amsterdam arena fever


AJAX  4 – 1  RKC WAALWIJK    04.12.05


My wife, Joy, and I (a bit like taking coals to Newcastle you may say) were very fortunate to recently visit Amsterdam for a few days, and whilst there we went to The Amsterdam Arena to watch Ajax take on Martin Jol’s old side, RKC.  Before the match the visitors were in fourth place in the Dutch League and Ajax occupied an unusually low ninth spot, and so there was all to play for.

Thanks to some very friendly and helpful locals the ground was incredibly easy to get to by the efficient Dutch Metro service and we were standing outside the stadium 15 minutes after we left the city centre.

The ultra modern stadium (in fact it is approximately nine years old) looked enormous as it rose up like Everest before our eyes, as we approached; round in shape, as opposed to our normal rectangular-shaped English stadia. 

Every Dutch person that we met spoke excellent English, and the stewards and police at the ground were no exception, and so we soon found the correct way in.  Having gone through the automatic turnstile, and had the obligatory search of our bags, we made our way up to our seats in the upper tier via two escalators!  Those of you who have been to Newcastle or the upper, upper, upper, upper  tier at Old Trafford will appreciate this, as with absolutely no effort whatsoever we soon found ourselves ready to go to our seats.  We were seated three rows from the back (!) and as the seats rose up steeply we made our way (we had to walk up this bit!) to row 25.  We were fairly high, but the view was excellent, and we could clearly see the entire pitch, and recognise players (Newcastle take note).

The Amsterdam Arena has a capacity of about 50,000 but sadly on this occasion, it was only about half full.  A Dutch fan who was sitting next to me said that fans were angry at their team’s poor results and the way in which they were playing – how do they think we’ve gone on for the last 20 years!  Sadly, probably due to the low attendance, it was lacking atmosphere, and even the Ajax “Ultras” (who couldn’t even hang their banners up the right way!) rarely exercised their vocal chords.  In fact it was so quiet that we could have been excused for momentarily thinking that we were in the “library” a few miles down the road from N17.  Another thing that struck us was the lack of replica shirts (and colour) worn by the home fans.  Even on the Metro on the way to the ground, you couldn’t tell that it was full of football fans on their way to a game, but at least the RKC fans, few as they were, did wear their colours.

From the first whistle to the last, Ajax totally dominated the game, as RKC relied on the odd breakaway that came their way.  Amazingly, it was from one such breakaway that they took the lead through a strong run by their top scorer, Rick Hoogendorp, (no, I’d never heard of him either) three minutes before half time.  It was totally undeserved, as Ajax, had they had their shooting boots on, should have been three or four to the good  at the interval.  Just before the break, though, justice was (nearly) done as Hedwiges (that name should ring a bell for all Harry Potter fans) Maduro levelled things up with a neat glancing header, Alan Gilzean style!

The second half saw wave after wave of incessant Ajax attacks, and they were justly rewarded with three more goals, through an opportunist effort from Wesley Sneijder, a cracking 20 yard shot from Marcus Rosenberg which flew into the top corner and a fine solo effort from Ryan Babel.

Ajax were well worth their 4-1 victory which catapulted them up to 8th position!  They attacked incessantly, they must have had at least 80% possession and their one touch passing was brilliant.  That said, the match was played at a slower tempo than the Premiership, but then that is how most European teams play.  Rarely did they waste their possession, and it was always used constructively – not like we did at Blackburn, where Gardner and Dawson must have had 50% possession between them in our final third!! 

Another plus was that the match tickets were less than £21 each – I’m paying £38 for the pleasure of watching Newcastle!!  Also, the match day program only cost €1 - about 70p!!  Although I didn’t go for a drink at half time, one of my Dutch friends did, and he actually managed to return to his seat armed with both coffee and lager, before the second half resumed.  

Whilst on the subject of the facilities, we went to the toilets after the game finished.  Well we all know what the toilets are like after the matches in England, but here we still had soap and paper towels actually still in their dispensers.  Everywhere was spotless, and not one used towel was on the floor.  Also, because I know you’re dying to know, the urinals were individual porcelain and not the smelly, over-flowing metal troughs that we get back here.  As is the custom in Amsterdam and presumably the rest of Holland too, you pay the equivalent to about 20p to spend a penny (or two), but even so, it was worth it to be treated as a human being and not an animal !

The keep away Ajax fans missed a real treat, and the travelling RKC fans weren’t much better as only about 40-50 made the 100 mile journey to Amsterdam.  If you get the chance, I recommend you go.  The only slight problem is that you’ll need someone who lives in Holland to get the tickets – although your Hotel might oblige.

I told the Dutch fan who I supported and he had obviously (!) heard of THFC, and I told him that we had beaten Sunderland the day before – “Who?” he asked!!  He was also full of praise for MJ, but then again, so are we, so are we!  Hoddle wasn’t the Messiah, Martin Jol is.

 Incidentally, in Amsterdam, there is a very large Jewish community with strong support for Ajax, and if ever you go, you may see “Ajax, Pride of Mokum” on shirts.  Mokum is the Yiddish name for Amsterdam, meaning “city” or “place.”  This is why Israeli flags were being waved during the game – you learn something every day!

When the match finished, we waited for the ground to clear, as is my custom, but even so, we were back in the city centre 35 minutes after the final whistle.  What an excellent afternoon, even my wife enjoyed it! 

P.S.   A big hello to “Paul” who also stopped at the Acro Hotel, and who had a drink with us once he spotted my Tottenham T-shirt.  Tottenham fans are ubiquitous!!!.

Pete Nutten


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