Arie Haan 75 | Golden Ajacied with a packed trophy case

Haan 1920
Haan 1920

This Thursday, Arie Haan celebrates his 75th birthday as a member of the 'Golden Ajax.' The born Groninger broke through as an Ajax player in the early seventies, winning almost all the prizes a club player can achieve. Haan's anniversary birthday offers a great moment to zoom in on his extraordinary and successful Ajax career (180 matches, 34 goals, and thirteen trophies!).


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Haan (born on November 16, 1948, in Finsterbode) started his football career at the amateur club WVV 1896. In the summer of 1967, he came to Ajax for an internship with other amateur footballers. Ajax coach Rinus Michels had previously seen the young Haan play in UEFA youth matches. Michels asked his player Klaas Nuninga, who was from the same region as Haan, to call the youngster. GVAV and Veendam had also shown interest.

Become a teacher
''When Ajax comes, you don't say no. Even not back then,'' Haan says. However, the talent had to continue and complete his studies to become a teacher, a condition set by his father. His study came first. The financial aspect only became a topic of discussion afterwards.

Haan was the only one from that group of interns accepted at Ajax. Partly because of his studies, which he successfully completed as an Ajax player, the Groninger initially started in Ajax B, the second team. Among other things, Haan became a teammate and locker room companion of his fellow newcomer Ruud Krol. Later, Johnny Rep and Gerrie Mühren also joined Ajax B.

But Haan was simply too good for the B team. He debuted as a midfielder on May 23, 1968, in a Cup match (semi-final) against FC Twente. Haan witnessed Ajax's glory days in Amsterdam up close in the following years. In his first three years at Ajax, he played - also due to study commitments - only five matches in total. Until the summer of 1970, Haan was a so-called footballer-student. From the 1970/1971 season onwards, he became a complete professional, something Michels was a big fan of.

In the 1970/1971 season, Haan developed into a complete Ajax player, even when Ajax won its first European Cup. Ultimately, Haan won everything there was to win with Ajax. The absolute highlights were the three(!) won finals in the European Cup I. Besides that, he won four national titles, the European Super Cup twice, the World Cup once, and the national cup three times.

Unforgettable goal
During his first European final on June 2, 1971, against Panathinaikos, Haan started on the bench. After halftime, he and Horst Blankenburg joined the team, replacing Nico Rijnders and Sjaak Swart. Haan made his European debut precisely in the final.

Ajax led 1-0 at that moment, with Dick van Dijk putting Ajax ahead after just five minutes. Substitute Haan scored the decisive second goal in the final. In the 86th minute, he sealed the victory at Wembley, and a few minutes later, Ajax secured its first European Cup win.

Haan: ''Michels made two substitutions at halftime. It was quite a risk because it meant using all the available substitutions simultaneously. (...) My goal - just before full-time - was the decisive one. All the guys jumped on me after the goal. It was a wonderful moment.''

His goal in the final was, in fact, his breakthrough moment; afterwards, Haan was indispensable in the team which Stefan Kovacs led in the 1971/1972 season. The departure of Nico Rijnders also worked in Haan's favour.

In 1973, Ajax completed the trilogy after a 1-0 victory against Juventus. In Belgrade, the same Ajax midfield started at the kickoff as a year earlier against Internazionale. Haan played a significant role in the golden years of Ajax. The Groninger had, also with the Dutch national team (for which he played 35 caps, including 2 World Cup finals), made his trademark from unstoppable long-range shots. A heated argument with coach Hans Kraay, senior, ultimately led to Haan's departure from Ajax.

Last game
The by-now acclaimed Ajax player played his last game for Ajax on March 9, 1975 - a lost Klassieker: 0-1. But his football career was far from over. After the conflict with Kraay senior, the versatile Haan moved to RSC Anderlecht, where he played 199 games for the Brussels-based team. In Anderlecht's service and later at Standard Liège, the former Ajax player again won many prizes.

Haan is one of the last living icons of the Golden Ajax of the 1970s. In 2020, he spoke about it to the Algemeen Dagblad. ''Most of us are getting older, of course. Life has been lived intensively. Both on and off the field. Top sports, tension. I don't feel fear for myself. Not that, but you do look back more and more.'' 


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