Sjaak Swart has played 463 competition matches in his Ajax career, in which he scored no fewer than 175 goals. But, strangely, Mister Ajax’s name is missing on the list of scoring players who made history on May 19, 1972, when they defeated Vitesse at home by 12-1. Forty years later, that score is still an Eredivisie record.
Despite the high score, Swart doesn’t personally have any special memories of the 12-1 victory against Vitesse. The dyed-in-the-wool Ajax man was even substituted in the break for Johnny Rep. Something he rationalizes with typical Amsterdam pragmatism: “ I always preferred to score that one important goal in a match.”
Forty years to the date after the fact, Swart realises that he and his team mates delivered an incredible performance that day. “It was exceptional, because Vitesse had a pretty good team. But we played so well that we won 12-1. Everything came together in that match. I still remember that at one point we scored the tenth goal, and then we wanted to score more. You need to make the most of what you’ve got, and our team at the time was good at that. It went well from the start.”
The then right winger hastens to add that this wasn’t the only time that Ajax won with such a high score during that golden period. “For example we beat Volendam 9-0, and won 8-1 against NEC. But 12-1 was unique. I don’t think that will happen again. Or you need to be in a match in which one player gets sent off and you score a few goals in a row. You saw that last year in the PSV-Feyenoord match”, says the 31 time international, referring to Eindhoven’s 10-0 win.
Although Ajax’s record win took place forty years ago, Swart still regularly rubs salt in the Arnhem wound. “If I go to Vitesse-Ajax and Ajax isn’t doing so well, then people there would shout at me as if I were still playing. I’d say: ‘Guys, I don’t know what’s going on, but my last game was that 12-1 win against Vitesse.’ That quiets them down right away.”
The fact that the Gelderland team are currently doing well in the Eredivisie hasn’t escaped Swart. “They keep getting better, but I don’t see a championship team the way that the media are speculating. They’re doing a good job now, but let’s see how many points behind they are at the end of the season.”
When Ajax faces Vitesse on Saturday evening, Swart will be watching the progress of Jan-Arie van der Heijden – who traded Ajax for the Arnhem team last year - with keen interest. “Jan-Arie is one of my favourites and he’s doing a great job there”, says the former winger about the left footed player that he’s been mentoring for years. “I watch Vitesse often because I want to see Jan play. That kid can play football and send the ball exactly where he wants to. The only thing is that he should have been a bit faster, but he handles quickly and that’s important, too. And he sees the game. Jan is a great player for Vitesse. He’s now played at the centre back, but he’s good at midfield too. Despite that, I think Ajax will beat Vitesse, but not by 12-1.”