Winning their eighteenth KNVB Cup made for many smiling Ajax faces on Thursday night. After the victorious return match of the cup final (1-4), the players enthusiastically told their story, and proudly showed off the cup.
With broad smiles, the Ajax players made their way to the players’ bus, after they had been honoured and had celebrated in the locker room. On their way to the bus, the players passed the mixed zone, where journalists were making note of the cup winners’ reactions. “Actually, this feels like our reward for a good season”, said a pleased Gregory van der Wiel. “Missing out on the championship last Sunday by one point was a bitter pill to swallow. But now, we’ve won our prize.”
Keeper Maarten Stekelenburg voiced similar thoughts. Holding firmly onto the cup, he gave some comments. “I’ve got it”, joked the national team’s keeper. But before he could begin his analysis, it was time to hand the cup to team mate Siem de Jong. The man who scored two out of four goals proudly displayed the cup for the cameras.
Stekelenburg: “We assured ourselves of a comfortable position after the game in the ArenA (2-0). And tonight, before four minutes were up, the writing was on the wall. A 1-4 win in de Kuip is great, but it’s a shame to have a goal scored against us”, said the critical keeper. “But I’m satisfied. Beforehand, I said to the guys that we should reward ourselves for the great season we had. Fortunately, we succeeded by winning the cup. We rewarded ourselves.”
Of course, Siem de Jong was the centre of attention. De Jong, who has been on the right path and a real sharp shooter during the second half of the season, scored twice on Thursday night, just like in the first match against Feyenoord. “It always feels good when you score often. Especially in a cup final”, was De Jong’s modest comment, his broad smile showing his pleasure. About Suarez’s early goal, which Ajax literally had thrust upon them, De Jong commented: “You’d think that by now, they’d know that we can score quickly”, he said, with a nod to the first game in the ArenA ten days ago, when he scored two goals within seven minutes and determined the end score, 2-0.
The fact that the celebration took place with empty stands, without Ajax supporters, didn’t lessen the pleasure for Van der Wiel. “We were having our own party on the field”, said the defender. “More importantly, 10.000 Ajax supporters watched the game tonight in the ArenA. Hopefully, there will be 20.000 of them there when we return for the celebration with our own fans in the ArenA. That would be great!”