Robin Pronk and his team, the Ajax Under 17s are ready for the second AEGON Future Cup, which is to be played over the coming Easter weekend at the sports complex of the Ajax Academy. Pronk and the team that was then the Under 17s, won the first edition of the tournament in 2010. In spite of this, the coach is playing down the high expectations which are based on last year’s tournament victory.
,,You mustn’t expect these lads to perform like last year’s team, which won by playing beautiful football and winning five matches without a single goal against them.’’ Pronk was referring to the exceptional group of players from last year’s Under 17s who won the national title with the Under 19’s on Saturday. ,,But that doesn’t mean we’re destined to lose.’’
The main difference with last season is that Pronk has a much younger team this year. Pronk: ,,We have four or five first year Under 17s, whereas last year we had all second year Under 17s. These lads simply haven’t progressed as far yet. That doesn’t mean to say that there’s not a number of interesting players in amongst them, they just need more time.’’
Pronk’s young talents are certainly enthusiastic enough. ,,They are all looking forward to the tournament and the chance to present themselves. That’s why I expect a team which is fully motivated.’’ The Ajax under 17s begin the second edition of the AEGON Future Cup on Saturday against Fluminense, Deco and Romario’s former club. ,,That promises to be an interesting game’’, predicts the son of former Ajax player, Ton Pronk. ,,I know a bit about Brazilian football and their youth football is at quite a high level.’’
After the opening match against Fluminense, a duel with Ajax’ satellite club, Ajax Cape Town awaits the Amsterdam players. Ajax Cape Town arrived in Holland last week. ,,They play the same way we do’’, Pronk says, pointing out the most important similarity. ,,They may not be used to playing matches and tournaments at this level, but they are technically skilled players who have been well trained.’’
In their last group match, on Sunday, Pronk’s men face the notorious Celtic. ,,That will mean typical, British football with the 4-4-2 formation. All those various styles of play, are what make the tournament so enjoyable.’’ If the Ajax Under 17s survive the group phase , it will play either Anderlecht, Bayern München, DC United or China U17 in the next round. Everything seems to be in place for an attractive tournament. ,,We are hoping for a larger crowd than last year’’, Pronk says to encourage people ti buy a ticket for an afternoon of top class football. ,,Much depends on the weather, of course. It may work to our advantage that we’re playing on Sunday morning while Ajax-Excelsior is being played in the Amsterdam ArenA that afternoon. The fact that many people have now heard of the tournament, will make a difference as well.’’
Photograph: Ajax.nl/ Louis van de Vuurst