‘It’s been a fantastic year’

‘It’s been a fantastic year’

In the last days of 2012, is featuring Ajax players who have been in the spotlight during the last year. For various reasons, 2012 was their year. In this edition: Frank de Boer. He won the championship with Ajax for the second time in eighteen months. A few days before the New Year, the 112-time international assesses the past year.

The cafeteria at De Toekomst is almost empty on this Thursday afternoon, but the Christmas decorations lend a festive touch. ‘Senza Una Donna’ by Zucchero plays in the background. Frank de Boer (42) is one of the last ones who is still at Ajax’s sports complex. It’s the day after the cup match win against FC Groningen. That duel reminded De Boer of the perfect match. “That evening, I was able to relax and sit on the bench. I didn’t feel at any moment that we’d give the match away. As staff, that’s exactly where you want to be.”

Is Ajax further along than last year at this time?
“As a team, we’ve definitely come further. We’re playing more and more in the way that we envision, as technical staff. Hopefully we’ll continue that way after the winter break. We’re getting closer and closer to the perfect match.”

Where is there still room for improvement?
“In the details. For example, take that continuous dominance against FC Groningen. We put the opponent under pressure for the entire match, and didn’t lose our focus when they suddenly switched to another system. The players were able to anticipate everything in that match. I feel like they are starting to recognize the key moments better and better. After that, it just comes down to some details.”

In May, Ajax won the championship for the 31st time. And in the second half of the season, Ajax is the only Dutch club still competing on three fronts. What’s your general feeling about last year?
“2012 was a fantastic year, both for Ajax and for me, personally. The year started with the incredible race to catch up in the championship. One season after getting that third star, this title was important because it was the first time in many years that Ajax won the championship two years in a row.

Will you think about all of this during the holidays, or do you try to forget about football for a while?
“I’m always thinking about Ajax, but differently than when the season begins. I’m sure I’ll be thinking about the training camp in Brazil, but otherwise, the holidays are mostly about resting and family. It’s good for everyone to blow off some steam, players and staff. Physically, everyone can still handle it, but it’s the mental aspect that requires rest during the winter break. That’s why it’s good that everyone now has ten days off. Don’t think about the next training or match, but just sleep in late.”

How does Ajax’s coach spend the Christmas holidays?
“We start with presents under the tree for the kids on Christmas eve. We spend Christmas Day with the family, and for Boxing Day, I hired a cook. Together with some couple friends and my brother Ronald, we’re going to have a nice dinner - four or five courses, with good wines. On these days, I always want lots of people around me. That’s cozy.”

By now you’ve been Ajax’s head coach for two full calendar years. What steps did you make in 2012?
“I’ve made steps in every aspect – in management and tactically. In fact, as a coach, you sort of go through the same type of development as you do as a player. You face situations that you’ve faced before, and you know if you handled it well last time, of if there are things you could have done better. It’s really a question of more routine.”
Another memorable moment from 2012 was the appointment of directors Marc Overmars and Edwin van der Sar. How did you experience that, as their former team mate?
“I’ve known Marc and Edwin for years. We’ve been through a lot together. We kept in touch after our football careers. It’s great that now, after so many years, we are all part of the Ajax family. There are several former players around De Toekomst, but mostly in the role of coaches. A former player in a director’s role is new. Both for them and for me. It’s different than the role that Dennis Bergkamp, Wim Jonk and myself have within the club. I think it’s good that these two former players are now part of Ajax’s management. Marc is, logically, a bit more ready for it since he worked for Go Ahead Eagles before this. For Edwin, the marketing director job is new. Fortunately, in General Manager Michael Kinsbergen, he has a good man with him. I have complete trust.”