Success beckons for young Ajax team
This may just be the season to remember for Ajax Cape Town captain, Travis Graham.
CAPE TOWN - The Urban Warriors are on the verge of winning their first piece of silverware since 2008 and the 22-year old midfielder now has the opportunity to lead his team to Cup glory in tomorrow's season-ending Nedbank Cup final.
Ajax take on the might of Mamelodi Sundowns on Saturday at Port Elizabeth's Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and victory there would round off a perfect year for the young man in his debut season as club captain.
It's been a defining 12 months or so for Graham after he made a return from injury at the start of this campaign after having spent almost all of last season on the side-lines and having since shrugged off the injuries, coach Roger de Sa's entrusted him with the captaincy, a role which has sat comfortably on his relatively young shoulders.
Not only has he led the club to the final, but also to a fifth place finish on the Premiership log in a tight scrap in the group well of the pace set by the champions Kaizer Chiefs, this from a team where the majority of the squad graduated from within its own youth structures in the past few seasons.
Graham says a trophy would be the perfect way to end of an already amazing season.
"Personally it's a great comeback, obviously it was going to be very difficult for me to put the hard work in. I think I have done well and let's hope I can get some trophies in that cabinet as well."
The last time Ajax won a trophy was back in 2008 when they won the Telkom Knockout title.
At the time Graham was just 14-year-old and says first team football then was a lifetime away.
"I was still in the (Ajax) Academy; I was still the ball boy at that time giving the ball to the guys like Brett Evans, Clayton Daniels who was there at the time, a lot of great players that I have watched over the years."
One player who was in the team that won that title seven years ago was midfielder Granwald Scott, then a newcomer to the team who was yet to mould himself into one of the senior figures at the club.
Now 27, Scott says in his mind a win is non-negotiable.
"For me I am just being positive and everyone is asking me what do I think and I tell them I am going to win. I want to win it personally and I think that will rub off on everyone else. It will be good for the team as well because of everything that has happened in the past with changes of the bosses, the technical team and everything else."
One resounding factor is that the Cape side does not feel any pressure to win the title despite the lack of trophies in the cabinet.
Sundowns on the other hand need to win some silverware as they relinquished their league title to Chiefs who romped home to the title, with three games still to go in the season.
This is the 'Brazilians' last chance at glory with their star-studded squad with stalwart
Teko Modise key to their success last season.
'Donadoni' was instrumental in their capturing their first league title in seven seasons last year and in the last two years has been nominated for a number of PSL accolades.
Modise says his passion for the game drives his desire to do well.
"I mean it's been tough to wake up every day and to the same thing over and over again. But with the passion I have for the game, it's unquestionable, I love football. I always want to see myself playing on the pitch and I love winning as well...So I am fortunate enough that I am in a team where our focus is on winning something and not fighting for relegation or just trying to be in the top eight (of the league table)."
For me, on paper Sundowns should easily be able to beat a young Ajax team. However the fact the pressure isn't on Ajax could work in their favour and has been behind some of their success this season.
De Sa has also instilled a confidence in the team and the players are not only playing for themselves but also for their coach who has brought some success this season. The cherry on the cake thought would be to bring back the Cup to the Mother City.