By Rodney Reiners | IOL |
Ajax Cape Town’s famed youth academy regularly churns out top young footballers. But if there’s a criticism to be made, it’s that not too many make the step up to the big European stage.
Steven Pienaar and Eyong Enoh are the two most well-known players to have successfully transferred from Ajax Cape Town to Ajax Amsterdam.
But there is a strong possibility that the Urban Warriors could soon be delivering another talented youngster to the famed Dutch club. Later this week, 17-year-old attacking midfielder Sonwabile Mfecane jets off to the Netherlands for a month-long trial with Ajax Amsterdam. There are high hopes – in the Cape and in Amsterdam – that Mfecane can go all the way.
Mfecane’s biggest fan, in fact, is former Arsenal winger Marc Overmars. Now the director of football at Ajax Amsterdam, Overmars can’t wait to have the 17-year-old train with the Dutch giants.
As Ajax Cape Town chief executive Eri Efstathiou explains: “This is more than just training with Ajax Amsterdam, this is a real trial. When Marc Overmars was here, he watched two games and all he said was, ‘I want that number eight’ that was the jersey number Sonwabile was wearing at the time. Now, every time Overmars phones me, he always says ‘where’s my number eight?’
“Now Sonwabile is going to Amsterdam and we hope he does well. He’s (a) talented player and, if he keeps his feet on the ground, he has a great future ahead of him.”
Mfecane is a football-mad teenager from Mfuleni and has made rapid progress in the Cape side’s academy. Needless to say, he can’t wait for his adventure to begin.
“It’s a great feeling to be going to Amsterdam,” he said. “In fact, I am humbled by the invitation. But I know that I have a job to do, I know that I will have to work very hard. The level is much higher there, and I will have to be prepared.”
Mfecane plays as a number 10 in the Ajax system. It’s the position just behind the striker and he loves the freedom of expression it affords him as a player.
“I love scoring goals, I love to attack, but I also know that I need to work much harder on the defensive side of my game,” said Mfecane. “Going on trial at Ajax Amsterdam will be a different environment for me, but the fact that I am the only player going means that I carry the responsibility of making a good impression for the whole of the Ajax youth academy.”