A select group of Ajax players attended an exclusive meet & greet in the adidas store in the Grand Indonesia Mall. The eight players – all personally under contract with adidas – plus Ajax ambassadors Edwin van der Sar (Ajax’s marketing director) and Jaap Stam (assistant coach) did not miss a single question, autograph or photo opportunity.
Once the Ajax players have found their spot on the white clad table, they are introduced one by one. “Helloooo Mickey”, says the enthusiastic presenter, her voice echoing through the store. Mickey van der Hart, one of the two young keepers in this young Ajax selection for the Indonesian Tour 2014, raises his hand. Cameras are at the ready, zooming and clicking. The introduction of Stam and Van der Sar receives the most applause from the shopping crowd. The image looks good. All Ajax players are standing in front of a gigantic photo of an Ajax jersey. Red and white, the Ajax logo and three embroidered stars are in vivid detail on the picture. ‘#adidas – ajax, meet and greet’ is the text. It looks like a match announcement – but of a friendly game.
“Sport unites people, certainly in Indonesia as well”, says Herman Seet, Senior Manager Category Merchandising South East Asia. The adidas manager has travelled from Singapore to Jakarta in order to ensure that Ajax’s visit goes smoothly. In terms of attire and organization, everything has been done in order to ensure a great meeting with fans and enthusiasts in the largest adidas store in Jakarta. Seet also welcomed the Chelsea FC selection in this same location in 2013. “Adidas is the most popular and most sold brand in Indonesia, and football is the first sport here. It’s all about brand association, brand experience. Ajax has a good name here. Everyone knows the club. Ajax is truly a club for the fans. This is due to the specific Ajax culture of teaching and the style of playing. I’m happy that Ajax is here and plays in adidas. Van der Sar is a great ambassador for adidas as well.”
As the players and director are asked questions, interesting answers arise. “How does my future look?” Siem de Jong repeats a question. “I have no idea and I’m going to wait and see what happens this summer. If I stay, the goal is to win a fifth title. And to stay in Champions League past the winter break. I hope it will be another great Ajax season.” So soon before going to the World Cup, some questions address the Dutch national team. De Jong scored with Orange twice in Indonesia, in Jakarta. He’s hoping to be called up to the Dutch national team again soon. “The World Cup with the Dutch team was a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, I’ve had too many injuries this season. I’ve also discussed this with the national coach. It’s a shame that I have to miss this nice opportunity. I hope to be with the national team again next year.”
Record-holding international Van der Sar is inevitably asked about the Dutch team’s chances in Brazil. The Ajax director elaborates on the great challenges facing the Dutch team in football-crazy South America. “The Dutch team came in second place in the last World Cup”, says 130 time former international Van der Sar. “Now, a difficult start awaits with Spain as their first opponent. I know that coach Louis van Gaal, my former coach at Ajax, will have prepared the selection very well for that.”
Van de Sar continues to talk about his club and especially the world famous Youth Academy, the Toekomst’s youth development academy. Questions are regularly steered into that direction. “The future of our club is with the youth academy”, explains the retired keeper. When Van der Sar looks towards the players in attendance, he sees that all of them have been through at least one part of the youth academy.
“After Friday’s warm welcome, a duel with Persija followed immediately on Saturday, under difficult conditions”, continues the director and club ambassador. “On Wednesday, we may just meet an even more fanatic opponent in Bandung. These are fantastic experiences for the guys from our own academy.” After that, neighbor Stam talks about his ambition to become a head coach someday. According to the assistant coach, his former club AC Milan has been testing the waters with him regarding a staff position. “As a coach, you also experience a certain development”, explains Stam in general terms. “It’s great to see that players take on tips and suggestions, and become better. That’s why the academy is so important for young players. Ajax is a club with enormous potential. You can see that through the players from our own youth development academy.”
When all of the Ajax players have answered at least one question, and complimented adidas for the new jersey and boot designs, it’s time for pictures and autographs. “You can do a selfie selfie”, suggests the presenter to the crowd once the microphone has been returned to her. The Ajax posters on which the 33rd championship is being celebrated are in high demand. Patiently, the posters are signed by the Ajax players.
After the autograph session, many visitors continue on towards the adidas store. The world famous Ajax jersey is centrally displayed. The other national and club teams wearing Ajax are in full display as well. The walls are full of kids, training suits and other merchandise from Spain, Bayern München, Argentina, Germany, AC Milan and Chelsea. The image of adidas player Lionel Messi and an allusion to the NBA (‘official outfitter of the NBA’) complete the scene. One thing is clear in Jakarta’s largest adidas store: adidas is a world player in the world of sport.