Following news that Foppe de Haan and Hans Vonk will head up the Ajax Cape Town Youth Academy, we caught up with the new Head of Youth at the club to discuss how he played a part in getting De Haan the Urban Warriors head coaching job eight years ago.
De Haan and Vonk’s professional relationship kicked-off at Dutch Eredivisie side Heerenveen in 1996, with the former Netherlands U21 head coach luring the goalkeeper to the Abe Lenstra Stadion.
The duo spent eight years together at the club before both leaving to further their respective career’s elsewhere – Vonk joining Ajax Amsterdam for his first of two spells.
Vonk would go on to join Ajax Cape Town for a first of two spells in 2006 (to 2008) before returning to the Mother City in 2009. Having worked under Muhsin Ertuğral for the first few months of his second spell, the Turk left the club to take up an offer abroad.
In search of a new head coach, Vonk spoke to Ajax Cape Town CEO at the time, George Comitis, with shot-stopper calling De Haan for a few possible candidates…only for the now 73-year-old to later request taking up the job himself.
The rest is history…with De Haan seeing out the rest of the campaign before leading Ajax Cape Town to their highest to date finish in the 2010-11 season, the club missing out on a first Absa Premiership title by virtue of goal difference.
Vonk fondly remembers the memorable time in the club’s history:
“It is a very funny story, we speak about October 2009 – Muhsin was the coach at the time, he had an offer from elsewhere and wanted to leave, they couldn’t stop him. So we were like ‘what now?’,” Vonk told ajaxct.co.za
“I told the owners that I know a coach in Holland [Foppe], who knows a lot of coaches and I will give him a call, he will know of a few coaches who fit the criteria and will be good enough to do a job here [at Ajax Cape Town].
“So I phoned Foppe and asked him to let me know if he knows of anyone that would be interested in doing the job. After two or three days he called me back and said: ‘You know what Hans, I’d like to do the job – I want it myself’.
“I asked are you willingly to and he said yes, asked if he was fit because at that stage he was 65 years old, and he said ‘yes’. I told him: ‘okay the club invites you, you can stay with me for 10 days, you can come and meet the people this side’ – he agreed.
“He had a discussion with management and he signed a contract with the club, obviously I was delighted because I rate him very highly.
“He started in October/November of that year , but because of the 2010 FIFA World Cup we had a short period of time where we played all our league games and then the cup competitions followed – we got kicked out soon, so we weren’t as successful yet with him, but he could lay a good foundation for the upcoming season.
“So when he started from the onset for the 2010-11 season, we had a very good six week preparation and we played some fantastic football with all the young players coming through the ranks.
“Thulani Serero of course, George Maluleka, Granwald Scott, Brett Evans on the left, Nazeer Allie on the right, Clayton Daniels, Terror Fanteni, Sameehg Doutie, Lebogang Manyama, Thulani Hlatshwayo, Thato Mokeke… we had a fantastic group of players and Foppe implemented a very fluent way of playing.
“We missed out on the championship unfortunately, but I think he made a good name for himself in South Africa. The reason for him being so successful in South Africa is firstly because he understands the game and how to teach players, his fitness awareness and expertise was also something new – not just on the field, but in the gym which made the players much fitter and better.
“Foppe also I think is one of the few coaches from outside South Africa that came here and never complained, he was always looking at the positives and looking at ways to better the players that’s why I think he made such a great impression in South Africa,” Vonk concluded.