Ronald de Boer will be among the spectators for Tuesday’s Real Madrid - Ajax match at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. The former Ajax and FC Barcelona player, among others, still has good memories of the ‘Royal’ team’s stadium. “It’s quite unique that 70.000 people in Madrid were clapping for Ajax, isn’t it?”
Ronald de Boer’s thumb shoots up as he greets Leo Beenhakker in the distance. ‘Coach!’ he yells enthusiastically to the man who has a history at both Ajax and Real Madrid. The greeting offers a short distraction in the rapid fire questions that the 42 year-old De Boer had been receiving from the Spanish media. Now the cameras are pointed onto Beenhakker, who is still highly respected in Madrid, as is made clear by the greeting he receives from former player Emilio Butragueño. Modern technology ensures that their embrace is captured on the stadium’s giant screens, just as Edwin van der Sar’s interview with Ajax TV is later on in the evening.
Ronald de Boer is enjoying Ajax’s last training as well as its surroundings. As always when he enters the Estadio Bernabéu, his thoughts return to November 22, 1995, when Ajax masterfully gave a football lesson to Real Madrid. It was the case when he was playing with FC Barcelona, and, seventeen years later, it’s still the same. “I still have such good memories of that evening. It’s unique that afterwards, 70.000 people were clapping for us, isn’t it? They appreciated the show we’d given them, and they showed it.”
This appreciation is still apparent as the Spanish press see him standing at the edge of the field. Everyone wants to speak with him. “That’s the nice thing in Spain. You always get a lot of respect if you’ve played here. I still come here often with the Barcelona veterans and you can see how well they treat former players. It’s so nice to experience that every time.”
His football career has brought him to the biggest and most beautiful football stadiums in the world. And while he’s somewhat seasoned in that area, his admiration for Bernabéu hasn’t waned – even as a former FC Barcelona player. “It surprises me every time how great this stadium is. Every stadium should look like this.”
As a player, the 67 time international has seen action three times in the Real Madrid stadium. After the legendary match with Ajax in 1995, he returned twice with Barça to the Spanish capital’s football temple. He had a total of one victory, one tie, and one loss here.
De Boer will have more than average interest in his brother Frank’s Ajax team’s performance on Tuesday. If you close your eyes, you’d think that you were listening to brother Frank’s reflections beforehand. The world’s most famous football twins shares the same vision as far as Ajax is concerned. When Ronald expresses his expectations for the match, he says: “Hopefully, tomorrow night we’ll see the same level of gutsiness that will enable us to play a match worthy of Ajax. Of course we can lose, but what’s important is the way we do it.”
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