'We'll be the champions!!'

More than a thousand faces looked in anticipation to the stairwell of the Arena. That is where their heroes had to come from and that is where Tomás Galásek appeared as the first of the 25 Ajax players at 10.30 am. Ready for the first training of the 2003-2004 season.

Of course there was special attention for returnees Van der Gun and Obodai and for new players Sander Boschker and Wesley Sonck. With Sonck the number of Belgians in the squad has risen to two. And there are more duos: two from Ghana, two Romanians, two Finns and two Brazilians. But also one South-African, a Norwegian, a Tunisian, a Czech, a Swede and the Dutchmen. Almost everybody was there. Almost because American John O'Brien was absent. The left back is again troubled by a sore Achilles tendon in his right foot.

It was especially nice to see Johnny Heitinga back on the training grounds. The young defender spent months of rehabilitation in Zeist and is able to work with the group again.

That group started out calmly, bulding up their conditioning under new trainer Rene Wormhoudt. The warming-up was a bit different, but soon the players went back to the well-known drills: kicking the ball back to a passer with alternately their left and right foot.

After 40 minutes Koeman and his assistants Krol and Bruins Slot gave the signal for the first positioning drill of the year. The players were gesturing and yelling. Especially Zlatan could be heard, but the players might have missed Witschge, whose reactions were always the loudest with these kind of drills.

The goalkeepers did the drills with the rest of the group. That gave goalkeepers' trainer Wil Coort time to observe his new group of 'keepers. No more Joey Didulica, no Henk Timmer, but Bogdan Lobont, Maarten Stekelenburg and Sander Boschker. The latter could hardly believe his eyes. ,,What a spectacle. This is quite different from the five fans who show up at FC Twente's training."

When the new goalkeeper left the training grounds, the fans chanted: ,,Sander Boschker, Sander Boschker. We'll be the champions!!" Boschker radiated. Even after it took him 20 minutes to get from the pitch to the stairwell.

And for him it wasn't even that busy. Wesley Sonck was the last one to leave the grounds after talking to all the media representatives. Then the many hundreds of waiting fans all wanted a piece of the new striker.