AJAX Cape Town have looked inwards, and towards youth with the announcement of their new head coach, Maarten Stekelenburg, at Ikamva on Tuesday morning.
He has signed a two year contract with an option for a further two years.
Stekelenburg has been with the Cape side for two and a half years, heading the club’s ambitious youth development programme.
He takes over from Foppe de Haan, who retired at the end of last season, having taken the Cape club to the runners up spot in the Absa Premiership.
Stekelenburg has been coaching since the age of 16 and spent ten years at Ajax Amsterdam, where he rose through the ranks to eventually coach the ‘Jong Ajax’.
Several high profile names had been linked to the coaching post in the last few months, including Orlando Pirates’ Ruud Krol.
Ajax CEO George Comitis admitted that Krol had been included on a lengthy ‘short-list’, but says as the Dutch mentor was still contracted to Pirates, no approach was ever made.
Comitis said other names on the list included the likes of Ernst Middendorp, Hristo Stoichko, Clemence Westerhof and Kosta Papic.
However, Comitis stated that Stekelenburg’s appointment was a positive and exciting one for the club, saying that several months back they would happily have installed him in the head coach position, explaining that de Haan had first planted this seed of thought in his mind some time back.
Howevever, at that stage it was thought Stekelenburg was headed back to Ajax Amsterdam. But recently, a re-structuring at the Dutch champions meant Stekelenburg was again available, making the selection process an obvious one according to the Ajax CEO.
“Our football philosophy has always been based on youth development over the last 11 years and we have failed with the longevity of a coach. We believe we have now found the right man that suits our vision.
“Stekelenburg is a young energetic and ambitious coach. He is our first ‘true Ajax coach’ with an embedded philosophy of youth development, total football and individual coaching methods.
“We believe we have found the right man for the job and he has the full support of all the stakeholders of Ajax Cape Town.” Stekelenburg now looks forward to making a major impact in his first post as head coach.
“It’s a special day for me because I have become the head coach of Ajax Cape Town, a special day because my wife is here, and my brother who came all the way from the Netherlands to support me -it’s a really big moment in my life. “Having been brought up with the Ajax philosophy I see myself in a strong position to take the step up from youth to first team level – I feel I have the support of the people around me and I’m looking forward to starting training on the 27th of this month.”
He is hoping to carry on where de Haan left off by keeping Ajax in the title chase.
On last season’s disappointing final day’s action that saw Ajax lose the title to Pirates, Stekelenburg says:
“You can see it in two ways – as a big disappointment, or as a fantastic season – I see it as a fantastic season, with the style of football and respect they earned, they have never had a season like that.
“You can see Foppe’s shoes as big shoes to fill, yes, but you can also look at the fantastic work he did with the team. What Foppe did was well structured and it was embedded in the players – he built the foundations and I think I can build on that.”
In additional news, Comitis said the club has resigned to losing the services of Sameehg Doutie – Ajax have agreed a deal with Pirates and now its just up to the player to hash out his contract with Bucs.
There have also been several enquiries for the services of George Maluleka, but Ajax are determined to hang onto to the national U23 star midfielder.-PSL