Ahh Ajax. If there’s one post that I’ve put off writing for… well ever, it’s this one.
As I’ve said before, sometimes when there is so much to say or the subject is so deeply personal, it’s hard to know where to start.
London has eleven professional football clubs. Paris four. Madrid three. Even Rotterdam has four clubs – but Amsterdam? Yup, you got it. Basically just the one. The mighty Ajax Amsterdam.
Tempted as I am to give you a complete history of this incredible club, I’m guessing you’re mostly here as you’re visiting the city and are interested in watching a game, going on a tour or buying merchandise. So I’ll keep the background brief, but if you want some fascinating detail, Simon Kuper’s book – Ajax, The Dutch, The War is an excellent read (in English) or click here for my blog post giving more detail about Ajax’s relationship with Amsterdam’s Jewish population.
Ajax was founded in 1900 and is the most successful football club in the Netherlands with 34 league titles and 18 KNVB cups – more than either of its arch rivals PSV Eindhoven and Rotterdam’s Feyenoord. Indeed, historically it has been one of the most successful clubs in the world – one of only five teams to have retained the European cup and one of only four to win the ‘continental treble’ – winning the Eredivisie, the KNVB cup and the European cup in the same year (back in 1972).
But perhaps more significantly it is also the home of Rinus Michels who was appointed manager of Ajax in 1965 and who introduced the philosophy of Total Football which went on to be the defining characteristic of both Ajax and the Dutch national team along with it’s star player – one of the greatest of all time – Johan Cruijff.
During this golden age at the club, Ajax won seven Eredivisie titles, four KNVB cups and three European cups. In 1972 the club won its third consecutive European cup – the first to do so since Real Madrid in the 1950’s.
Cruijff deserves a post in himself – indeed almost certainly an entire website – but suffice to say he is considered a god by Ajax fans and the Amsterdam ArenA, the club’s home since 1996 has just been renamed the Johan Cruijff ArenA following his death in 2016.
Ajax is also known for its extraordinary youth academy that has produced dozens of world class players over the years including Cruijff, Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp, Frank de Boer, Frank Rijkaard, Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf and Wesley Sneijder. According to the International Centre for Sports Studies in Switzerland who looked at players who have trained at the same club between the ages of 15 and 21 for at least three seasons, Ajax are the most successful producers of young talent in the world – with 77 players who trained at Ajax playing in the top tier of Europe’s 31 best leagues.
In addition to this, Ajax’s more recent alumni include Christian Eriksen, Luis Suarez, Davinson Sanchez, Jan Vertonghen and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Former managers include Marco van Basten, Frank de Boer, Louis van Gaal, Martin Jol, Ronald Koeman and of course both Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff himself.
Have I convinced you yet? This truly is the home of great football – as holders of three season tickets would you expect me to say anything different?! – and if you can fit in a game whilst visiting the city you won’t be disappointed.
The stadium is out in the Bijlmer area of Amsterdam (more info here) and tickets are generally more affordable than the equivalent Premier League games. Expect to pay somewhere in the region of €30-€60 for a seat. The price is likely to increase for ‘the classic’ against Feyenoord or a match against their other primary rivals PSV. Tickets should be purchased via the official Ajax website, and if available can also be bought on site on the day. The season runs from August to May with with a month long winter break between the middle of December and middle of January.
The stadium (the biggest in the Netherlands) seats 54k. It has a retractable roof which is a godsend on colder days although Marc would tell you the atmosphere is better without it!
The Johan Cruijff ArenA is a cashless stadium, so you will need to pay for food and drinks by debit or credit card – the choice is underwhelming with croquettes or hot dogs and chips the staple fare inside and a slightly better choice at eateries in the surrounding area.
To get there, catch a train direct to Bijlmer Arena station, or from Amsterdam take metro 50 or 54 to either Bijlmer Arena or Strandvliet. There is also parking available on site for 9,000 vehicles.
If you don’t have time for a game, we would still highly recommend a tour. Marc used to be a tour guide in the stadium, so again, you won’t be surprised to hear it’s an experience we rate highly!
There are 8 tours a day (conducted in both Dutch and English) which include an introductory film, a walk through the players’ tunnel and a chance to sit in the team’s dugout. If the players aren’t training you’ll get to see the locker rooms and will then be shown around the press room where players conduct post-match interviews. At €15 for adults and €10 for kids, it’s well worth a visit.
On weekends and in school holidays there are special tours for 5-12 olds which run in English on request. Contact the club beforehand for more info.
If you or your kids anything like ours, it’s a souvenir from the shop that might hold the most appeal. It’s definitely on the large side (it claims to be one of the biggest fan shops in Europe although I think that’s slightly debatable having seen the vast 3 floor Barcelona store at Camp Nou!) and is packed with all manner of clothing, accessories and useless nick-nacks you would expect to find in a retail outlet of this nature. Open from 09.30 to at least 17.00 Monday to Saturday (an hour longer in Summer) and 12.00 to 17.00 on Sundays, opening hours are slightly more restricted on match days when it opens from 10.00 until 30 minutes before the start of the game as well as 30 minutes afterwards.
Many of the tourist shops in town also have Ajax sections and you should further be able to buy merchandise at Schipol Airport.
So now you’ve been there, done that and literally bought the t-shirt. Has my whilstestop tour to the greatest club in the world persuaded you to become a mega-fan? 😊
All you need to do now is make Marc happy and simply remember the following phrase:
Ajax Kampioenen (Ajax champions)
(and whatever you do, make sure you pronounce it EYE-AX and not A-JAX!)
This post was a collaboration between:
Zac Abraham (aged 7)
Oscar Abraham (aged 8)
Marc Abraham (young at heart)