It seemed a match made in heaven, Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam launching a satellite club in Cape Town known as Ajax Cape Town. For those not familiar with Greek mythology, Ajax is one of the most powerful Greek warriors in Homer’s Iliad (collection of Greek legends), and so the fact that the Efstathious and the Comitis, two powerful Greek families were at the helm of the club, seemed to bode well for the future. It was a story seemingly written in the stars. But with time, this club that has become very much the glamour team of Cape Town has seen its fortunes unravel. To be quite frank, the Ajax story now reads more like a Greek tragedy.
The well documented rift between the warring family shareholders of the Urban Warriors has seen a club go from title contenders just two seasons back, to relegation candidates fighting for their very PSL existence. This week for the sake of the club, the Comitis and Efstathiou families put aside their differences and made a joint decision to bring back Muhsin Ertugral as a technical adviser to the first team. The idea was for Johannes Versleijen to work with Ertugral in an attempt to save the club from relegation. However, the club failed to let Versleijen know of their plan, and when Soccer-Laduma broke the news to the Dutch coach that he would be getting assistance from the popular Turkish coach, he was clearly irritated. In fact, he was so upset by the manner in which the deal was done, that he handed in his resignation the very morning that Ajax CT held a press conference to announce the arrival of Ertugral.
While the local Ajax supporters are delighted with the signing of Ertugral, mother club Ajax Amsterdam have taken offence at the way their countryman Johannes Versleijen has been treated. In typical Dutch fashion, they have voiced their disapproval. Former Holland and Arsenal international Marc Overmars, now a Director of Football at Ajax Amsterdam, told Dutch publication De Telegraaf, “There are several options for us in the coming months. If stopping [the relationship] costs money, that does not matter. They seem to forget that in South Africa we have 51 percent of the shares. We will not be gentle in [dealing with the situation].”
Hardly a thinly veiled threat, it seems like a divorce is on the cards for Ajax Amsterdam and Ajax Cape Town. The split would have serious financial ramifications for the Urban Warriors and also pose some tricky questions going forward.
For starters, Ajax Cape Town do have MTN on board as main sponsors but with word on the street that they won’t be renewing their sponsorship deal, the Urban Warriors could suddenly find themselves having to run their club on the PSL monthly grant, if indeed Ajax Amsterdam do decide to pull out.
The second question is, if there is no association with Ajax Amsterdam, why would the name ‘Ajax’ still even be relevant to the Urban Warriors? If anything, it would simply remind the Cape Town stakeholders of a bitter relationship in which they were cast aside. There is no pride in that, and certainly building the brand of the Dutch giants in South Africa would be the last thing the Urban Warriors would want to do. That said, should Ajax Amsterdam sever ties, there is every chance that the Efstathiou and Comitis family would need to keep on playing as Ajax Cape Town as we have seen before that if the PSL has already done their marketing for the new season, they will not allow a name change for at least another season.
But what would the new team be called once they did get the all-clear to change it? Surely there is only one option. The return of the name Cape Town Spurs! Both families own the rights to the name, Cape Town Spurs are synonymous with the Mother City, and surely it would make sense for the name to return.
In Greek mythology, the mighty warrior Ajax in the end does something that calls into question his honour and so rather than live on, he falls on his own sword, committing suicide. It seems the hiring of Muhsin Ertugral may be the sword that Ajax Cape Town is forced to fall on and in so doing end the existence of Ajax in South Africa.
However, the story goes that from the red blood that poured from Ajax the warrior’s wound, a beautiful red flower grew. Could it be that from the death of Ajax, the beautiful red flower that grows in Cape Town might just be Cape Town Spurs? Only time will tell.