On the morning of Saturday, February 11, Ajax received the sad news that Piet Keizer had passed away. He died after a short period of sickness. The former left winger played in 490 official Ajax 1 duels between 1961 and 1974, and he scored 189 goals. Keizer played with Ajax for his entire career, growing into a club icon. The Amsterdam native was a star in the Ajax selection that, in the 1970s, dominated Europe, and then the world. Piet Keizer was 73 years old.
Keizer was born in Amsterdam on June 14, 1943. As a ten year-old, he played his first football game at the Amstel amateur club. Keizer became a member of Ajax two years later, in 1955. His youth was about football, football, and more football. “I didn’t grow up with Elvis, I grew up with a ball. From a young age, I was trying to keep a ball under control, under all circumstances”, Keizer had said about his youth.
Keizer made his debut in Ajax’s first team on February 5, 1961, during a home game against Feyenoord. Ajax lost that Classic 1-0. Despite this false start, Keizer went on to a brilliant career as an Ajacied. In 1962, he won the Intertotofinal with Ajax; this was, in fact, Ajax’s first European trophy. The left winger was even the team captain during the glory years. In the sixties and seventies, Keizer became one of the greatest Ajacieds in club history; an uncontested key player during Ajax’s golden years.
A highlight in Keizer’s career was the triple win of the Europa Cup. In 1971, 1972 and 1973, Ajax won the Europa Cup for national champions, which would later become the UEFA Champions League. Keizer won the national championship six times, and the national cup, five times. In the 1972-1973 season, the captain was also there when Ajax won the World Club Cup by defeating the Argentinian team Independiente in two games.
During these glory days, during which Ajax achieved world fame, Piet Keizer and Johan Cruijff were the two absolute stars of Ajax. Among Ajax supporters, there were two definite streams: one idolized Cruijff, the other, Keizer, a somewhat comparable divide as between fans of The Beatles and of The Rolling Stones.
The 'scissors' were Keizer’s trademark. Everyone knew this move. Ajax’s left winger put his opponents on the wrong foot time and time again with this fake-out.
‘Keizer’s scissors’ even put Ajax on the winning track in the Europa Cup I semi-finals in 1971. On a pass from the left forward, who had preceded his beautiful pass with the scissors, Dick van Dijk sent a spot-on header onto Wembley and against Panathinaikos. Ajax took the 1-0 lead after five minutes; the Ajacieds, under Rinus Michels – the coach with whom Keizer maintained a difficult relationship- went on to win the final game by 2-0.
Dutch national team
Keizer played in the Dutch national team 34 times in his career, and scored eleven goals. He played his last interland against Sweden in the 1974 World Cup in the former West-Germany. In that World Cup, the Dutch team lost the final to West-Germany, 1-2. Keizer did not play in that final.
On October 13, 1974, Keizer hung up his football boots for good. The star’s decision – he was only 31 years old at the time – surprised both friend and foe; the left winger was still tremendously popular. But yet, he quit football from one day to the next. This decision was representative of the stubbornness of one of the best left wingers of all time. After this, Keizer didn’t appear on a football field for many years.
When he did dust off his football boots, it was a special moment for all Ajax fans. One of the few moments when Keizer did put on an Ajax jersey again was on October 11, 1997, for the benefit game for the family of deceased Ajacied Van Dijk. At the start of April 1999, Keizer was also inside the lines at the Amsterdam ArenA, albeit briefly. Under the banner of ‘30 years of finals’- also the game to pay tribute to Johan Cruijff – countless former Ajacieds took to the field in the fully packed ArenA.
Club of 100
With his 490 games, Keizer occupies fourth place in Ajax’s famed club of 100. The left-footed player follows fellow club icons Danny Blind (493 duels), Wim Suurbier (509) and Mister Ajax Sjaak Swart (603). Moreover, Keizer occupies fifth place in Ajax’s top scorers’ list. He brought the Amsterdam fans to their feet no fewer than 189 times. Only Henk Groot, Sjaak Swart, Johan Cruijff and Piet van Reenen have scored more often as an Ajacied.
For their great achievements, Keizer and Mister Ajax Swart were named as Honorary Members of Ajax on January 22, 2010. The former left winger believed that all of his fellow players deserved the same title. Not long afterwards, Piet Keizer handed back the title, for a different reason. This was Keizer way of protesting the changes that were taking place within his club. That decision also marked the former player’s character.
Forty years after his farewell, former club mate Pim van Dord concluded that, together with Johan Cruijff, Keizer was responsible for the world-wide success of the Dutch club teams and national team. “Piet was unique. Not only from a technical point of view, but also because of his tactical skills. He and Johan played in a good team with Ajax, but together, they brought the team to a higher level. They determined what happened. Because of their developments, Dutch football has reached a higher level both technically and tactically.”
Ajax offers their deep condolences to the family of Piet Keizer.