On Sunday, Ajax started preparing for the new football season. With the sun shining, Martin Jol’s team worked on their first training of the 2010-2011 season, while waiting for the eight World Cup participants to return.
With the World Cup fully underway, Ajax hit the training field on Sunday morning. Although the new season seems far away, Ajax has several important matches on the schedule. In exactly one month (either July 27 or 28), Ajax plays their first match on route to qualifying for the UEFA Champions League tournament.
To ringing applause, the 22 Ajax players, including keepers Verhoeven and Vermeer, stepped onto the Toekomst’s main field at 10.30 a.m. The spectators experienced the first minutes of the 2010-2011 season with the Ajax players. Of course, World Cup participants Suarez, Lodeiro, Stekelenburg, Van der Wiel en De Zeeuw were missing. Both Uruguayans reached the quarterfinals of the competition on Saturday, defeating South Korea thanks to Suarez’s two goals. Ajax’s Dutch team trio can extend their stay in South Africa by at least a week if they defeat Slovakia on Monday. Rommendahl, Eriksen and Enoh have already been eliminated with their teams, and will report back to Amsterdam soon.
All World Cup participants are expected back at Ajax by July 16. Until then, reserve players are filling in for them. Five players who were loaned out last season ((Darko Bodul, Daley Blind, Jan-Arie van der Heijden, Mitchell Donald and Jeffrey Sarpong) trained on Sunday with the team. Missing from the field were Kennedy (ill), Ismail Aissati (foot injury), and Atouba, out with a long term injury.
Siem de Jong is one player who has been on holiday for the last few weeks. “It was time to start again”, said the midfielder afterwards. ”All in all, I’ve been on holiday for quite a while now. In that respect, I’m in a very different situation than the team mates who are still active at the World Cup. They must still be quite fit. We need to work on reaching that level again during the coming weeks. Especially since we have some important Champions League qualifying matches coming up.”
De Jong also saw Luis Suarez’s outstanding World Cup performance on Saturday, against South Korea. Like many of his team mates, he sent Suarez a congratulatory text message. “Luis scored two nice goals yesterday. That’s one of the reasons he’s so important for his team, just as he is for us. And now, he has a good chance (against Ghana) to move on even further in the tournament.”
The break between seasons has done the sharp shooting midfielder good. De Jong played a big part – especially in the second half of the season – in Ajax’s ascent, which nearly earned them the national title. But De Jong says he’s gotten over the disappointment of not being champions. “Fortunately, we won the cup right before the break, so we were able to leave the season behind with a better feeling than if we had ended it empty handed. Our aim for the new season is clear: to win the national championship as a team. We’ve been close in the last years, but until now, the competition has always had a bitter end. So let’s make it happen now.”