Cape Town City are the new football power in the Mother City
When John Comitis purchased the status of Mpumalanga Black Aces in June 2016‚ he insisted his new side Cape Town City would be challenging for silverware from their maiden season in the Absa Premiership.It seemed an ambitious statement‚ especially as many of the players who had helped Black Aces to fourth the season before did not want to make the switch to the Mother City.
But if Comitis has proven anything in South African football over the last three decades‚ it is that he does not do things in half-measures and his single-minded search for success is backed by a shrewd business brain.
The decline of Ajax Cape Town since the departure from the club of John and his brother George in 2013 is no coincidence‚ and has given rise to a new football power in the city that has won acclaim for its work on and off the pitch.
Since their formation two-and-a-half years ago‚ City have lifted the Telkom Knockout and MTN8 trophies‚ and finished third and fifth in the league.
They have one of the most exciting coaching talents in the country in Benni McCarthy and play a brand of football that is to be admired‚ preferring skill and guile over longs balls and hatchet work in the midfield.
They give the impression in every sense of a modern club that wants to play a modern style of football and while McCarthy freely admits that he could never replicate the work of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City‚ he just doesn’t have the players for that‚ he is trying to entertain at the same time as win matches.
Comitis has backed his coaches in the transfer market too‚ bringing in high-profile signings such as Teko Modise‚ Lehlohonolo Majoro‚ Ayanda Patosi‚ Gift Links‚ Matthew Rusike‚ Kermit Erasmus and Tokelo Rantie‚ even if the latter’s stay was short-lived due to his own off-field issues.
Most have worked out‚ though as with any club around the world‚ they have not always managed to get it right.
Crucially perhaps also‚ Comitis has shown a willingness to let his best players go too if the price is right and it is to the benefit of the individual – with Lebo Manyama‚ Aubrey Ngoma‚ Lyle Lakay and Majoro all being allowed to seek opportunities elsewhere.
This creates the right kind of career path for those wishing to join City‚ with their talents being recognised and the belief that they will be allowed to move on and not held back against their will.
Off the pitch‚ the size of the support in the stands has grown steadily at the Cape Town Stadium‚ backed in part by excellent strategic partnerships with local Mother City media and the club’s vibrant social media strategy that became the talk of the Premier Soccer League.
Clubs generally are terrible at promoting themselves‚ but City set a new bar with a fun and fresh approach that others have since tried to replicate with limited success.
It all gave another impression though that this was a club for the modern fan and footballer‚ that supporting City would be fun and entertaining on and off the pitch‚ and that this as a brand that was ‘easy’ to be associated with.
The club also endeared themselves to supporters by offering match tickets at R20 rather than the usual R40 (or more) elsewhere in the league‚ another smart marketing move that showed them to be a ‘club of the people’.
This year’s league campaign has been tougher than they expected‚ but if they win their game in hand over leaders BidVest Wits‚ they will move to within seven points of the top of the table at the midway point of the season.
It looks a tough ask to close that gap‚ but if they can start to turn more draws into wins with the arrival of experienced forward Erasmus‚ they could yet mount a title challenge in a season in which the top sides have shown inconsistency in their own performances.
The rise of Cape Town City has been rapid and exciting to watch from the sidelines‚ and there is no suggestion that they have reached their peak as they seek to become the first Mother City side since Santos in 2001/02 to lift the ultimate prize in South African football.