a cross would have been more likely than a shot, but he went for goal anyway and saw his savable effort slip under the outstretched arm of Jody February and into the far corner. We didn't have an incredible game, so I wasn't overly disappointed with the result, but to lose a lead late- especially in a big match- is never fun.

We immediately got back to our 2-0 winning ways against Orlando Pirates, the team we beat in last year's Nedbank Cup Final. We again avoided any vengeance from taking place in the driving Cape Town rain. We fended off some pressure from the men in black and created chances for ourselves in the first half, then broke it open shortly into the second. A shoddy clearance found Monama lurking inside the D, who thundered a stunning goal into the top-right corner, leaving Brilliant Khuzwayo rooted to the spot. Our second came just after the hour mark, as Christian again got a poacher's goal following a Nel strike that hit the bar from 30 yards out. Against a big side who played decently, I was very happy to keep the clean sheet here.

We finished our extremely congested December and 2019 with another win in the Confederation Cup over Cameroonians Canon Yaoundé*. This was simply a mismatch- even with our 2nd XI in- and we probably should have won by more. Monama scored for the third match running on 35', playing a long range one-two with Sbusiso Mabiliso out wide, the drilled return ball finding him perfectly to smash in from 12 yards out. We were frustrating in front of goal for most of the rest of the game, until the substitute George finally found another moment of quality on 84', firing in the top-left corner from 20 yards out on the turn. Not the greatest night of scoring that we've ever had, but we were never in danger of dropping points here.

Winter Break
We sent four more of our academy players out on loan and let another go on a free to Free State Stars, but there was no real business of note for us during the January transfer window, as our squad is doing very well as it is.

We claimed friendly victories over Glendene United, Santos, Stellenbosch, and Ubuntu Cape Town in preparation for the resumption of fixtures in February. Interestingly, third-tier Glendene were the only side to manage a goal against us, despite taking the heaviest defeat of any of the four.

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Lastly, I was offered an interview by Mamelodi Sundowns during the break, who had sacked their ***hole of a manager in early December. I have no interest in managing a side we've beaten 12-1 over two games so far... they'll have to look elsewhere.

February (Part 1)
We returned to league play with a comfortable 3-1 win over AmaZulu at home. Verhaar put us ahead with a simple finish on 9', then grabbed another on 43' by sticking Tashreeq Morris' cross into the bottom-left corner on the volley. AmaZulu did pull one back completely against the run of play on 66', in what was credited as a February own goal, as Nkanyiso Zungu's header ricocheted off the post and then off our #1's back on its way in. This meant they actually finished the game with no shots on target, and we made sure it also ended in defeat when Morris got on the scoresheet for himself on 86', sweetly hitting a brilliant back-tracking volley that flew into the bottom-left corner. A welcome return to what's been an unstoppable league campaign for us so far.

However, our Confederation Cup game against Sunshine Stars* saw us come the closest we have all season to surrendering our massive unbeaten run, which I couldn't have seen coming after we destroyed them 7-0 in Cape Town in the reverse fixture. The Nigerians put in a much improved performance here, though we did take the first lead on 43' through Cade Erickson's deflected strike. That was not the start of another rout though, as Sunshine Stars equalized on the counter through striker Dele Olurundare on 50' and took a shock late lead with center back Tayo Fabiyi's flying volley on 90' (the same man who posted an impressively awful match rating of 3.7 in the reverse fixture). I thought that was going to be it for our run, but an unlikely hero in Masilake Phohlongo stepped up off the bench, glancing a deep cross from Boiki Modisakeng into the bottom-left corner with his head on the stroke of 92' to save the run and, more importantly, a point in the match that secured our qualification to the Quarter Final with two games to spare.

Unfortunately we put in our worst shift of the season in Bethlehem against bottom-of-the-league Free State Stars, dropping points in a 0-0 draw despite complete domination of the game and holding a man advantage for most of the second half. Our attack just could not figure out how to score at any point in the match, putting 16 shots on target but converting none of them. When Ryan de Jongh was given an early bath for a second yellow on 58', I thought we would figure things out in no time, but the profligacy continued, culminating in the lowest point of the match on 85', in which Donn failed to square the ball to any of the FOUR teammates available for a tap-in, instead firing two shots right at the keeper in rapid succession and wasting a certain goal. An absolute dog**** performance that was completely out of character for us, especially for our 1st XI. We will hope to move on quickly from this one.

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Tables
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I won't let that dreadful Free State result distract me from the fact that we sit 1st in the Premiership table just over halfway through the season, having put ourselves in what looks likely to be a two-horse race with defending champions Kaizer Chiefs after Cape Town City suffered a major drop in form. Highlands Park have proven to be no fluke, and look to be in contention for a Confederation Cup place. Cape Umoya are impressively holding firm in the top half, just ahead of a trio of underachievers in Sundowns, SuperSport, and Wits. Polokwane have dragged themselves off the bottom, dropping Free State into the automatic drop zone, with Golden Arrows and AmaZulu also in immediate danger.

We are through to the Quarter Final of the Confederation Cup as mentioned above, though it's anyone's guess as to who will join us in second place. I'm personally rooting for Canon Yaoundé, but they have had the worst record so far.

The third period of our season will take us into early April. By then, we'll have finished our group fixtures in the Confederation Cup and played our Quarter Final tie, started our defense of the Nedbank Cup, and faced a massive league fixture away against Kaizer Chiefs. This will be a very important part of our season, so let's hope we can keep our incredible run going on all fronts!

Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

Edited by oriole01
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1358999005_AjaxCT.thumb.png.3109af2ce1ffe881a91cde828ab1eff5.pngTelkom Knockout - Wikipedia

Ajax Cape Town
Telkom Knockout Final

We played our second cup final of the save in mid-December against Maritzburg United, who we had defeated 3-0 in the league just five days earlier. We also had the virtue of playing the final at the Cape Town Stadium, which had been selected as the Final venue for the first time in the competition's history. Thus, we had every reason to be confident of winning, and that showed in the result:

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It wasn't our greatest ever cup performance; just like last year's Nedbank Cup Final, we won it tight. Nonetheless, we were still the better team and deserved winners on the night.

We had the first chance of the match on 5' when Verhaar rattled the bar from long range, then got the opening goal on 18' through Nel, who drove forward onto his left foot and hit the bottom-left corner from 20 yards out.

We waited until just before the hour mark to extend our lead, as Verhaar was tackled off the ball in the box only for it to pop out to Mosadi on the edge of the area, who coolly buried it into the bottom-right corner. Verhaar had a chance to put the game away on the volley a minute later, but didn't put any power on it and hit it right at the keeper.

Maritzburg did get their goal on 68', though there was definitely some fortune about it. Edward Manqele's cross found fellow striker Mohau Mokate to hit a long header, which struck the post and then the side of February's leg on its way in. That made us wake up and ensure we were focused heading into the last 20 minutes of the game.

We had a few more chances to score a third goal in those last 20 minutes, Nel coming the closest with a long range effort that narrowly landed wide of the post, but we kept a level head at the back when it mattered most and were rewarded with our third trophy of the save, just 16 months in. We really are going places!

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Shaka Roosevelt and his lads celebrate lifting the Telkom Knockout trophy for the third time in the club's history, and the first since 2009!

Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

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Ajax Cape Town
2020 Youth Intake
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This would be a better intake if there was more diversity in the positions of players of acceptable quality, as all of the players we signed bar one (Happy Teyise, who won’t make it) would be an attacking player if they made it to the first team. Even if there was, however, it still wouldn’t be as good as last year’s intake. We didn’t sign Mashego because we’d already signed the other two strikers above him and everyone below Teyise was cut loose.

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The best prospect is Borman, who plays on the right wing but will need to be trained on the left as an IF to match our tactic. I do like his pace and some of his mental attributes, but it’ll probably take him a few years to come good in the technical department, which I may not be around to see. He’s good, but no Mkhize, unfortunately.

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Cele is second best, as he got a huge upgrade in potential from our coaches after signing. He does look to have some decent attributes for a striker already, but he will need plenty of time to become a well-rounded player. With several other striker prospects at the club, I’m not sure we’ll see him while I’m here either.

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Davids is the last of note. Immediately you’ll notice how raw he is technically, but he’s determined and has good physicals apart from the jumping. I’m training him as a BBM to make him more useful, as although I’m starting to find more places for attacking mids in our team, it never hurts to have versatility. He’ll have to massively improve technically to make it, but the determination could easily get him there.

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Ajax Cape Town
Third Period

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Our insane unbeaten run finally came to an end in this period (40 games dating back to last season), and more losses did follow, but we are still in the habit of dominating and winning games and should still be in position to achieve all of our targets if we keep our heads up.

February (Part 2)
Following our awful performance against Free State Stars, we made sure Black Leopards* faced an accurate representation of our power in a 4-0 smacking at the Cape Town Stadium. Promise Mkhuma got us started with a well-placed shot on 5′, but we would need to wait until the second half to truly break Lidoda Duvha down. Tashreeq Morris buried a header from Sbusiso Mabiliso’s wonderful deep cross on 66′, then Mkhuma got in behind the defense and smashed past the keeper in a one-on-one for his second on 84′, and substitute Morné Nel’s 20-yard effort was parried into the bottom-right corner for our fourth on 86′. A much-needed comprehensive performance to get us back on track after two straight draws.

With Quarter Final qualification in the Confederation Cup already secure, we didn’t have to give our best against Ivorians AFAD Djékanou*, but Raymond Monama took it upon himself to do so. He got us off the mark on 10′, finding himself unmarked at the back post to head in Boiki Modisakeng’s volleyed cross. Another followed on 33′, as he took a poor headed clearance 15 yards out and blasted into the top-left corner. Our departing star had the chance for a hat trick when a push on Thomas Verhaar gave us a penalty, but he fired it straight down the middle and thus straight at the keeper. A brace would be more than enough for us here though, as Djékanou could only put up one shot in the entire game and played nothing like they did in the reverse fixture.

Polokwane City were our next victims in the league, as a rested 1st XI tore the relegation-threatened team to shreds at their place. Kiyaam Bull got us started by scoring from his own rebound on 14′, then Morris fired in on the volley from a Thabo Mosadi corner on 25′. We got our third in first half stoppage time, as Grant Margeman arrowed a low volley into the bottom-right corner from 20 yards out. The best goal of the game came shortly into the second half, as Morris found his wing partner Mosadi with a powerful deep cross that Thabo had no choice but to hit first time, and it flew into the top of the net in a goal reminiscent of Tim Cahill’s at the 2014 World Cup. Nel finished them off with another brilliant goal, blasting in from 25 yards to beat the keeper for sheer power. A total smashing in which we were truly a class apart.

We ended the month with another big win, this time easily taking down Golden Arrows* in the First Round of the Nedbank Cup to begin our title defense. Monama broke through on 34′ from a needle-threading Mosadi cross, Jesse Donn whipped one into the bottom-right corner from outside the box on 41′, Cade Erickson scored a lovely long range goal on 54′ with defenders all over him, and Monama brought it full circle with a cannon into the top-left corner on 74′. Easy as you like.

March
We started March with a hard-fought win against overachieving Highlands Park in Cape Town. The game had started modestly until we went behind to a penalty on 40′, justly awarded after Yagan Sasman decked Rodney Ramagalela, and finished emphatically by Bevan Fransman. But we came alive early in the second half, as Mkhuma slotted our equalizer into the bottom-left corner after a great run on 51′ and then got our winner four minutes later, mopping up a rebound from a rare Jody February free kick attempt. It wasn’t the most exciting win, but we dominated as usual and didn’t let our lapse in discipline sink us.

The loss that finally ended our huge unbeaten streak came in the second of our dead rubber games in the Confederation Cup, against Cameroonian side Canon Yaoundé* in the country’s capital. And for the most part it was deserved, as although we outshot them heavily, they won possession and created better chances, with the only goal of the game coming from a well-worked move finished by striker Christopher Ayissi in the 38th minute. Our best chance came late on from an Erickson volley that hit the bar, which Mkhuma couldn’t quite scramble over the line on the rebound. We didn’t play well and I was disappointed to see the streak end, but as I like this Canon team and their win secured Quarter Final qualification for them, at least it went towards a good cause.

We claimed another league win across town at the Athlone Stadium against Cape Umoya United, a team we’ve become quite familiar with over these last two seasons. Bull cannoned us into the lead on 19′, drilling in a powerful header from a Mosadi corner. Mosadi somehow screwed up a golden chance to put us two up on 22′, as he had full sight of the net from 11 yards but launched high and wide. Thabo would again be relevant on 77′, as Erick Chipeta stuck a leg into him and won a penalty for us, which was finished by substitute Sedwyn George. Cape Umoya did hit the post late, but they were mostly a non-factor offensively and we claimed the routine win to continue our charge for the title.

We got one of the easier draws in the Second Round of the Nedbank Cup, as we easily took care of First Division side Tuks* in Pretoria to get revenge for them handing us our first loss last season. Kyle Christian opened the scoring on 9′, his savable shot seeming to move like a ghost right through their keeper’s hands. We kept the pressure on until we were able to find the killing second goal on 76′, as a nice passing move found Masilake Phohlongo in space to slot convincingly into the bottom-right corner from 12 yards out. Through to the Quarter Final, where the draw will almost certainly be tougher than this.

In one of our biggest games of the season against title rivals Kaizer Chiefs at Soccer City, we needed to step up to the plate and play like champions, but unfortunately we were not up to the task in what became our first league defeat 21 games in. We started brightly and dominated the game, but we went behind after a soft penalty was called against Isaac Nhlapo on 31′, which was put away by their top scorer Khama Billiat. I made the mistake of aggressively trying to chase the game as soon as we went behind, as unlike most other teams we’ve played this year, Chiefs had more than enough quality to hit us on the counter. Ten minutes later they doubled their lead through a sweet strike from Leonardo Castro, and our defense was made to look silly again on 64′, as Siphelele Ntshangese easily bagged their third. Monama did find an immediate response to that third goal with a lucky long range effort, and we played better in the final stages of the game, but in the end we didn’t have enough in the tank to make up for our mistakes in a humbling defeat that I hope will make us stronger rather than weaker.

April (Part 1)
Thankfully we quickly returned to winning ways against a distinctly average Bloemfontein Celtic* side at home. Donn got us off the mark with a well-struck effort on 22′, then Kamohelo Mahlatsi padded our lead with a back post header on 42′ and another headed effort in the dying minutes of the game. One of our most straightforward victories all year.

We were drawn against another Cameroonian side in Coton Sport in the Quarter Final of the Confederation Cup, but any fears I had of an upset were ill-founded, as the 1st XI put the tie out of reach in Garoua. Our center backs took center stage in the first half, as Bull poked home from close range following a free kick scramble in just the second minute, then Nhlapo finally got his first goal of the season through a looping header off another free kick on 34′. We scored two further goals in the second half to put it to bed, first through Verhaar on 59′ and then through a long range effort from Riyaaz Koopstadt on 82′. A very confident performance in the first leg.

We deserved to lose the Chiefs game, but losing again to another title rival in Maritzburg United really pissed me off, not least because it was completely undeserved. We were again in charge of proceedings from start to finish, but the back of the net proved elusive, as Maritzburg became one of the first sides to truly frustrate us in attack, as opposed to getting lucky that we missed a boatload of chances. Margeman had the clearest look at goal for us early in the second half, but his powerful shot from just outside the box narrowly skidded wide. Then all of a sudden, we lost the game in added time, as a quick throw in was immediately played to Yannick Zakri in the box, who had just enough time and space to roll past February with defenders rushing him, on just their third SOT of the game. A tough FMing to take, and one that keeps the title race well and truly alive.

The 2nd XI matched the performance of their “superiors” in Cape Town, recording another 4-0 victory over Coton Sport* in the second leg. Donn rifled our first goal into the bottom-right corner in stride on 8′, then Keegan Johannes headed in from a Monama corner on 34′. It was again a case of two goals in each half, as our next goal came from Phohlongo on 51′, and our final tally came from Christian, who slotted a penalty into the bottom-left on 64′ for his 10th goal of the season. I was expecting more of a challenge from a continental Quarter Final, but I’ll gladly take the momentum associated with an 8-0 aggregate win into the Semis.

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League Table
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We’ve retained our lead atop the Premiership, and increased the gap to 2nd from just one point to five. Despite their win against us, Chiefs’ form has taken a hit elsewhere and they’ve now slipped below Maritzburg, who really needed that win over us as well. Cape Town City remain part of the race too, but we have breathing room on all three teams heading into the final period.

Highlands Park are holding onto 5th, but their African ambitions are surely over and they have a whole cabal of big clubs honing in on them. Cape Umoya have sunk into the bottom half but will be delighted with safety, while the three green teams have put some distance between themselves and the relegation spots, still occupied by the dreadful duo of Polokwane and Free State Stars.

Confederation Cup Draw
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There were a pair of upsets in the Quarter Final, as North African sides MC Alger and ES Sahel were taken out by West African opponents Africa Sports and Djoliba respectively. Canon Yaoundé fell in a close tie with Enugu Rangers, who probably stand as our biggest threat left in the competition now.

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Our Semi Final opponent will be Malians Djoliba, who were impressive in their elimination of Sahel but still look to be below our level on paper. We won’t be taking anything for granted though, as winning this competition would mean a lot to us.

The final period of our season will see us face a gauntlet of five tough opponents in our bid to capture the Premiership title, the continuation of our Nedbank Cup defense, and the tie against Djoliba that will hopefully lead to a spot in the Confederation Cup Final. If all goes well, this could be another truly special season.

Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

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Ajax Cape Town
Fourth Period

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We have continued to win games regularly and only lost twice, but one loss hurts a lot more than the other.

April (Part 2)
After our loss to Maritzburg in the league, I was hoping for a more convincing performance against rock-bottom Free State Stars*, but the 2nd XI did enough work in the early goings to keep hold of the three points. We scored the first on 10′, when Promise Mkhuma hooked in Raymond Monama’s corner from close range. Six minutes later and Jesse Donn had drilled our second into the bottom-right corner from the edge of the area. It looked like we were on our way to a rout, but Free State defended better after that and grabbed a goal back in the second half, with Hilaire Momi scoring a well-placed volley off a poor Keenan Abrahams clearance. I was insistent on a third after that, and Grant Margeman did come awfully close when his venomous effort was pushed onto the post, but we had to settle for the tight 2-1 win in the end. We were always the better side, but the margin of victory wasn’t befitting of the opponent.

Mamelodi Sundowns made sure at least one trophy wouldn’t be ours in the Nedbank Cup Quarter Final, in what was a thoroughly frustrating result at the Cape Town Stadium. We controlled this game but were punished from corners, first allowing José Alí Meza to creep in a header at the back post on 34′, then allowed the ball to fall unmarked to Motjeka Madisha on 66′, who turned in easily from close range. We finally took a chance three minutes later after spurning so many, as Tashreeq Morris knocked in a back post header from a searching Sirgio Kammies delivery. We needed to chase another goal to force extra time, but nothing materialized as we crashed out of the cup in front of our own fans. A tough one to take.

We then immediately played Sundowns again in the league, gaining revenge in an epic match that could probably be turned into a football-based Western movie, if those exist. Things started poorly again, as we went 2-0 down inside the opening 11 minutes, both goals again from set plays. Thomas Verhaar got one back on 22′, scoring from a rebound after his headed effort was saved by Denis Onyango. Verhaar had a chance to equalize on 36′ after we were given a penalty on a foul that looked to be outside the box, meaning karma took hold as the Dutchman was denied by a brilliant leaping save from Onyango, making it his first penalty miss at the club in six attempts. We did find the equalizer on 43′ though, as Monama fired into the right side of the net from 20 yards out on the turn. We used the momentum from that goal to complete the comeback shortly into the second half, as Masilake Phohlongo found himself in space on the edge of the area and lifted an effort into the roof of the net. Things would take another sour turn for us after that, however, as Yagan Sasman ended up scoring a brilliant own goal while contesting a header in the box, then Phakamani Mahlambi’s powerful header put us 4-3 down just past the hour mark. That just allowed us to shift into high gear though, as Verhaar made it 4-4 with a close range header on 68′, then we took our second lead of the night through an incredible Monama goal that smashed off the post and in from 25 yards out. We weren’t done attacking in this goal fest, as Verhaar secured his hat trick with a cool finish on 86′ and substitute Kamohelo Mahlatsi scored a Robben-esque goal a minute later from the left wing to make it a resounding 7-4 victory in one of the most memorable matches Cape Town Stadium has seen on this save.

We remained at home for the first leg of the Confederation Cup Semi Final against Djoliba of Mali, against whom we wrapped up the game in the early goings. Mahlatsi headed in a pinpoint cross from Sbusiso Mabiliso on 6′, then Kammies set up Thabo Mosadi to score another header at the back post on 14′. Disappointingly, our attack was nowhere near as potent as usual, as we only put up 11 shots in total over the entire 90 minutes, but Djoliba offered nothing in attack other than a shot that rattled the post in the first half, so we won this won easily and ensured we’d take a solid lead to Mali.

We faltered for the fourth time in as many weeks in Pretoria against SuperSport United, which slowed our march towards the league title. We continued our distressing theme of conceding from set pieces, letting in a Teboho Mokoena header from a corner on 41′, then handing Mokoena a second goal from our own throw-in on 74′. Verhaar was able to cut the lead in half in the last minute of normal time from Donn’s long ball, but we played poorly here and didn’t deserve the points. A setback that I hoped wouldn’t be too significant in the long run.

May
The 2nd XI saw us through to the Confederation Cup Final with a 3-1 win over Djoliba* in Bamako, and again it was a strong first half showing that propelled us to victory here. Mkhuma snuck in our first on 17′ from close range, Kyle Christian bulleted our second into the bottom-right corner four minutes later, and Mahlatsi stayed in form with a tricky goal on the half volley from Phohlongo’s cross. At 5-0 up on aggregate, we did switch off a bit in the second half, which allowed their striker Souleymane Sissoko to get in behind the defense and score what would be Djoliba’s only goal of the tie. That was only a small blemish on what was a robust Semi Final performance from us, which has sent us through to our second cup final of the season.

The 2nd XI returned to action just three days later, where they secured a comprehensive victory over Golden Arrows* in Durban that moved us within striking distance of the title. Mosadi scored a wonderful opening goal on 11′, firing into the top-left corner from outside the area. Mahlatsi found the same corner just two minutes later, cutting in from the right and spearing in a goal of real quality to quickly put us two up. It was Mahlatsi on the scoresheet yet again on 26′, curling low into the bottom-left corner. Donn finished off a ravenous first half with another long range goal on 41′, this one hitting the top-right corner. We did concede a well-worked consolation goal late on, but this was a very impressive performance that got us the three points we needed to make our impending iKapa Derby a potential title-winning affair.

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The iKapa Derby
Urban Warriors suffer Ikapa Derby defeat - ABSA Premiership 2017/18
The win over Golden Arrows left us within a win of the Premiership title with three games to play, albeit three tricky ones. Our first opportunity came against our rivals Cape Town City in the iKapa Derby, in which we were classed as the away team in our own stadium. Following the unsatisfying 1-1 draw between us in December, there would be no better way to set the record straight than with a title-securing win in our own stadium…

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And that’s exactly what we did!

The game started slowly, but we broke that open through none other than Verhaar on 24′, as he took a Riyaaz Koopstadt header into feet and somehow launched the ball past the two defenders and goalkeeper standing right on top of him and into the top-left corner, sending our end of the Cape Town Stadium mad.

That huge opener was followed by another from the men in red and white on 36′, as a rapid counter set free wingers Mahlatsi and Mosadi to combine, the latter picking out Donn in the center of the box for an emphatic close range finish.

The second half trickled away, as we were happy to defend our two-goal lead, but Ayanda Patosi made a game of it in the late goings for City, turning in from close range on 90′.

With a draw enough to prevent our coronation for at least another week, City continued to push for an equalizer in added time, but the one goal would be all they got, and it was the majority-Ajax crowd that got to celebrate a Premiership title for the first time in the club’s 21-year history. An incredible moment to round off an incredible campaign!

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Confederation Cup Results
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Nigeria’s Enugu Rangers defeated the Ivory Coast’s Africa Sports by the same comfortable scoreline we beat Djoliba by. I anticipate them to be our toughest test in the competition so far, but that said, we should still win the Final and take home yet another trophy to add to our rapidly-expanding collection.

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The Final will take place over two legs, the first in Enugu and the second in Cape Town. If we prevail, we’ll have won the first continental title in the club’s history, on the heels of its first ever league title. That would be quite something.

Both legs of the Final will be detailed in a separate post, then I’ll be wrapping up Season 2 with a season review. Let’s finish this incredible season with one more triumph!

Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

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Ajax Cape Town
2020 CAF Confederation Cup Final

In the biggest two matches of the save so far, we face Nigeria’s Enugu Rangers in the CAF Confederation Cup Final, with the opportunity to win the club’s first ever continental title. As champions of South Africa, our Champions League place is already secure for next season, so this is about making a statement of intent and lifting the trophy that we’ll have thoroughly deserved if we can get our hands on it. As I said in the previous update, I think Rangers will give us a challenge, but this is ours to lose based on our impressive form in this competition. With the first leg in Nigeria, the second leg could very well be a title-winning homecoming at the Cape Town Stadium. Let’s hope we can get out to a good start.

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First Leg
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We didn't play to the best of our abilities in Enugu, and as a result we were punished late in the game and had to settle for a 1-1 draw. We got the lead with the first big chance of the game on 33', as Tashreeq Morris' deflected cross rolled invitingly through the box, where it was latched onto by Thabo Mosadi 14 yards out and slotted into the top-right corner first time.

 

We had several good chances to go 2-0 up in the second half, but failed to take them. The best came around 80', when Promise Mkhuma rounded the keeper but lost his footing, allowing the ball to be cleared straight to Morris, whose shot on an empty net was blocked by the same defender who cleared it.

 

We would pay for those missed chances on 90', as we were still chasing the second goal and were instead hit by a lightning-fast counter. A long clearance from the back found striker Michael Uchebo in plenty of space in the attacking third, who then proceeded to hammer the ball past Jody February on the run. We almost lost the game in stoppage time as well, as Uchebo set up his teammate Victor Ezeji for a header, which hit the inside of the post and rolled into February's grateful arms. We were given a scare by a team that hung with us all the way through and matched us in the important categories, so heading to Cape Town we knew we needed to step up our performance if we wanted to come through the tie with the trophy in hand.

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Second Leg

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And that's exactly what we did, as we put in a title-worthy performance at the Cape Town Stadium. We had this one won from start to finish, as our hero Thomas Verhaar saw us race out to a 2-0 lead inside 11 minutes, first burying a penalty and then finding a cavernous hole in the defense from which to receive Morné Nel's incisive pass, which he fired past the onrushing Kofi Rowland for his second.

 

The lead became insurmountable before long, as a Mosadi corner was smashed in by the head of teenage center back Keegan Johannes on 29' to make it 3-0 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate. A golden Riyaaz Koopstadt chance to make it four was phenomenally stopped by Rowland from close range a few minutes later, and Verhaar also came close to heading home a hat trick before half time.

 

The 63rd minute saw what would have been a lifeline Rangers goal disallowed for offside. That might have alerted us that we needed to stay switched on at the back, but instead we put the tie truly to bed on 83', as Nel played in Grant Margeman on the penalty spot with the goal gaping, and the Box-to-Box Midfielder made no mistake in slotting the ball into the bottom-left corner to cue massive celebrations from the near-capacity crowd of 58,000. A fitting end to one of the proudest nights in Ajax Cape Town history, as we lifted yet another trophy in front of our fans and made sure our legacy continues to grow.

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In what's become a familiar sight in the last year, Shaka Roosevelt and his lads lift the CAF Confederation Cup for the first time.

Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

Edited by oriole01
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Ajax Cape Town
2019/20 Season Review

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This was another season beyond our wildest dreams, as we jumped from promotion straight to the Premiership title and captured both the Telkom Knockout and our first-ever continental title. We are continuing to march rapidly towards our final goal in South Africa, which is to win the CAF Champions League. We’ll already have our first shot next season, and based on our play in the Confederation Cup this season, I’d say the list of African teams who can beat us is pretty small. It might have been nice to retain the Nedbank Cup, but something had to give in a season as long as this one. It’ll get even longer next year, so we’re going to need to rest up and get ready to go again.

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Awards
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Our departing midfielder Raymond Monama wins Player of the Season easily, as he was certifiably brilliant in the attack this season, bagging an incredible 16 goals and 9 assists in the Mezzala role. Thabo Mosadi and Thomas Verhaar deserved to be named for their excellent contributions as well. I’ll have to hold my hands up and admit I didn’t see this kind of output coming from Monama when I decided to let him go to Kaizer Chiefs on a free transfer, but with a massive prospect in Ayanda Mkhize set to replace him next season, I don’t think his departure will be too disruptive to our plans here.

Monama’s long range goal against his future employers also won him Goal of the Season, while Sbusiso Mabiliso was named Signing of the Season for both us and the Premiership as a whole (which I think he was just about edged to Kyle Christian, who scored 11 goals and provided 6 assists after signing for free at just 17 years old, but I digress).

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We actually only won two official Premiership awards, but each was well deserved. Jody February claimed Goalkeeper of the Season thanks to keeping the most clean sheets and conceding the least of anyone in just 22 games of the 30. Shaka Roosevelt also won Manager of the Season, which was always on the cards for taking a promoted side to the title. February, Monama, Verhaar, and Kiyaam Bull were all named in the team of the season, with plenty more of our players deserving of a place as well.

Squad | League Overview | Fixtures 1 | Fixtures 2 | Finances

Maritzburg United finished an impressive 2nd, the highest in their history, and they will join us in the Champions League next season. Cape Town City and Kaizer Chiefs rounded out the top four, but Chiefs’ Confederation Cup place was stolen by 6th-placed Bidvest Wits, who won the Nedbank Cup. Cape Umoya United weren’t the only promoted side to enjoy a wonderful season, as they finished in the top half against the odds and will take part in the MTN 8 next season.

Mamelodi Sundowns had an even worse season than last, falling entirely out of the top half. It appears major changes are needed there. Highlands Park’s brilliant early-season form took a massive nosedive in the second half, and they also fell outside the top half, only one place better than last season. Black Leopards couldn’t follow up last season’s heroics with a disappointing but expected 12th-placed finish. Free State Stars suffered relegation in an abysmal season for the Premiership regulars, and Polokwane City went down in the playoff, the details of which will follow in the African review.

Our financial situation has indeed corrected itself after spending all of last season in the red, as Premiership TV money and competition prize money has shot us up to $2 million in the white. It looks like we are headed for financial security and sustainability now, which is always a positive.
Youths
Our reserve and U19 teams continue to steamroll South Africa, as the reserves went unbeaten with 14 wins out of 15 to win the ‘Asidlali’ reserve league at a canter, and the U19s easily retained their regional title with only one defeat, plus they claimed the fully national U19s Cup after falling short in the Final last season. Ayanda Mkhize is the only player nailed on to get promoted to the first team next season, but more could certainly follow. Stay tuned for the next squad update.

Expectations for 2020/21
Premiership: There’s no reason why we can’t retain our maiden Premiership title. Our young squad is only growing stronger by the year, and I’m looking to increase the depth of the squad further in the offseason. My expectation is that we’ll win it again, and if we play anything like we did this season, we will.

CAF Champions League: We will have our place on the biggest stage in African club football next season for the first time. While I don’t think there are a lot of teams that could beat us, I still think one or two of them could. For that reason, I think the Semi Finals are a reasonable aim for our first Champions League campaign, so that we can properly adjust to any new challenges it may throw at us.

CAF Super Cup: While the board won’t rate this as important, I think it’s important that we win it to lay down a marker to the rest of the teams on the continent.

Nedbank Cup: With a lot of competitions next season, we’d do well to throw in another Nedbank Cup win. We couldn’t do it this season, so I think the Semi Finals are an acceptable minimum target.

MTN 8: This is the one domestic cup I’m 100% aiming to win next season, as although it’s pretty much just an expanded super cup, I’d like to lift at least one of every trophy available to us while I’m here. I’m hoping we take our chances against the other top half sides to win this at the first opportunity.

Telkom Knockout: This one will have the least importance to me next season, as we’ve already won it and it’s only a league cup, but we should still be getting to at least the Semi Finals for a club of our status.

Other Goals: Continue to promote youth players to the first team, do the double over Cape Town City, and increase squad depth in the transfer market to prepare ourselves for even more competitions next season.

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Thank you for reading along this season. The first two seasons of this extremely fun and exciting save have been nothing short of spectacular. If we can make that a hat trick, I’ll be over the moon. Stay tuned!

Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

Edited by oriole01
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2019/20 African Review
National First Division - Wikipedia

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Richards Bay took a big step up this season, going from 7th place to champions. I look forward to seeing them in the Premiership next season, where they haven’t been since 2009, when they were known as Thanda Royal Zulu.

Chippa United came back up at the first opportunity after finishing 2nd in the league and winning the playoff over Polokwane City and 3rd-placed Ubuntu Cape Town, who I would have preferred to see next season instead. Stellenbosch made a massive improvement this season and nearly made the playoffs, while Jomo Cosmos turned near relegation last season into a top half finish this term.

Tshakhuma, who probably deserved to go up last year, unfortunately dropped to 8th, as they lost some of their best players. Baroka finished well below expectations, as they didn’t even make the top half when they were expected to be chasing an immediate Premiership return. TS Sporting and Real Kings also regressed into the bottom half. Both promoted teams in Santos and City Rovers went straight back down, as neither could make the step up to this level.

Promoted from Second Division:
Maccabi FC, Witbank Spurs
Really? The same two who went down last season? Come on…

Nedbank Cup Winners:
Bidvest Wits (3rd title)

MTN 8 Winners:
Maritzburg United (1st title)

Telkom Knockout Winners:
Ajax Cape Town (3rd title)

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It’s ES Tunis’ world right now, and we’re all just living in it. They’re officially the Real Madrid of Africa, having now won their third straight Champions League title, and fifth in total. While this one was quite close- Egypt’s titans Al-Ahly overturned a two-goal deficit in the second leg and brought the tie to penalties- it was the Tunisians who once again prevailed in the end.

Tunis have built an empire Hannibal would be proud of, and I can’t wait for my chance to tear it down next season. We will face them right away in the CAF Super Cup, which should provide a great barometer of where we’re at as a club right now.

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Chiefs and Wits were able to reach the knockout stages, but neither gave a great account of themselves once there against North African opposition. The only real underdog in the field was ASEC Mimosas of the Ivory Coast, but they were immediately gobbled up by the Tunis juggernaut.

CAF Confederation Cup - Wikipedia

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As is thoroughly documented on this thread, we lifted the CAF Confederation Cup over Enugu Rangers, 5-1 on aggregate. We lifted our first continental title, and became the second South African side in a row to win the competition after Kaizer Chiefs lifted the trophy last year.

Let me know if you'd like to see anything else.

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Ajax Cape Town
2020/21 Pre-Season

January transfer window 2019: When does it open and close ...

Transfers Out
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Total: $1.6 million

We’d known since last season that Raymond Monama and Sedwyn George would be departing for Kaizer Chiefs on a free. Though I don’t think there was a better way for them to leave than by winning three trophies in their final season. Also, Boiki Modisakeng’s loan from AmaZulu was not renewed, as I found a better option at right back.

The big transfer news came from Portugal, as Porto decided to go in for our two young stars Kiyaam Bull and Riyaaz Koopstadt, who I knew we probably wouldn’t be able to keep hold of much longer. I was able to negotiate the price up to a combined potential $1.6 million, but I was always planning on accepting. The caveat is that we have been able to take them both back on loan for the coming season, and it’s possible we could extend those for longer. So we won’t be saying goodbye just yet.

Transfers In
Internal Promotion

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He’s finally here, and boy does he look a proper player. It’s only taken a year for Ayanda Mkhize to develop into one of the best players at the club, and Monama’s departure allows him a way into the first team. If this is what he looks like at 17, I can’t wait to see what he looks like in a few years, where he’ll probably be in Europe. While he’ll start in the 2nd XI behind Morné Nel, he’s easily the most promising youngster I’ve seen come through our academy so far, so I don’t see him staying there much longer.
Rating: Gold

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Mkhize’s midfield partner from our first intake Bheki Sono has also made the step up, but he won’t be part of either XI, as he’s the third choice BBM behind Jesse Donn and Grant Margeman. He should provide useful cover all over the midfield, though. The 17-year-old is constantly improving, and doesn’t look to have any huge weaknesses, but he doesn’t stand out quite as much as Mkhize does. Still, he’s another massive prospect for us that deserves first team game time.
Rating: Gold

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Khaya Mfecane has moved up after reaching the magic number of 2.5* CA. He’ll be an alternative to Masilake Phohlongo at AM, a position we’ve started using quite often in games in which we intend to fully attack. Like Sono, he won’t be part of the XI structure, but should still make a decent number of bench appearances to get used to senior football.
Rating: Green

Purchased
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Total: $816,500

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We’ve made our biggest investment yet in the form of 20-year-old Ivorian right back Guy Romain Kpéa, who we’ll likely end up paying SO Armée half a million dollars for. He fits the mold of the kind of player I want at this position far more than Modisakeng, as his crossing is excellent and he’s quick too. He also is a natural Complete Wing Back, which I will start using for both him and his 1st XI counterpart Sirgio Kammies. I certainly hope Guy will repay the money and the foreign player spot with his contributions here, which look like they could be immense.
Rating: Gold

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We’ve increased our depth at right wing with Uthongathi’s 19-year-old prospect Nkosinathi Madlala, who arrives for just $16.5K. Madlala won’t have a place in either XI to start, but he will still get game time off the bench and will start in our easiest fixtures ahead of the 2nd XI’s Kamohelo Mahlatsi. He’ll need to get used to playing inside forward, but for the money we paid he’s a smart signing.
Rating: Gold

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Tshepo Dlamini is the same idea on the other wing, but has cost us a lot more than Madlala, as he arrives from big boys SuperSport United for a potential $300K. He looks slightly rawer than Madlala, and his determination needs immediate correction, but the 18-year-old has all the makings of a star. With 1st XI starter Thabo Mosadi now 30, it won’t be long before he and Kyle Christian are competing for Mosadi’s place, so this is another future-oriented signing that will hopefully pay dividends.
Rating: Gold

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We’re starting to make a habit of dipping into the foreign market, as we’ve swooped for 18-year-old Togolese striker Kossi Mustafa on a free from semi-pro side Gomido. He’s definitely a raw prospect, but his finishing is already where it should be and is an absolute steal of a free transfer. He won’t get a lot of game time for the first team with just one striker in our tactic, but he’ll be available for the U19s and Reserves, where he’ll inevitably be irresistible.
Rating: Green

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We made another free foreign swoop for 18-year-old Malian holding midfielder Broulaye Minté, who arrives from amateur side CF Balanzan. I have no idea how my scouts found this kid, but he looks like he could develop into a star Regista in the future. He’s not rated at that role at the moment, but I think he’ll do just fine there. He was unable to get a work permit to start (even though he has more potential than Mustafa, who got one right away), but randomly he was granted one after we loaned him back to Mali. He’ll be staying there until at least January, where we’ll make a decision on whether we can use him then or wait until next season. Easily one of the best finds we’ve come up with, Minté looks like the future of our midfield once he starts playing for us.
Rating: Gold

Depth Chart
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This is how we’ll line out this season. The 1st XI sees only one change, as Donn has moved ahead of Margeman based on last year’s performances. I almost did the same with Isaac Nhlapo and Keenan Abrahams, but the 30-year-old veteran just barely keeps his 1st XI spot after consulting attributes and last year’s stats.

Nhlapo’s rating has decreased from Green to Blue, however, and Margeman has dropped from Gold to Green after his potential decreased.

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Prediction

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We have a 6-1 shot to retain our title, but that means we’re predicted 3rd rather than top. It’s definitely an improvement on last season’s expectations, but there’s no way we should still be below Sundowns after the season they just had. Chiefs are naturally the ones predicted to take home the title instead, Maritzburg aren’t expected to do as well as last year, promoted side Chippa are predicted to stay up, and both Cape Umoya and First Division champions Richards Bay are slated to go down. Our two Porto loanees are expected to be our key players, which certainly reflects well on their transfers.

The board expects much of us this season after what we did last term. We’re supposed to finish near the top of the Premiership, reach the Final in all three domestic cups, and reach the Semi Final of the CAF Champions League in what will be our first appearance in the competition in 11 years, and our first ever as the actual champions. The CAF Super Cup against ES Tunis is not rated as important, but that’s definitely something I want to win as well.

Friendlies

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Wow. If last year’s friendlies against Boca Juniors and Chivas were impressive, then these are even more so. We defeated and held scoreless Premier League side Brighton, Brazilian side Cruzeiro, and Bundesliga side Werder Bremen, then nearly beat Russian outfit Krasnodar after hitting the crossbar in the last minutes of a 2-2 draw. Even though these are friendlies, this is still incredible stuff for a young African side to be doing. I have a feeling that if we appear in a Club World Cup, we could actually make a serious run. Now we just need to replicate these sort of performances consistently across what might be a 60+ game season… piece of cake, innit?

Each season here, the stakes get higher and higher, but that also means our potential for glory rises as well. After two brilliant seasons of collecting trophy upon trophy, it’s time to continue that trend and make this third season something the continent and world will stand up and listen to.

Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

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7 minutes ago, Crazy_Ivan said:

I take it you heard Ajax sold their controlling interest in ACT? A shame but understandable considering the return.

Yep, I saw it on Twitter. It's definitely a shame because the Ajax connection is the only reason I've gone to Cape Town on this save, but they'll always be Ajax CT in my mind and on this thread of course. Would have loved to come back here in future FMs, but I don't think "Cape Town Stars" has the same effect on me.

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  • 1 month later...

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Ajax Cape Town
2020/21 Results and Review

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First Period

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During the First Period, we advanced to the Group Stage of the CAF Champions League with wins over Senegalese champions ASC Diaraf and Bissau-Guinean champions Os Balantas, lost the CAF Super Cup to three-time defending CL winners ES Tunis in a close game, were eliminated from the MTN 8 at the semi final stage after a second-leg collapse against Orlando Pirates, and made a mixed start to Premiership play, with highlights being another win over Mamelodi Sundowns, a 4-0 smacking of AmaZulu, and a wild 5-3 win over Cape Umoya United.

However, losses against Maritzburg United on the first day, a second defeat to Pirates, and a shocking defeat to underdogs Golden Arrows showed that we would face much stiffer competition for the title this season.

Position: 5th

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Second Period

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In the Second Period, we reached the semi finals of the Telkom Knockout before falling to Kaizer Chiefs in extra time, but then got revenge in the league in the next game for our first victory over them on the save. We started Champions League group play with an unconvincing but entertaining win over Cameroon’s Coton Sport, but followed that up with a total thrashing of Guinean champions Horoya.

We were in good league form, only losing once to SuperSport United and picking up a derby victory over Cape Town City through a Thomas Verhaar winner. In unlikely news, our keeper Jody February scored a free kick winner against Bloemfontein Celtic, his first ever senior goal. As a result of our form, we moved up the table into a title race with Chiefs.

Position: 2nd

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Third Period
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Our mid-season friendly results were once again incredible, as we beat both Porto and our parent club Ajax, the latter in a rout that likely embarrassed the higher-ups in Amsterdam. We finished the Champions League group unbeaten, taking four points off Ivorian side ASEC Mimosas, who went through second in the group with us into the quarter final, where we eliminated Cameroonians Union Douala in a close tie that was won late in the second leg by a massive Sirgio Kammies goal, his first in two years. That set up an enormous tie with ES Tunis in the semi finals, one that probably would be a better final instead.

We continued to pick up points in the league, but our third loss of the season to Orlando Pirates really got under my skin and set us back in the title race. We also cruised through the early rounds of the Nedbank Cup to set up a big quarter final clash with Chiefs, with the winner likely to go all the way.

Position: 2nd

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Fourth Period

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Unfortunately, things largely came apart at the business end of the season. Our plummet in form started when we were thoroughly outplayed over two legs by ES Tunis in the Champions League semis, as despite Verhaar’s best efforts, we were given a reality check by a team that are clearly still the best in Africa, a fact they proved by defeating MC Alger in the final to win their fourth consecutive title.

That loss saw our confidence go off a cliff, and we lost four straight league games during a particularly brutal stretch of the season that saw us face exclusively perennial top-half finishers. Wits, Chiefs, City, and SuperSport all beat us- whether deserved or not- and that awful stretch effectively put our hopes of retaining our title to bed.

Our saving grace was the Nedbank Cup, as we remained focused in this competition even amidst our losing run, first knocking off Chiefs in the quarter final, then surviving a tough semi final against Wits in extra time, and finally defeating City in a pulsating derby cup final, which by luck of the draw was held quite fittingly at the Cape Town Stadium. Teenage winger Nkosinathi Madlala, who had a very impressive first season for us, won us the cup with a 90th-minute header off Thabo Mosadi’s corner, a player who has been absolutely immense for us throughout the entire save and who deserved to lift our third Nedbank Cup trophy, and the second under Shaka Roosevelt following our improbable success in the first season.

The cup win, followed by a victory in our final league game against Bloemfontein Celtic, ensured that although we fell short of our epic aspirations this season, we still finished the campaign on a high.

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Final League Table
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As mentioned, the poor end-of-season run prevented us from defending our crown, but it also froze us out of the Champions League as well. Kaizer Chiefs were too consistently good this season to stop them from winning their 13th Premiership title, even if we did beat them in the first half of the season. What’s more surprising is that a resurgent Mamelodi Sundowns finished above us as well, taking the second CL spot by two points thanks to a massive 20-goal haul from their wonderkid striker David Lebusa, who seems destined for big things.

Golden Arrows had a magnificent season out of nowhere, finishing in the top half and flirting with a much higher position than 7th for most of the season, mostly thanks to our on-loan youth striker Ashley Cupido, who was one of the best players in the country this season with a whopping 18 Premiership goals. That’s a way to earn a chance here if ever there was one. Maritzburg had a massively disappointing season, as they traded a respectable league finish for a quarter final run in the CL. Chippa stayed up pretty easily, while a win-shy Cape Umoya side scraped survival by a point, leaving Richards Bay to fall into the mini-league, where they bottled survival with two losses in a row after two big wins to start the group. Black Leopards sadly had an awful season, tallying just 15 points and deservedly going down by a long distance.

Promoted from First Division:
Tuks, Tshakhuma

Nedbank Cup Winners:
Ajax Cape Town (3rd title)

MTN 8 Winners:
Kaizer Chiefs (14th title)

Telkom Knockout Winners:
Orlando Pirates (2nd title)

CAF Champions League Winners:
ES Tunis (6th title, 4th consecutive)

CAF Confederation Cup Winners:
Ismaily (1st title)

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Awards
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Thabo Mosadi won our player of the season at a canter, as he took his goalscoring to a new level this season while still registering double-digit assists as well. I think Keegan Johannes should have got a mention, as he scored an incredible 9 goals from center back, as well as Ivorian summer signing Guy Romain Kpéa, who had the highest average rating of anyone on the team, but did get the consolation of being named our signing of the season and young player of the season.

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Squad Stats
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Ayanda Mkhize’s first season as a senior player was cut short by injury, but he is already one of the best players at the club and his promising return of 6 goals and 5 assists would have been higher had he not been cut down in March. Keenan Abrahams and Isaac Nhlapo were quietly brilliant at center back, as well as Sbusiso Mabiliso on the left, who earned a 1st XI place on merit. Verhaar’s age has started to catch up with him, as he dropped from 21 goals to 11 this season, but that was still enough to be joint-top scorer with Mosadi. Also disappointing were Morné Nel and Tashreeq Morris, whose previously consistent production almost completely disappeared, which is pretty unfortunate for two players I’d rated highly in the past.

Overall Best XI
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Final Tracker
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Edited by oriole01
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With the release of FM21 I've decided to put a bow on this save, at least in documented form. It was a very enjoyable ride for me, as it was by far my most successful managerial spell across any FM I've played. I hope to return to South Africa in a future game, even if Ajax Cape Town won't be playing under that name anymore. Either the newly-renamed Cape Town Spurs or the two Thohoyandou clubs (Black Leopards and Tshakhuma) would be my target, and I'd recommend each as a worthwhile save to anyone interested in playing here.

Thank you to anyone who read, especially @Crazy_Ivan , whose SA native perspective I greatly appreciated. I will be starting the FM21 cycle on the community #DanskeDanske thread, and then I plan to come back with more individual saves later this year. Cheers!

Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

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