Tottenham’s Fans, Meet Your Opponent: AFC Ajax !

Ajax’s Wim Jansen(left) tussles with Ricardo Villa of Tottenham in the 1981/82 European Cup Winners’Cup first round


Spurs  host Ajax in the first leg of the Champions League semi final encounter at their brand new  Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. This will be the second official game after their last one way back in the eighties.

Founded on March 18, 1900 AFC Ajax is one of the most storied clubs in European football. After their founding and acceptance into Dutch Football , Ajax spent ten seasons in the country’s second division before earning promotion for the 1911 season.


Ajax’ first taste of European competition came in 1961 when the club became the first from the Netherlands to participate in the European Cup Winners Cup. Success on the European front loomed in the future as the club found a place in the 1969 Cup final,  before bringing home their first title in 1971. Starting with the magical victory in 1971 (CL Final vs Panathinaicos), Ajax went on to win three consecutive European Champions Cups. In 1972, led by the world famous Johan Cruijff, Ajax had one of the best seasons ever by a professional football team , winning the National Championship, the Dutch Cup, the European Champions Cup and the Intercontinental Cup.

The success of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s although impossible to duplicate was followed up by 25 more years of success for the club that included 11 National Championships in the final quarter of the century. The success was highlighted by another exciting venture in Europe as Ajax again became European and Intercontinental Cup champions in 1995.


Also, the club undestood  very early that its youth training was their best asset.  Ajax’s world famous youth training program,  produced some of the worlds best football players, a philosophy that is even more important to their success today. Their Youth Academy in addition to intense cooperation with the South African sister club Ajax Cape Town and a partnership with the Chinese football association,  produced the base of their future in the  Dutch  and European football. Tottenham their next  opponent , is one of the clubs reaping the benefits of using former Ajax players like Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertongen, Toby Alderveireld and Davinson Sanchez.


This is not the only tie between the two clubs; Ajax, like Tottenham suffer by anti- semitism in  the Netherlands and much of Europe, for  Ajax is known as a “Jewish club”. Amsterdam was a bustling center of Jewish life, home of the Sephardi and Ashkenazi community. This changed after the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in 1940. Many of the Nazi victims were Ajax supporters and so the club was branded as “Jewish” especially after some of the presidents and players in the sixties and seventies were Jewish. To counter that , a section of fans began to call themselves “Super Jews” with the Israeli flag as their symbol.

I don’t like it,” David Endt, Ajax’s general manager between 1997 and 2013, told CNN.

It gives the other party an alibi, to shout wrong things about it, to hurt people who have nothing to do with football.
They shouldn’t do it and I don’t think it’s right. I can understand fans a little, because they like walk behind the flag and have a symbol. But this is the wrong symbol, you know? Don’t start calling, ‘We are the Jews.’
Endt, who is Jewish, also says the club itself must do more to tackle the problem, making education a key part of the solution. (According to the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), anti-Semitic attacks increased by 40 percent in 2017, despite Jews making up less than 0.3% of the population in the Netherlands.)
But let’s get back to football and Ajax’s charismatic Head coach Erik Ten Hag, who lives above a supermarket in Amsterdam and  on his office wall,  has the pictures of Johan Cruyff, Rinus Michels and Louis van Gaal. In 2013 having spent his entire career in Holland, he moved to Germany at Bayern Munich and worked with the reserves, watching closely the “mastermind” Pep Guardiola’s  inspiring style.
Pep’s approach to training, the obsession of every detail and the works out to increase the players mentality are certainly helping him now in the big pond of the Champions League. Ajax found the perfect manager for Ten Hag has the rare ability to nurture young talent into stars. He played a key role in the development of players like Marco Arnautovic at FC Twente and Memphis Depay at PSV and what about Frenkie de Jong, 21 and Matthijs de Ligt, 19?
But first things first: Ajax’s new signing Kjell Scherpen  aged 19, was ordered to write “Ajax is the most beautiful club in the Netherlands” 1000 times.

It was discovered that Scherpen had bad-mouthed Ajax on social media in 2011, saying the club were “lucky“. Let’s hope that he learned his lesson!

UEFA ranking: 20
This season: P16 W9 D6 L1 F32 A14 (including qualifying)
Top scorer: Dušan Tadić (6, or 9 including qualifying)
Last semi-final: 1996/97, L1-6 v Juventus
European Cup semi-final record: W6 L2
European Cup best: winners x4 (1971, 1972, 1973, 1995)
Top #UCLfantasy scorer: Dušan Tadić (55 points)



Categories: Analysis, Champions League

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