It’s a role that Clarence Seedorf once fulfilled at Ajax. Christian Eriksen was also the group’s youngest a few years ago. This season, that distinction is held by Riechedly Bazoer. The 16 year-old defender is, by far, the youngest on the training field. Ajax.nl followed him during the first day of the training camp in Austria.
On exactly the same day that his contract with Ajax officially started, Bazoer got into an airplane heading to Austria on Monday morning with Ajax. After one week of training at de Toekomst – and making his unofficial debut with Ajax 1 – the youth international will have the opportunity this week, 950 kilometers away from Amsterdam, to prove himself to Frank de Boer. He began his first training on Monday on the fields of host SSV Neustift, with high expectations.
Somewhere on the highway between Putten and Amsterdam, Bazoer got the news last Saturday that there was a spot reserved for him on the airplane to Austria. It was roughly one hour after Frank de Boer had told the press that Bazoer has played ‘very maturely’ in his first friendly match of the pre-season. “Especially when you remember that he’s only 16 years old”, said the 112-time international. “Of course it’s great that Frank de Boer says that about you. I take it as a compliment. It motivates me to continue.”
Roughly six months after signing his three-year contract with Ajax, Bazoer can now play in official matches. After coming over from PSV’s youth academy, the top talent was forced to wait until the 2013-2014 season before being allowed to play official matches for his new club, according to KNVB regulations. But Bazoer doesn’t see this week as a fresh start. “In the past six months, I’ve been training regularly with the first team, so I know most of the players pretty well by now. I was received very well by everyone in the group.”
Bazoer started the pre-season with a youthful Ajax at de Toekomst. In the absence of the internationals, the selection consisted of a mix of Ajax 1 and Jong Ajax players. From this week, it will start to look very different. The return of ten (youth) internationals will logically influence the level of the training, as Bazoer noticed on Monday afternoon after the first practice in Austria had finished. “They raise the level of the training immediately. As a young player, I can learn so much from that. And I’m having fun. It’s amazing that I can experience all of this already.”
In the group of 23 players and three keepers, two names jump out for Bazoer. The first is Kenny Tete. The 17 year-old right back is, in addition to being a fellow young gun, is also his roommate in Austria. “I’ve known Kenny for a while. We hang out together a lot. We’re also team mates in the Dutch under 17 team. So we’ve been through quite a bit together.” The other name is Christian Poulsen. The experienced Dane (33) is roughly twice Bazoer’s age. Last week, he took Bazoer under his wing. “He’s so experienced, as Frank de Boer says. He’s experienced everything at least once, and it shows. I’ve spoken to him a few times in the past week. I’m convinced that I’m going to learn a lot from him.”
Ajax Media is following Ajax during the training camp in Austria. Via Ajx.nl. Ajax TV, Twitter and Facebook, we keep you updated every day on what’s going on, both on stage and behind the scenes.