Tales from teams past | Sierhuis: 'There's still a group chat with the lads from the U16 squad'

Sierhuis 1280 Header
Sierhuis 1280 Header

“Quite a good team as I remember, right?!”, says Kaj Sierhuis, smiling as he gazes at a photo of the 2014/15 U16 team. That was a talented squad, the striker admits. “Back in the U16 squad I'd never have thought I'd be where I am today by the age of 25.”


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With the team photo as a reminder, Sierhuis talks about his time in the Ajax B1 youth team. A time when the trainers would search for a teenager's true identity. "They never really saw me as a great talent, so they tried me out in several positions." He says he's tried out in ten positions altogether, including midfield and even left and right back. "After that season I told myself I was a striker, even if that meant having to sit on the bench."

Sierhuis was just five years old when he started playing football for the WSV'30 club in Wormer. "It was soon clear to the world at large that I was pretty good at football. I was actually playing for the U10 team even in my first year there." Regional training propelled Sierhuis as far as Ajax by the age of ten. The transition didn't bother him. "Many new lads joined the training sessions that first year, and trainer Ed van Schaijk knew just how to deal with that. I landed at Ajax at the same time as Noa Benninga and I worked alongside him from the start."

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Staand v.l.n.r: Navajo Bakboord, Donyell Malen, Zian Flemming, Dani de Wit, Jeffrey de Lange, Joe van de Sar, Reda Boultam, Kaj Sierhuis, Lopez Anderson, Darren Sidoel, Frits Andriese (Elftal Leider) Zittend v.l.n.r: Justin Kluivert, Ché Nunnely, Noa Benninga, Conner Blöte, Mees de Wit, Jorg Ooievaar, Matthijs de Ligt, Deyovaisio Zeefuik

Top row: Navajo Bakboord, Donyell Malen, Zian Flemming, Dani de Wit, Jeffrey de Lange, Joe van de Sar, Reda Boultam, Kaj Sierhuis, Anderson López, Darren Sidoel, Frits Andriese

Bottom row: Justin Kluivert, Ché Nunnely, Noa Benninga, Conner Blöte, Mees de Wit, Jorg Ooievaar, Matthijs de Ligt, Deyovaisio Zeefuik

Tricky year
And along with Benninga, Sierhuis built up a great circle of friends in the Ajax U16 in that 2014/2015 season. "We had a really great gang that year, with Benninga, Zian Flemming, Dani de Wit, Jeffrey de Lange, Matthijs de Ligt and Carel Eiting. The gang is still going, and we even have a group chat."

Despite close friendships in that team, Sierhuis had a tricky year. The striker played in reserve almost the entire season, as he faced competition in the form of the younger Donyell Malen who had been moved up. "To maximise my time on the pitch, I also played for the U18 seconds, but in right midfield, so it was a bit of a crazy, tricky season for me."

After that year, Sierhuis came to realise that the only position he wanted to play in was striker, whatever the cost. For the 2015/2016 season, he was third-choice striker for the U18s. In the first game of the season he scored five times against De Graafschap, but the following weekend he was right back on the bench again for the U18s. "I started that year in the U18 seconds and that all went very well, so I soon moved on to the U18s." A year later, he was the main striker for the U18s. "I scored many times that season and from then on it just went wild."

Ajax Youth Championship
Sierhuis' career then just went from strength to strength. In no time at all he made the leap from the U18s to the U23s. On 28 April, 2018, a promising Ajax team were crowned first division league champions for the first time in the club's history. "One of the highlights of my career was winning that title with Ajax Youth, along with the role I played in getting us there." He scored the winning goal against FC Volendam in the penultimate game of the season, and in the championship final, the striker made it 1-1 from his first touch of the ball. "I really showed them just what I could do."

The next highlight in his career with Ajax is no surprise: his debut appearance for the main squad. "It's something you're always working towards in the Ajax youth squad, and when you make it, it's something quite incredible." Sierhuis made his first appearance in the preliminary round of the UEFA Champions League at home against Sturm Graz. During the 2018/2019 season, he became second-choice striker behind Klaas Jan Huntelaar after Kasper Dolberg went down with an injury. When the Danish striker returned, Sierhuis was loaned to FC Groningen for the winter.

Next steps
One year later, the striker saw a transfer to the French Stade de Reims. After problems settling down in the north of France, he was loaned out to Heracles Almelo. Sierhuis injured his cruciate ligament whilst there. Since January 2023 he has been fully recovered and now feels at home with Stade de Reims. Even so, he remembers his time in Amsterdam fondly. "Playing for Ajax was incredibly valuable. It set the foundations for the footballer and person I am today."

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