The Amsterdam ArenA was filled with almost 23.000 kids and supervisors on Thursday afternoon. It was a unique Ajax – AZ cup match (2-3). Banners with school names, screaming kids and music from Djumbo lent a unique atmosphere to the afternoon. Students from the Hofdijckschool from Oestgeest were among the lucky ones who attended.
Frank de Boer had already warned everyone the previous day. As the father of three girls, the coach knows just how loud kids can be. His prediction came true this afternoon as the Ajax keepers came onto the field to warm up. For once, music from K3 and Djumbo replaced the sounds of André Hazes and other Amsterdam musicians. Even sponsors Amstel and Toto relinquished their spots on the boards for the occasion, making room for KiKa and Astmafonds. It was clear: everything was different today.
One month after the much discussed incident involving AZ keeper Esteban, the aborted match was replayed in a stadium packed with 22.800 kids. Thanks to the KNVB’s approval, the match which was to be played with no audience was replaced with one with kids in the stands. It was an initiative which was, of course, applauded by the Ajax Foundation. Schools and sports clubs had registered the previous week to spend an educational afternoon in the ArenA, supported by an Ajax reading package.
The banners were strongly reminiscent of the finals of a school football tournament. ‘Bonifacius grade 8 is here’ and ‘Maritiem College Velsen’, just like De Meer grade school in Haarlem, clearly display where they are sitting. The colourful banners were accompanied by cheerful flags sporting the message ‘Hup Ajax AZ!’. It was obvious that the kids present this afternoon were just as much for Ajax as for AZ. That was also clear from the students from Oestgeest’s Hofdijckschool banner. “Ajax and AZ are fun”, as can be read on their banner.
The grade 6,7 and 8 students from Hofdijckschool headed towards the Amsterdam ArenA earlier on that day. The 108 fans travelled by bus to the Ajax stadium. Kari Dirkse is the driving force behind having these kids come to the ArenA this afternoon, instead of sitting in the classroom. The mother convinced the school principal that there was enough interest in her son’s class to accept the Ajax Foundation’s invitation. “In the end, there were only three girls who didn’t want to go. Their spots were filled quickly by some grade 5 kids.”
Dirkse watches the match from box 422 with a broad smile. The only downside for the Ajax fans was the result. “Great, isn’t it? So many kids gathered in the ArenA. And, thanks to the educational program that we received, it’s a responsible way of doing it. Hopefully, Ajax will gain many young supporters. They’ve all experienced how much fun it is to go to the stadium.”
A nice side effect of the excursion to the ArenA is that the Hofdijckschool now has a new group of volunteers. Dirkse: “If we go to the museum with the class, it’s always a puzzle to put together a group of parents to come. But it was different for this match. We were flooded with volunteers. Hopefully it will be the same for the next field trip. That would be a nice lingering effect from this great afternoon.”