Martin Jol has coached and played in The Netherlands, England, and Germany. Ajax’s coach has significant experience in various competitions and cup tournaments. With Ajax, he seeks the eighteenth cup in the club’s history, with a duo of matches beginning in the Amsterdam ArenA.
As he talks about England, a smile appears on the coach’s face. “The FA Cup is almost as important as the league competition there. Everyone wants to play the cup final at Wembley.” The 54 year old trainer knows what it’s like to participate in the world’s most famous cup tournament. As a player (Coventry City and West Bromwich Albion), and coach (Tottenham Hotspur), he had the privilege of playing in the FA Cup. “It’s fantastic. Whether you’re playing against Plymouth or Chelsea, the stadium is always packed. And the atmosphere is always the same – there’s electricity in the air. They do a great job there in keeping with the traditions.”
“It’s more difficult to reach the final in England than in The Netherlands. We were lucky with the draw a few times this season. But we worked hard to reach the final, even though meeting Feyenoord in that game will only be the second time we play an opponent from the Eredivisie. We’ve played away often, but against, on paper, lesser teams. In the Netherlands, it’s possible to reach the final that way.” Jol emphasizes that it could have been different. Feyenoord had to defeat AZ, PSV, and FC Twente in order to reach the final. “But the cup has less status here than in England. That’s clear.”
Jol also recalls fond memories of the cup tournament in Germany. “Germany is growing as a football country. They were down for a while, but as it turns out, they’ve been able to stand on their own two feet. In England, it happens that owners buy out a club. In Germany, that’s not done. Take the investor from Hoffenheim. He’s a persona non grata, and that’s just because he’s investing money in the club, like a sugar daddy. In Germany, that’s considered strange. And on the other side, the ‘stand on your own feet’ mentality gives the German competition strength. You need to generate the budget yourself. And in this way, they are also slowly getting closer to the English competition.”
Ajax’s coach has often been a spectator of the final in the DFB Pokal. “That enormous stadium in Berlin is always sold out. There’s a great atmosphere there, even though the English FA Cup is still in a league of its own. That has to do with tradition.”
Jol has also earned his stripes in the Dutch cup tournament. In 1975, as a player with FC Den Haag, he won the cup at the expense of favourite FC Twente (1-0). Nearly 22 years later, he hoisted the national cup with Roda JC as coach. “For a club like Roda, the cup is a unique prize. But, of course, it’s different for Ajax. If you look in Ajax’s museum, you’ll see many prizes and trophies. But that doesn’t take anything away from our desire to win the cup. In the last ten years, the club has won two championships, three cups and three Supercups. So it’s not like you get the chance at a double every year, let alone actually win it. We would love to do it, for our supporters.”