There were fireworks on Rembrandtplein, in the centre of Amsterdam. Ajax icons Sjaak Swart, Frank de Boer, Dennis Bergkamp en Danny Blind delivered the World Cup, two Europa Cups and the championship trophy to the Ajax Experience on Friday. With the most compelling football prizes in the display case, the Experience was officially declared open. Holland has gained one more tourist attraction.
Amsterdam ArenA, 1.15p.m. The build-up, part I
Mister Ajax Sjaak Swart, Dennis Bergkamp, Danny Blind and head coach Frank de Boer gather at the ArenA. Hands are shaken and football news exchanged. As the Ajax player bus waits, motor humming, the famous former players disappear into the catacombs. Armed with three cups (Champions League, World Cup and EC II), plus the dented championship trophy, the Ajax players step into the bus. On the way to Rembrandtplein, jokes are made about the moment when the championship trophy sustained the most famous dent in the country. Swart strokes the Europa Cup next to him.
Near Rembrandtplein, 1.45p.m. The build-up, part II
In a street behind Rembrandtplein, Swart, De Boer, Bergkamp and Blind swap their spot in the luxurious player bus for a place in – just as luxurious - Mercedes cars. The Ajax icons – each holding a trophy – are transferred by car to the square, famous for its nightlife.
Rembrandtplein, 2.03p.m. The opening, part I
After a word of welcome from Wim Bohnenn, Mister Ajax is the first former player to be interviewed. The statue of Rembrandt is draped with a red and white Ajax scarf. “It’s been a while since Ajax won the Europa Cup”, jokes the three time Europa Cup winner. The sun is shining. Ten minutes later, Blind, Bergkamp and De Boer are on the podium in front of Ajax Experience.
Rembrandtplein, 2:16p.m. The opening, part II
“Rembrandt has new neighbours”, is the compelling campaign slogan that is meant to bring attention to the Ajax Experience. As two Ajax pupils officially open the venue with a click of a button, fireworks erupt. And Rembrandt can finally greet his new neighbours. Special guests were invited to take a first look on Friday. Starting on Saturday at 10a.m., everyone is warmly welcome in the Ajax Experience.
Ajax Experience, 2.30p.m. The introduction
The first groups enter the brand new Ajax Experience. The former bank building has undergone a complete metamorphosis in the last six months. “Two years ago, we thought: we have such great memorabilia here at the club. Why not put all of that into a great experience”, says Ajax’s commercial director, Henri van der Aat, explaining how the idea for the Ajax Experience was born. “And we’re an Amsterdam club. So why not go back to the heart of Amsterdam?”
Several tall panels with Ajax icons, such as ‘Goaltjes’ Piet van Reenen, Ruud Krol, Patrick Kluivert and Christian Eriksen (who is definitely on his way to becoming an icon) welcome visitors in the Experience entrance. In small letters, Ajax highlights and other useful club information can be read.
Ajax Experience, 2.40p.m. The introduction, part II
Whoever enters the Ajax Experience enters a true Ajax shrine. It’s an experience that all Ajax fans should see, feel, and even smell for themselves. The Ajax youth training program has a prominent place in the Experience. “Ajax stands for creative, attacking, and dominant football”, explains Bergkamp to the Experience visitors in a short film. “The training is very important. But even when you’re going through it, you always have to try to remain that young boy playing on the street.”
In addition to spotlighting the club’s fabled history, the Experience offers the opportunity to show off your own football skills. Shooting power, technique, precision; everything is measured with special equipment. As Ajax’s finest moments flash by on screens, the desire to play is definitely aroused. Original medals, match jerseys, boots and photos decorate a room at the Experience. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be addressed by Frank de Boer in the Ajax locker room? Come to the Ajax Experience and find out for yourself!
Ajax Experience, 3.30p.m. The aftermath.
The first visitors enter the Ajax Fanshop, the last stop on the Ajax Experience route. Former players Ton Pronk and Theo van Duivenbode are overwhelmed by seeing so much beautiful Ajax stuff collected in one place. “I’ve been to football museums, but I’ve never seen this”, says former Ajax 1 player Rolf Leeser. While the player from the fifties gives his opinion, he points to one of the panels. Leeser discovers himself among his former team mates. “It’s definitely worth it and again, I’ve never seen this before. Once again, with the Ajax Experience, Ajax is leading the way.”