Arie van Eijden bids Ajax farewell

Arie van Eijden bids Ajax farewell

His desk resembled a gift table in the past days, one that he could clear out on Wednesday at 5 pm. His work is done and he can retire with a happy heart. His leaving will not go by unnoticed, because Arie van Eijden will bid Ajax farewell as its general director in style.

Arie van Eijden has met many people in the course of his career. Ajax asked them about their collective memories of the Ajax director. John Jaakke, club chairman: ,,Arie and I have worked together fot two years. I look back on that period with a good feeling and I know he does too. What I remember mainly is that Arie has a realistic view of things with an eye for the other's standpoint.''

On occasion, Arie van Eijden also had to deal with the highest authority of the police, Amsterdam's mayor Job Cohen. ,,I can see that Arie has trouble holding back during matches. I have the urge to jump up at a goal in the ArenA myself, but then I look around on the vip terrace and I see everyone remaining seated. And that's as nice toward the representatives of the visiting club."

Arie van Eijden goes a long way back with Henk Kesler of the Dutch Football Association KNVB. Kesler praies the parting director. ,,Arie has meant a great deal to Dutch football. He has stuck his neck out; When Guus Hiddink left as national team coach in 1998, he suggested we hire Frank Rijkaard. That was a daring choice."

Within the club, Van Eijden also has many supporters. The current coach was also appointed by him. Danny Blind: ,,Arie is an original Ajax man. He shows that through his involvement and his interest. He really enjoyed it to put as much time as possible into Ajax. With Arie, a real club man leaves Ajax, although I think we'll see him quite often at the club.''

Van Eijden's work field did not end at the barrier of the Amsterdam ArenA. He was a regular visitor of youth complex de Toekomst. Whenever possible, he sat down for lunch and met with the youth coaches there. Among them Bryan Roy: ,,Arie has always been the quintessential club man, he oozed the Ajax feeling. I have never seen that anywhere else." When Roy decided to become a coach, Arie van Eijden was the one to offer him a contract as a youth coach with Ajax. ,,I felt a lot of joy, when Arie let me come back to Ajax. It did me a world of good.''

Aron Winter has also became a regular of the youth complex lately. Winter has known Arie van Eijden for more than twenty years. The first time the experienced footballer met the director, he was still as green as grass. ,,It was 1985. I came to Ajax for the first time and I met everybody in the club. I was really impressed by everything and by Arie as well. When we were negotiating my first contract, we did that with my manager, my attourney and with Arie. He was a man with personality, straight, dyed in the wool and he knew all the ins and outs. He appeared to me as smart and intelligent.''

Arie van Eijden himself leaves Ajax with a positive feeling. ,,Together, we have established something with Ajax. We came out of the top year of 1995, in which we had much success on the pitch. At the end of the Nineties, things went worse and the club appeared too cold, too businesslike. I started in 2000 with the assignment to bring back the club feeling and to get the finances back in order. We have hit highs and lows since, but we have won two national titles, won the cup and qualified for the Champions League four times. That leaves me with a good feeling, apart from the incidents that there will always be.''

What is Arie van Eijden going to miss? ,,I think the hectic times. But maybe it's wise to quit after 29 years. Although I won't quit completely. I will keep doing things in the background, but no longer in the front line.''

What were the highlights of the last five years? ,,I think you should look at all 29 years, but a championship is always a high point and the fact that we almost made it to the semi-final of the Champions League, too. And the fact that we were able to present positive figures. With Ajax, you always try to find the combination between sportive and business success. That is often the most difficult, but the only right way. Now, we are in a slump sportively, but I am convinced that everyting is going to be all right.''

His parting words for the Ajax supporters? ,,Keep having faith. It's going to be fine, I am convinced of that. Ajax have always come out on top and that will happen again!''