Explained: Why the rivalry between Cape Town City and Ajax Cape Town is so personal

They say you can choose your friends‚ but not your family‚ and the rivalry between Ajax Cape Town and Cape Town City goes well beyond bragging rights in the Mother City‚ or Premier Soccer League (PSL) points … it’s personal!

The two clubs have had contrasting seasons in the PSL‚ with City in their maiden campaign still in contention for the league title and having won the Telkom Knockout in December too.

Ajax have battled relegation for much of the campaign and it has only been in the last few weeks they have pulled away from the bottom and are seemingly now in a place of safety‚ perhaps even in line for a top-eight place.

The two clubs have had some good-natured sparring sessions on Twitter in recent weeks too‚ with Ajax teasing City over the fact that this time last year the team was based in Mpumalanga and went by the name Black Aces.

City retorted that the National First Division had Ajax’s “number on speed dial” as the Urban Warriors hovered just above the drop-zone.

It was one of a number of humorous exchanges on social media between the pair‚ but while their marketing departments might be loving it up‚ there is undoubted ill-feeling between the clubs.

The reasons behind that are numerous‚ not least because of the people involved in the management of the clubs.

Ajax Cape Town was previously owned by Ajax Amsterdam (51%) and a consortium made up of the Comitis and Efstathiou families (49%).

The two families are linked through marriage‚ with the Ajax CEO Ari Efstathiou married to Poppy‚ sister of City owner John Comitis.

They also live in the same street in Cape Town and share other interests with the families having been intertwined in business for almost three decades.

The pair had a falling out in 2010 over a R3.5-million pay-out that Comitis received for his role on the PSL’s Executive Committee‚ with the Efstathiou’s believing it should have gone to the club.

Ajax Cape Town on Twitter

@MarksNkuna @CapeTownCityFC @EWNsport @KaizerChiefs Well keep your celebrations on ice, this time last year you were still based in Mpumalanga. Football is full of surprises

What followed was a couple of years of legal wrangling before it became clear that they could not work together at Ajax. One family had to go.

The Comitis’s‚ made up of John and brother George‚ offered to buy out the Efstathious in 2013‚ but when the latter refused to sell‚ they were forced to accept a counterbid and so exited the club.

It was all pretty acrimonious‚ with John Comitis claiming his brother-in-law was leading a witch hunt against him‚ and Ari Efstathiou saying it was merely a case of good governance.

Stuck in the middle is one of the grand gentlemen of South African football‚ John’s father Mike Comitis‚ who has the unenviable task of keeping the peace at Christmas lunch with daughter Poppy on the other side of the family divide!

John Comitis’s re-entry into the local game via his purchase of the status of Mpumalanga Black Aces and the relocation of the club to Cape Town has re-ignited the rivalry‚ in football at least‚ once more.

There were rumours in pre-season that friends Roger de Sa (then coach of Ajax) and Eric Tinkler (coach of Cape Town City) had agreed to play a warm-up match between the clubs but that this was vetoed at boardroom level.

Cape Town City FC on Twitter

@ajaxcapetown @MarksNkuna @EWNsport @KaizerChiefs Backdrops and Mpumalanga. You guys need to focus more on football. The NFD is calling your number's been on speed dial for a while now..

On the pitch the battles have been won by City‚ who claimed 1-0 and 2-0 successes in the league in what were feisty clashes that never boiled over.

In fact‚ there were just two yellow cards issues in 180 minutes of football‚ suggesting the players did not take the rivalry to heart.

Whether this rivalry between two of Cape Town most renowned and successful families turns into a ‘Greek tragedy’ or not‚ remains to be seen.

But it appears unlikely as both parties have too much to lose and‚ at the end of the day‚ whatever might be said in the heat of the moment‚ blood is thicker than water.

Ajax Cape Town on Twitter

@CapeTownCityFC @MarksNkuna @EWNsport @KaizerChiefs Very quick to catch feelings for a team that bought their PSL status... Anyway, we love you neighbours Thanks for making this Monday fun. https://t.co/GdVJbREfGd