Watching them together on the field of the Toekomst, you couldn’t help being brought back in time to about fifteen years ago, when seeing Edwin van der Sar and Fred Grim together on the Ajax training field was an everyday occurrence.
At the time, both were part of Ajax’s first team. Now, 39 year old Van der Sar is Manchester United’s keeper, and Grim, five years older, is Jong Ajax’s coach.
Let’s go back to May 19, 1995. For the first time that season, the roles were reversed for Ajax’s two goalies. Edwin van der Sar took shots on Fred Grim during warm up, instead of the other way around. Ajax’s first keeper was given a rest for the match against Feyenoord in de Kuip, and Grim made his debut. And what a debut it was. Grim shut out Feyenoord with a number of fine saves. Ajax wins, 0-5.
Until Van der Sar’s departure from Ajax in 1999, one match per season is the most Grim gets. After that, he seizes his opportunity – and how! In total, Grim plays 125 official matches in Ajax kit, and stops playing in 2003 to focus on coaching. He’s currently Jong Ajax’s coach. Van der Sar, now 39, went on from Ajax to Juventus, Fulham, and, in 2005, to Manchester United.
Recently, Van der Sar, suffering a knee injury since November, called Grim to ask if he could do some one on one training with him at Ajax to continue his recovery. As Ajax is always open to such requests from ex-Ajax players, it was no problem. Grim: “Edwin got permission from Manchester United to train in the Netherlands to get fit again. He immediately thought of me. He’s in a phase of his rehabilitation where he can be outside and train with the ball. He asked if I could help.” Van der Saar confirms: “I was in rehabilitation here in Amsterdam, and when I became fit enough to train on field again, I thought of my good friend and colleague Fred. I was received with open arms here. It’s great to be back and to see people who were here ten, eleven years ago. I’ve spoken to Frank de Boer and Heini Otto.”
So there they were, more than ten years after they parted ways in 1999, together again on the field, at least for a little while. “It’s quite nostalgic, to be training together”, says Grim. “We were together on field like this a lot, for many years. We had, and still have, a good relationship and a lot of respect for each other. That connection has remained.”
They trained for more than an hour at de Toekomst’s field of artificial grass, under Van der Sar’s physiotherapist’s watchful eye. As much as the ex-Ajax player isn’t known to be a showman, he looks to the sidelines after a fantastic save. “You got that one, right?” he asks the photographer. She had just been warming up her frozen fingers, and had to say no.
Van der Sar seems relaxed and fit. “Yes, I’m almost ready to resume my training at Manchester United”, says the ever likeable ex-international.