Ajax Cape Town embark on ambitious development project
Ajax Cape Town have started a new youth development institute they are terming a “university” of the club as they look to improve the quality of the football education they give to young players.
Initially 30 players from all over Africa will get the opportunity to live‚ train and be educated at Ajax’s Ikamva base‚ with that number rising to 50 in the coming years.
The difference in this new initiative‚ termed the Ajax Lambda Institute‚ to their already prolific academy is that players will live in the facility‚ have all their schooling and football training at Ikmava in a facility that will cost the club R8.5-million in the first phase of development‚ and a further R250‚000 per pupil each year.
“When we took over managing the club in 2013‚ we started working on a programme to try and improve what is already known as the best development programme in Africa‚ or South Africa at least‚” Ajax CEO Ari Efstathiou said.
“What we did know is that a lot of players fell through the cracks and we felt we could do so much more than money would not allow us.
"We spoke to Ajax Amsterdam to create a facility that will look at all aspects of a football players’ development.
“It is a common discussion in South Africa‚ we are sitting with 56-million people‚ yet we can’t produce a team to compete international‚ with all the talent and money.
“We want to be the ones who start that process and the only way to do it is to re-invest into the game and the community.
"This is the university of our club‚ we want to take them to the next level of their development.”
The age of pupils for the institute will be 14-18‚ with the goal to send three or four to Europe every year.
“They will be selected in a very rigorous process‚” Efstathiou said.
“Natural talent‚ physical attributes and most importantly the mental capacity of each player.
“He must be strong enough to make European football‚ because that is our aim.”
The institute will be run by former Bafana Bafana and Santos striker Duncan Crowie‚ who has left his teaching post to manage the facility full-time.
The first seven players have already started at the institute‚ though until the first phase of building is complete in June‚ they will continue to live at home.
Ajax’s head of youth‚ Hans Vonk‚ says the aim is to allow for more training time while still allowing the youngsters to get a full education.
“People ask why this step is important‚” Vonk says.
“Research by Anders Ericsson says that with 10‚000 hours‚ which is about 10 years‚ of training makes anyone of us good in almost everything.
“That [amount of training] is not possible at Ajax‚ so we have to train more with our youngsters. By that I mean we have to train more in quantity and quality‚ with better training facilities.”