The sight made several passing Ajax fans, tourists, and Amsterdam residents break into a spontaneous smile. Mister Ajax Sjaak Swart, sitting behind the wheel of a tram is, after all, not an everyday sight. With this special ride, the Ajax Experience tram was officially launched.
9:55a.m., Amsterdam Central Station. In front of Central Station, the red and white number 9 tram stands out among the regular, standard coloured trams. The eye catching tram features images of club icons such as Johan Cruijff, Danny Blind, Piet Keizer, and Patrick Kluivert, who is holding the Champions League Cup in the air. The three championship stars have a place of honour on the special tram. The tram breathes Ajax, in style and execution.
The tram, with the Ajax players on it and Mister Ajax driving it, rides through the centre of Amsterdam for a reason. The Ajax Experience opens its doors on September 24th for all Ajax fans. Nobody could possibly have missed the message this week. The special edition tram is a unique calling card for the Experience, which will soon be the place to be for Ajax fans and tourists interested in football. “Unbelievable”, says a passer-by in an unmistakable Amsterdam accent. “That’s Sjakie Swart. Funny.” Holding her bags full of shopping, the Amsterdam lady disappears into her city. Ten seconds later, Swart is posing next to the tram for a small group of photographers and camera men.
The blue back of the number 9 tram – which, once upon a time, transported Ajax fans to and from the old stadium de Meer – is decorated in the colours of the municipal public transportation company, GVB. It shows the friendly relationship between the transportation company and the club. The special Ajax tram is not completely unique, as GVB transportation director Adrie Bolier knows. “After the Champions League win in 1995, the first Ajax tram rode through the city”, says Bolier. “And when the club celebrated its one hundredth anniversary, in 2000, there was a tram with Ajax colours. Ajax and GVB were born in the same year. The club and GVB are both part of the city.”
Both trams elicit unusual reactions, as the tram drivers soon noticed. The drivers of these Ajax trams are prepared for odd situations. “Some tourists jumped in front of the tram. Everything to make a great photo.” The Amsterdam transportation company doesn’t make it a habit to create special themed trams. “This is quite unique. In addition to this Ajax tram, there is also a special Hermitage tram riding through the city. That’s all. Incidentally, I thought that Sjaak did a good job as the tram driver. If he wants, he can come to do it more often.”
Once the one way ride from Amsterdam Central Station to Rembrandtplein is completed, and the tram continues on without Mister Ajax, Swart has gained a great experience. “I just heard that I got my tram license”, he smiles with his trademark bravado. “Although I noticed that behind the wheel, I was slower than on the field. It’s a beautiful tram. It’s a nice touch that this one also rides in the East of Amsterdam, past the spot where the old Amsterdam stadium was.” Swart – who, with 603 games, is the Ajax player with the most official Ajax matches to his name – has no plans to repeat this special experience. “Driving a tram is fun for once. But I’d rather keep my performances on the field.”