John van 't Schip | 60 years

Header Schip 60 1920
Header Schip 60 1920

John van 't Schip wore the white-red-white Ajax shirt from 1981 until 1992. The current Ajax 1 coach knew national and international success. To honour his sixtieth birthday, we highlight some of his most memorable moments as a player in Amsterdam.


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347 matches, 33 goals, four league titles, three Dutch Cups, a Europa Cup II and a UEFA Cup. That's the track record of the former winger in Amsterdam service. Van 't Schip was born on December 30, 1963, in the Canadian Fort St. John and moved to the Netherlands when he was eight. 

Van 't Schip was a part of Ajax's youth academy from age twelve and made his official debut for the first team on December 6, 1981. During the home match against HFC Haarlem (4-1 victory), Van 't Schip substituted Tscheu La Ling in the second half. However, that match is a memorable one due to a different player. 

The season before, 1980/1981, Ajax ended second in the Dutch competition. The season Van 't Schip debuted for Ajax's first team, the mood in Amsterdam was not much better. The call for the return of Johan Cruijff became louder and, eventually, realistic. In December 1981, Cruijff returned to Amsterdam. He joined a young and fickle team that seemed to have lost all chances at winning the league that year.

A young Van 't Schip was, first from the bench and later on the pitch, part of a beautiful moment in the history of Ajax. A sold-out De Meer saw a returned Cruijff give Ajax the lead in the 21st minute. The team with talents like Wim Kieft, Frank Rijkaard, Gerald Vanenburg, and Van 't Schip developed rapidly after the arrival of the 'forever number fourteen'.

It resulted in a wonderful championship match for coach Kurt Linder’s team in May 1982. Ajax won 3-2 against AZ, champion of the previous year, giving Cruijff's return a golden glow. It was Van 't Schip's first championship.

One season later, Van 't Schip experienced another successful season in Amsterdam. The winger might not have been a regular starter in coach Aad de Mos' team, but he played a modest part. In the team with Cruijff, Marco van Basten, Søren Lerby, Piet Schrijvers, Jesper Olsen, and Vanenburg, Van 't Schip functioned as a substitute often.

The Amsterdam-based team spent almost the entire 1982/1983 season on top of the table, heading towards the championship against Feyenoord. 'De Klassieker', where Van 't Schip was absent, ended in a 3-3 draw in a packed Olympic Stadium. Six days later, on May 7, 1983, Van 't Schip won his second league title. As a substitute, he became champion after a 1-4 victory against Haarlem. The winger played for around 30 minutes.

A few days later, Van 't Schip won his first Dutch Cup. Thanks to a successful double match against NEC (3-1 &1-3), the Amsterdam-based team won the double that year, Van 't Schip's first and only one.

Europa Cup II
In the 1986/1987 season, Ajax won the first European prize after fourteen years. With Van 't Schip, by now a valued regular for Ajax, on the right wing, the Amsterdam-based team flourished on European grounds. His breakthrough in the starting eleven happened one season earlier, but the Ajacied was part of the starting eleven of the 1986 season, too.

With Cruijff as coach and players like Van Basten, Rijkard Aron Winter, Danny Blind, and Sonny Silooy, the team, which mainly consisted of players from Ajax's youth academy, won the Europa Cup II. Fresh and attacking football was the typical Ajax playing style pattern, finally visible on the European pitches again. Together with Van Basten, who would transfer to AC Milan at the end of the season, and John Bosman, Van 't Schip formed a dangerous attack. His action going around the outside, followed by an effective cross-pass, were the attacker's trademarks. He played almost fifty matches over all competitions that season.

From the first round against Bursaspor in September to the final against Lokomotiv Leipzig in Athens in May, Van 't Schip played all of the European matches that season. He played his most important role during the semi-final match against the Spanish Real Zaragoza. A free kick taken by Arnold Mühren landed on Rijkaard's head and ended up at Van 't Schip via Van Basten's leg. He opened the score on behalf of Ajax. In the second half, Van 't Schip's trademarks became visible again. Arnold Scholten touched his cross-pass from the right side, and Rob Witschge scored easily at the second post.

The Amsterdam-based team won, partially thanks to Van 't Schip's strong performance, 3-0 against the Spanish, making the final against Lokomotive Leipzig in Greece a fact. Van 't Schip played another vital role in this match. The rightwinger sent Silooy deep, and Van Basten headed his assist into the goal. This was the only goal, and the Europa Cup II was in Ajax's hands. 

Dutch champions 1990
After the European prize in 1987 and the Dutch Cup that same year, a few fruitless years followed in Amsterdam. No prizes were won, and PSV won the championship four years in a row. Van 't Schip's position on the field changed during that time. The gracious player, blessed with excellent game insight, wanted to have more influence on the game and wanted a more free role in the midfield.

At the end of the 1989/1990 season, Ajax got to lift the trophy again. Van 't Schip wore the captain's armband many times that season, like he did in the year before. But that season didn't go by without any setbacks. Ajax and PSV were battling for the championship, resulting in a special apotheosis.

With two matches to go and a two-point lead on the Eindhoven-based team, Ajax could almost taste the championship in De Meer. One match earlier, Van 't Schip proved to be of great value again by crowning himself matchwinner in the home match against FC Den Haag (1-0).

Ahead of the possible championship match against Rode JC, Van 't Schip was crowned Ajacied of the Year under loud applause. The match, however, was less optimistic. Two late goals helped Ajax to a 2-2 draw, which caused Ajax to need only one point in the last match against NEC. With a 1-1 draw, Ajax was crowned champion of the Netherlands. Van 't Schip, as captain, celebrates his last league title as Ajacied.

A season that started with a few incoming and outgoing transfers ended with a new European prize for Van 't Schip. Richard Witschge (FC Barcelona) and Ronald de Boer (FC Twente) left. Fons Groenendijk and Rob Alflen (amongst others) joined the team where Van 't Schip was one of the most experienced players by then—with players such as Blind, Dennis Bergkamp, Frank de Boer, and Stefan Pettersson, the heart of the team remained intact.

Ajax did not win the championship or the Dutch Cup, but things were going well in Europe. After one year of forced absence due to the 'bar incident', Ajax returned to the UEFA Cup in 1991/1992. Beenhakker left for Real Madrid shortly after the season had started. He was succeeded by the assistant coach of that time, Louis van Gaal. Van 't Schip only missed one European match that season and played an important role during the semi-final against Genoa. During the visit to the Italians (2-3 victory), he gave the assist to Pettersson's opening goal.

Via two draws in the final battle against Torino, Ajax won the UEFA Cup in May 1992. On Wednesday, May 13, the Amsterdam-based team celebrated their victory with Van 't Schip at the front. His Ajax had won a European prize, and his sheer joy was visible. After the European triumph, Van 't Schip said goodbye to Amsterdam and transferred to Genoa. He gave Ajax prizes, flair and leadership during his time in the white-red-white.  

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