Ajax’s home game against PEC Zwolle (3-0) was more than just a competition match in the deciding phase of the championship race. Ajax – PEC was framed, coloured and at times happily interrupted by countless tributes to the greatest Ajacied of all time, Johan Cruijff was remembered and honoured in many ways in the full Amsterdam ArenA on Sunday. His son, Jordi Cruijff, was in attendance and watched the game from the stands.
Everything was about the deceased club icon on Sunday. Of course, the match was the main feature of the afternoon. Ajax needed to win to keep on their current championship course. But after ten days of mourning, the home game against PEC was the first game in which Ajax’s eternal number 14 could be honoured in a full stadium. The lead-up was great, with among other things, an impressive march from the Middenweg in Amsterdam East to the ArenA in Amsterdam South East. This was a procession that many prominent members of the Ajax community joined.
Many Ajax fans had signed the condolence registry for Cruijff during the week prior to the match. Tall banners decorated the outer walls of the stadium. The registry itself was also surrounded by photos of Cruijff from his time as an Ajax player and coach.
The day after an impressive tribute in Camp Nou during the Spanish Classic between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, many were surely anxiously watching in the ArenA. But it was more than that. When the players came onto the field, the crowd transformed the ArenA into a true Cruijff stadium. With an elaborate choreography, it was as though Cruijff were in the stands for a few moments. The Ajacieds on the field wore special jerseys during their win against PEC Zwolle. The red and white jerseys were adorned with a badge carrying number 14 and a portrait of JC. The mourning bands were a tribute to the eternal connection between the club and icon.
Minute of silence
The minute of silence beforehand, the gigantic Ajax, FC Barcelona and Dutch national team jerseys on the field, the standing ovation in the fourteenth minute and the presence of Jordi Cruijff: the impact of the death of the Netherlands’ most famous football player ever was remarkable. It was palpable in the ArenA on Sunday. The former Ajacieds also paid tribute to their famous team mate. Shortly before kick-off of this emotional afternoon of football, several former team mates of Cruijff’s appeared at the sidelines. A true reunion of former Ajacieds took place at Ajax- PEC Zwolle. The many banners and portraits of JC in the stands fit perfectly with the reunion of former players and coaches which had been planned beforehand.
On the Ziggo videowalls (the main sponsor’s name had been replaced by 14 for the afternoon) displayed beautiful Cruijff moments before the game and during the break. This completed the picture. Special phrases on the stadium boards summarized it all perfectly. ‘Forever number 14’, appeared regularly on the boards. Alternatively, ‘Especially always number 14.’ And: ‘Thank you Johan’ in both Dutch and Catalan.