Due to popular demand, ajaxct.co.za this week had a brief discussion with Ajax Cape Town Head of Scouts, Mr Sergio Dos Santos. The former Kaizer Chiefs and Hellenic ace, who also previously served as a coach at some of the biggest teams in South Africa, took up his current position in February 2014.
With an eye for local talent and vast experience in the game spanning several decades, Dos Santos has proved a valuable asset to the Urban Warriors.
Ajax Cape Town has over the past 17 years quickly established itself as the forerunner in the country, when it comes to nurturing local talent. With many a youngster passing through the Ikamva doors on their way to playing professional football in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and abroad.
Steven Pienaar, Thulani Serero and Eyong Enoh are but some of the players to have mastered their craft in Parow, with the club working tirelessly to continue churning out future stars.
In PART 1 of our Explaining the Ajax Cape Town Scouting System Feature, Dos Santos talks us through some of the dynamics of scouting in what is a very competitive environment:
“The scouting department consists of: a Head of Scouting [myself], a Scouting Administrator and then an assortment of Scouts; that assortment is put together by the Head of Scouting – as to where they come from, which areas they cover and so on,” said Dos Santos.
“In total, there is no defined amount of scouts you should have. This past season I had 16 scouts, plus myself and my Chief Scout [Mr Luis De Faria] – which makes it 18. We also have out in the field, ‘tipsters’ or ‘tip givers’, these are people out in the field who have an affinity to our club, who we have relationship’s with – they will pick up the phone and say: ‘I saw a this youngster play on Saturday and I think you should come and have a look at him’, that type of thing or we get a tip off.
“The ‘tipster’ will call and say: ‘I believe you are playing a game against this team on Saturday, there is this youngster wearing jersey number 8, I think you should have a look at him, I think he has talent’ – that type of thing.
Dos Santos continued: “There is a lot of competition out there because there are a lot of so-called academy clubs, that are obviously not as big as we are, but they are also academy clubs because they have the youth all the way to the levels of amateur football, and sometimes professional football as well. They too are looking for talent and they will compete with us in the sense that they will tell people what they want to hear out there, to persuade them to not bring their sons here.
“However, what we do offer at Ajax Cape Town Football Club which is very special I think; is the fact that we have a guaranteed product in terms of what we do, how we do it and the results that we achieve in the process of doing it. It is consistent for the past 17/18 years since the club was created – continuously and consistently we produce talent which not only makes it here, but then proceeds to higher levels both locally and overseas, that is what we do.
“We work closely with our coaches, the coaching staff and Head of Youth on a regular basis, what is needed out there, and what requirements can possibly be needed. Throughout the year, on a monthly basis we are discussing possibilities etc. We have a very strong database where we keep all the information of any player that we scout, follow, we monitor their progress, and record. Even players that are released by the academy – we don’t forget about them.
“We continuously monitor them, because it is possible and it has happened where some players reach a specific moment at a club where they seem to be at a specific level, and not able to take the next step. By releasing them and letting them go somewhere else you sometimes find that the player – exposed to a different environment – after three or four months he clicks and sees the picture.
Ndiviwe ‘Diva’ Mdabuka is the perfect example of exactly such a case, with the midfielder having left the Ajax Cape Town academy only to return to the club following a spell with fellow Cape side Vasco Da Gama.
“Diva is one of them, as a matter of fact, he is one of the player’s that I was very adamant that he should come back here. I did not know him before I joined Ajax, in terms of being here. I watched him play for Vasco, thought I saw something good there – got the coaches to go and look at him and we brought him back,” Dos Santos added.
“He came back and has done very, very well. That is a perfect example at a higher level, so you can imagine at a junior level there is a possibility – sometimes kids are here and take things for granted, don’t take it as seriously as they should, take it a bit too easy, but going out there and realizing that maybe what they had here is a lot more than the thought – they then click and they come back and take that step.
“We have to be very, very careful not to be too dogmatic in terms of how we select, what we select, who we release and when we release. We need to keep tabs on an on-going basis because things can change,” he concluded.
Keep an eye out for PART 2 of our interview with Mr Dos Santos as we further explain the Urban Warriors scouting system.