As talented as they are, for all the success they have achieved at junior level, they have not, as yet, arrived on the big stage. This season, they’ve grown and showed what they are capable of.
But, to fully alert everybody in domestic football that they can transfer their junior success to senior level, there can be no better trumpet than to lead this current Ajax squad to a Cup final.
In defence, there’s Rivaldo Coetzee, Abbubaker Mobara and Mosa Lebusa, in midfield Travis Graham, Riyaad Norodien, Bantu Mzwakali, Toriq Losper and Keagan Dolly, and, in attack, Tashreeq Morris.
All of them have come through the Ajax youth academy – and the rise of this youth brigade speaks volumes for Ajax’s motto of “no youth, no future”.
For the current crop, though, to make a mark, tonight’s semi-final is the platform.
“This is a big chance for us to achieve something,” said Ajax’s youthful skipper Graham.
“For us as youngsters who have come through the ranks of the club, we have not won anything. When the club had Cup success in the past, we were all juniors. The club hasn’t won anything in quite a while, and we have an opportunity to change all that in this competition.
“For me, also, on a personal level, this is a big moment. It’s the first semi-final I will be involved in at senior level, and it’s an honour to captain the team on such a big occasion.”
Graham, though, admitted that they couldn’t expect things easy tonight – SuperSport are a top team and he expected a tight, close Cup encounter.
“SuperSport are a good side with a coach (Gordon Igesund) who has had tremendous success in the game,” added 21-year-old Graham.
“They also have experienced players with a lot of quality. It will be tough … But this is a Cup game and anything can happen. I believe if we work together as a team, play to our potential, we can get the result we want and make it to the final.”
Graham said it has been particularly exciting to captain such an impressive mix of youth and experience in the current Ajax squad. He said the addition of players like Erwin Isaacs and Toriq Losper in the January transfer window, and the arrival of Norodien to the team over the last few weeks, has led to more attacking options.
Norodien has been influential. Out of the game for about 15 months due to a contractual dispute with the Cape club he is back playing. A footballer of flair and confidence, he will have a major role to play tonight.
“The new guys have been great for the squad, they have contributed to making the team even better over the last few months,” said Graham.
“I’m really glad for Riyaad … we played together in the junior teams and I know the problems he’s had with the club have been difficult for him.”
Original source: Chance for Ajax youngsters to shine