Cape Town City ready to play 'disrupters' in the PSL

John Comitis, chairman of Cape Town City, with and coach Benni McCarthy Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

As Cape Town City gear up for a crucial two weeks in which they play both Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates in the league, and feature in a third cup final in as many seasons against SuperSport United in the MTN8, owner John Comitis has lifted the lid on the last few years and the building of the brand.

City have made astonishing strides on and off the pitch since their formation in July 2016 when Comitis purchased the top-flight status of Mpumalanga Black Aces, something he puts down to meticulous planning.

Having previously owned Cape Town Spurs and had a share in Ajax Cape Town, Comitis is one of the most experienced football administrators in the country, and in the case of City he has shown himself to be one of the most innovative too.

"I didn't come back into football in July 2016, it actually started around 2104," Comitis said at a media briefing on Thursday.

"For two years I was pretty much in thought about what I could do to change things and bring something fresh to the game and stimulate a fan culture that hardly exists in South Africa.

"How can we change lives in the community, represent the city and the region, and to make our brand an easy fit and that required no real effort to be part of it.

"I engaged with my son Michel, who was studying economics at an Ivy League college [Brown University] in the United States. We were debating the brand, the look, the feel, the name. He was close by to the New York City concept that Manchester City had launched.

"He was constantly doing research on stadiums in Norway and Denmark, looking at how a town of 30 000 people could fill a 15 000-seater stadium. What do they do right to link to a brand."

City were an almost instant hit, finishing third in their first season and winning the Telkom Knockout competition under then coach Eric Tinkler.

They had a steadily-growing fan base and a vibrant marketing strategy that included strategic partnerships with Cape Town institutions and a savvy sponsor in betting company SportPesa.

"We knew we had to become tech-savvy to come in with a fresh approach to the market. I leave that to the youngsters in the office though! I surrounded myself with the millennial crowd to try and understand what grabs them, what makes them stand up for this or that," Comitis added.

"The mix of the people that are interested in us is incredible, from the old man who says, 'I remember this name', to the young guy who says, 'at last something new'. But at the end of the day you can say a lot, but you still have to deliver on it. If you see our disruptive manner, that is what we are about."

Comitis wants to build a 10 000-seater stadium on the site of the former Cape Town City's home during the 1970s and 80s, Hartleyvale, where the team already trains.

He has met some opposition from local residents, but is determined to carry on, with the new stadium to contain a significant retail portion to help balance the books.

"I am fighting tooth and nail to have a Cape Town City stadium in the near future. We are winning slowly, but we will get there. Fans need a place to call home."

City finished fifth in their second season, the first under coach Benni McCarthy, where they also lost in the final of the MTN8.

But Comitis actually rates that as a better season than their first, given the circumstances.

"We lost our head coach [Eric Tinkler to SuperSport United], we took a coach [McCarthy] who was in his first professional job as a head coach. I didn't know what to expect, other than I could vouch for his character as I have known him since he was 18," he continued.

"We lost two or three of our best players, our captain [Robyn Johannes] signed a pre-contract with Bidvest Wits. But I think it was a better season for us."

Having made a number of new signings for this campaign, the latest being Bafana Bafana striker Tokelo Rantie, Comitis feels the best is still to come.

"Now we can see our best football, the team is shaped the way Benni wants to play. It is all about application and the belief you are doing the right thing. We believe we are."