Yannis Anastasiou (38) has a history with both Roda JC and Ajax. During the week when the teams meet twice, we look ahead with the Greek native, who is currently in charge of Ajax B2. The former centre forward is betting on Ajax. “I expect that Ajax will win both matches.”
Anastasiou came to the Netherlands in the summer of 2000. Roda JC had offered the Greek native the opportunity to rejuvenate his career after a somewhat disappointing stint with RSC Anderlecht. In South Limburg, the forward soon became the crowd favourite, which, three years later, led to a move to Ajax. With his Amsterdam-based employer, the five-time international defeated his former team a few times. Conversely, during his time with Roda, he also inflicted pain on Ajax several times.
Ajax B2’s coach believes that technical director Martin van Geel’s departure to Feyenoord has been a major blow for the Limburg based team. “That means they’re in a transition period.” But the departure of players such as Przemyslaw Tyton, Pa Modou Kah and Anouar Hadouir has hurt the team as well. “They especially miss Hadouir’s creativity. Also, I don’t think they’re so strong on defence”.
When asked to compare Roda today with the team in his time, Anastasiou answers: “We never had a wide selection, but we mostly had four or five guys who could decide a match.” And statistics show that the good natured Greek was often one of these key players. This was certainly the case in matches against Ajax.
“During my first Roda – Ajax game, I scored the 1-0, and Shota Arveladze scored the tying goal”, Anastasiou recalls the details effortlessly. “The previous year, I scored on a penalty kick, and Zlatan made it 1-1. The third year, the match was a 1-1 tie again, and I played under Wiljan Vloet with number ten. My last time in a Roda jersey I scored 1-0 against Ajax, but that wasn’t enough. Thanks to two great goals by Tom Soetaers and Victor Sikora, we lost that one. Two weeks later, I made the move to Ajax.”
Although he says that he always enjoyed measuring himself against Ajax players such as Christian Chivu, André Bergdølmo, Petri Pasanen, Julien Escudé, John Heitinga en Zdenek Grygera, Anastasiou claims that his greatest memories as an Ajax player were during the meetings against Roda.
“The greatest match between Ajax and Roda happened in my second season in Amsterdam. In the last minute, I scored the only goal: 1-0. Vladan Kujovic, who was a good friend of mine with Roda, was keeping at the time. Afterwards, he was angry and he said that I was a jerk.” Ajax’s youth coach saw the humour in it at the time. “That was funny, between friends. The previous year, we had won 4-2 and I scored twice. His wife sent me a text message: ‘you don’t do that to your friends’. ”
In his new life as a youth coach at Ajax, Anastasiou will be hoping that his current employer wins, both on Wednesday and Saturday. Just as he did during his years as a player, he’s found his rhythm with the B2-juniors at Ajax. “Although it’s a tough age group (15-17 years old), it’s actually OK. It’s a real challenge to work with these guys. And I’m happy as a coach, and I like to come to agreements, and clarity. And that comes in handy in my current job.”