Frank de Boer was not interested in the tentative congratulations that were directed at him. “I feel that if you congratulate us, it’s blasphemy”, said the Ajax coach during Friday’s press conference. “Of course, looking at the rankings, we should beat De Graafschap. But it remains sports, and football. Until the final whistle has been blown, we don’t have anything.”
A climax in which the championship wouldn’t be decided until the last minute in the Amsterdam team’s favour is something that De Boer, as a football fan, would love to see. “That would be a fantastic scenario and, in terms of excitement, just amazing. But that wouldn’t be good for my heart. In the end, we just need to grab three points and make sure we are standing with that trophy in our hands.”
De Boer wants his players to focus completely on Sunday’s match. Nonetheless, he understands very well why preparations are happening behind the scenes. “Obviously, things need to be arranged just in case, and we can’t avoid that. But I would prefer not to be confronted with that. The selection and I need to avoid all of that as much as possible.”
There is nothing at stake for opponent De Graafschap. But they will most certainly need to revive themselves in the post-season. “I can’t read the coach’s mind, but I can imagine that they’d like to rain on our parade. And that’s their right. It’s up to us to get that feeling out of their system as quickly as possible. But every team wants to do their best against Ajax, and that’s what I’m expecting from De Graafschap, too.”
De Graafschap remains a team to be reckoned with, according to De Boer. “In their last seven matches, they’ve taken the lead six times. That says enough, and I’ve already warned the players. It will also be very warm on Sunday. But I think we’re in good shape.”
It is to De Boer’s credit that he’s been able to keep his selection harmonious. Harsh words have barely been spoken this season. “Disappointing some players is the hardest part of this job, and any coach will tell you that. In a good selection, there are always guys chomping at the bit to grab that baton. I’m very happy that we’ve been able to keep the group as a close unit. Globally, the entire selection has contributed to where we are today.’
Having such a fit selection has a downside. Players will have to sit this one out. “Everyone wants to play in a game like this”, knows De Boer. “But unfortunately, I’m going to have to disappoint three guys who have been playing a lot, and who have made significant contributions. But I’ll need to make choices.”
De Boer has also reached a decision about his own future. “Yes, I’ve made a decision for myself. Sometime between Sunday and Friday, I’ll let the club know what my decision is.” On Friday, Ajax flies to China.