This fourth edition of the AEGON Future Cup could give Ajax a lasting memento. Tournament regulations state that if any team wins the tournament three times, they can keep the cup. Wim Jonk is already looking ahead to the large trophy eventually occupying a space in Ajax’s trophy case. After victories in 2010 and 2012, the current generation of B-juniors is in a position to complete Ajax’s trilogy of wins in its own tournament.
The field of participants has a Champions League – like feel to it. What can we expect in this AEGON Future Cup?
“Once again, we were able to put together an amazing group of participants. We’re happy that former winner RSC Anderlecht is returning. And the participation of international top clubs like FC Barcelona and FC Bayern München’s delegations are giving the tournament a lot of appeal. It’s a wonderful stage on which our talents can measure themselves with the international top.”
Individual development is a priority in Ajax’s youth academy. How does this translate to this tournament?
“At Ajax, we think that the youth players’ individual development is the most important thing. A tournament like the AEGON Future Cup is a natural fit for this. Thanks to the participation of the best clubs from, among others, Spain, Germany and Portugal, we’ll see many different playing styles. Each country has its own ‘playing culture’. For players who are around sixteen years old, it’s extremely valuable to measure themselves against their peers from different countries.”
Is the AEGON Future Cup somewhat comparable to the NextGen Series, in which Ajax’s A1 players have been active in recent years?
“In a sense, some parallels can be drawn. In the ‘Champions League for A-juniors’, it’s also about playing matches against good opponents from abroad. The difference is that those matches are played in a competition. During a tournament, you play more matches one after another, which results in a different dynamic. You can actually grow during a tournament. That’s another interesting and educational process.”
Are there any changes this year compared to previous years?
“We made a few adjustments to the opening evening. Previously, there was always an extensive program on the Friday evening to welcome all of the players. We saw last year that the players actually would have preferred to go to their hotel early in order to prepare for the tournament. That’s why the program this year has been shortened and we’ve given it more of a football twist. So this year, during halftime of the Ajax Women – Anderlecht Women’s match on March 29th, the participants will walk a lap of honour around the field with their club flag. After that, they’ll all watch the second half together in the stands. This way, our guests from abroad will have the opportunity to see our women’s team in action.”
Just like last year, there’s an Ajax 1 match on the Sunday as well. How will this work in the tournament?
“The late kick-off of Ajax – NEC (4:30p.m.) this year is fortunate for the tournament. This way, our own B1 can still play at 1p.m. against Tottenham Hotspur. Hopefully, many fans will want to combine both matches, as the time slots follow each other nicely. During previous editions, combinations like this turned out to be popular. We’ve noticed that our fans have gotten used to the fact that we host an appealing youth tournament during Easter. The AEGON Future Cup is becoming an annual tradition.”