The cheerful noises coming from the locker room didn’t lie. This was a team which was very happy to have won the title. It happened on the season’s last day of play, in a head on conflict with direct competitor FC Twente. Alfred Hitchcock himself couldn’t have dreamed up a more exciting screenplay than the final of the Eredivisie 2010-2011.
Daley Blind emerged after some time, bright eyed. The young Ajax player had followed the championship match partly from the bench, and came into action late in the second half to substitute for Nicolai Boilesen. “I’ve never been so nervous. I almost couldn’t take it anymore”, said Blind. “I was sitting next to André Ooijer on the bench and told him that I couldn’t take it anymore. During the warm up, we were all just stretched, because we didn’t want to miss anything. Twente seemed to want to make a move, but we were so good.”
And then he was brought onto the field. “You know that you’re part of it then, even as a substitute. But if you get to play, it feels a bit more like your championship. My only thought was that we needed to win. And if it wasn’t pretty, well so be it.” He brought this approach onto the field. All’s fair in love and war was his attitude during his minutes on field, helping the team to the title. “The time dragged on. I looked up at the clock at one point and though ‘hey, it was the 82nd minute last time I checked, too”. And when Vink finally blew the last whistle, Blind sought captain Jan Vertonghen immediately. “We’ve been hanging out together quite a bit lately, so I went to him straight away.” And a celebration ensued on the field. “With my father. That’s pretty special, to experience a championship together. We’ll be talking about this one during many dinners in the future.”
Just before Blind had emerged from the locker room, De Jong had come in. But before he was allowed to return to the party central which was the locker room, he needed to clarify a few things. After all, it wasn’t his brother Luuk, Twente’s centre forward, who had been the deciding factor; it was the Ajax player who made the difference, scoring big for the occasion. “You want to just jump in on the field, but you can’t really do that”, he smiled. “It was more fighting football in the second half. When it became 2-1, I thought ‘oh no, here we go again’. “
But it worked out well and Ajax grabbed its first title in seven years, earning a third star directly. “We’ve been going for second place since ADO”, said De Jong afterwards. “Because we had it in our own hands. When we were winning at every turn and Twente were squandering points, it had to happen today. We needed to watch out for their headers, and we did a better job of that than we did last week. But it was exciting enough for me. The 3-1 came at the right time, and after that it was less nerve wrecking.”