Prior to the Ajax – Feyenoord Klassieker on Sunday, the new spaces in the main building of the Amsterdam ArenA were officially opened. The rooms are named after places where Ajax had big European successes.
Already at the welcome in the ArenA’s vast rooms, it was a warm reunion of many players from Ajax’s various golden eras. Heinz Schilcher, Heinz Stuy, Piet Keizer, Barry Hulshoff, Sjaak Swart, John Rep and Arie Haan; the Ajax players from the golden year 1972 were well represented. They all revealed the first work of art by Marijntje Teeuwen for the year 1972 which will be placed near the entrance of the Amsterdam ’72 room. In this year, Ajax won the big five, all of the big prizes, for the first time: Europa Cup 1, the Club World Cup, the European Super Cup, the KNVB Cup, plus the national championship. “That was the greatest Ajax team ever”, said the Amsterdam ArenA’s commercial director, Hendrik Jan de Mari. “A unique team.” The room is named for Amsterdam because the return match against Independiente in the Club World Cup was played here. “Did we feel like we were the best?” Piet Keizer, captain in 1972, repeated the question. “You get used to that eventually, yes.” But Ajax did lose one game at the end of that long season, to Go Ahead Eagles.
“And in 1994-1995 we didn’t lost a single match”, said the coach from that time, Louis van Gaal, soon after revealing the work of art for 1995 at the Vienna ’95 room. Van Gaal opened the room together with his captain from that time, Danny Blind. “Because we had won the UEFA Cup in 1992, we were able to continue building”, said the current national team coach to the question as to whether the success of the team had already started in 1992. “But in 1995, we only still had Frank de Boer, Edwin van der Sar and Danny Blind from that team. Everyone forgets that.” When Van Gaal looks back to 1995, three things come directly to his mind. “The karate kick got lots of attention, but Kluivert’s toe-poke was much more important. And, perhaps the greatest thing that I ever experienced was that boat trip through Amsterdam.” All three of those moments have been immortalized on the wall on the fourth floor of the Amsterdam ArenA. It was nice to see that the former Ajax coach still glowed with pride when his former players Danny Blind, Edwin van der Sar, Martijn Reuser, Finidi George and Ronald de Boer flanked him for the photograph.
The group of invitees then moved on to level 6 where the piece of art for the Athens ’87 room was unveiled by Stanley Menzo, Ronald Spelbos and John Bosman. Although Bosman arrived somewhat later than the others. The football humour was obviously on hand at that moment. “He was already suspended back then”, was heard from the crowd. But when the former centre forward, who was forced to miss the great final in Athens due to a red card from the semi-finals, finally arrived, memories rushed back at the sight of this wall. “I hit someone in the face”, Bosman explained his red card from that time. The invitees laughed hard at the obvious meaning of this. “You always denied that”, said a sharp observer.
After Spelbos, Bosman, Desmond Gemert and Stanley Menzo had admired the wall, it was time for lunch. The artist Marijntje Teeuwen received compliments from all sides. Thanks to the research she’s done on the club’s successes, she herself now also has (even more) affinity with the club. “On Saturday we were still working on the last wall and the Ajax selection was training in the stadium. That was so special”, said the artist. “Of course I’ve had to make choices, because there’s so much great material. I needed to know what people wanted to see, but I also needed to keep in mind what would work best visually. Hennie Schuurman and Thijs Lindeman (from Ajax heritage) helped me with that.”
With van Teeuwen’s beautiful works of art, the ArenA lives and breathes Ajax even more now. The staircase also looks great with Louis van de Vuurst’s pictures. “The ArenA is becoming an Ajax stadium more and more”, observed commercial director Edwin van der Sar with satisfaction. On the fourth floor, a space has been left empty on purpose, said Van der Sar’s counterpart from the ArenA, De Mari: “Because May 15 2013 is still coming. That’s the date of the Europa League final in this stadium.” And Ajax’s current selection has a chance to write history, too!