The press room in the main building of the KNVB in Zeist was full on the Thursday before Easter with camera crews and reporters. The reason for this was the press conference that the coaches and captains of Ajax and PEC Zwolle were giving leading up to the cup final this coming Sunday.
It will be an exciting game for Niklas Moisander. The Finnish defender, who has almost fully recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him for weeks, used to be a member of the Zwolle team: “Part of my history is with PEC, and that’s something nice. Those two years in Zwolle were very important for my development and the club has a special place in my heart. But I want to win this trophy so much, and it doesn’t really matter who the opponent is.”
Opponent PEC Zwolle has reached the cup finals twice before without winning the trophy. “It would really be something if Bram van Polen and Ron Jans, as captain and coach, would win this cup for the first time with PEC”, daydreamed Ron Jans. “We get a robe and a trophy, but I don’t care so much about that. The eternal fame is what makes it worth it.”
Frank de Boer can earn his eternal fame another way. He can potentially be the first coach to win the Johan Cruijff Cup, the championship, and the cup. “It’s always nice to be the first”, admitted De Boer.
For that, PEC Zwolle needs to be defeated on Sunday, while the club has been challenging for Ajax both times this season when they met in competition play. De Boer: “PEC was in a good flow at the start of this season. They were even talking about the championship. We weren’t yet in the form we’re in now. In the ArenA, PEC was better at times and in they were our equal in Zwolle, and had the better opportunities.”
Those expecting Ajax to already be focusing on the upcoming week were set straight by Moisander: “This cup final is a great moment for us all. It’s been a few years since Ajax has been in the finals. It’s enormously motivating for the players. The advantage of the fact that we’re not yet champions is that we’ve been able to train very well all week for Sunday’s match. Our concentration is completely on the cup.”
In turn, Frank de Boer also conceded that for him, the benefits of Ajax not having won the championship last week definitely outweigh the drawbacks: “The intensity could have evaporated from the group had we won the title on Sunday. And intensity determines whether or not you post good results. Take a look to the east, where Bayern München has been posting meagre results since winning the championship. If you’re playing at eighty per cent, then you’ll have a tough time against every opponent. Last week, we weren’t going to bed at three a.m. with too much booze in our system. We’ve been training the whole week for the cup final. And if something great happens on Sunday, you can be sure that there will be no celebration and the focus will be completely on Heracles."