Amsterdamsche Football Club Ajax also referred to as AFC Ajax, or simply Ajax, is a professional football club from Amsterdam, Netherlands. The club is historically one of the three clubs that dominate the Dutch national football league (Eredivisie), the other two being Feyenoord and PSV. Ajax is one of the five teams that has earned the right to keep the European Cup and to wear the badge of honour; they won consecutively in 1971-1973. In 1972, they completed The Treble by winning the Dutch Eredivisie, KNVB Cup, and the European Cup; to date they are the only team to keep the European Cup and accomplish the European Treble. They are also one of the only two teams to win the The Treble and the Intercontinental Cup in the same season/calendar year; this was achieved in the 1971/72 season. They are also one of only three clubs to have won all three major European trophies (the European Cup, the European Cup Winners' Cup and the UEFA Cup) at least once. They have also won the Intercontinental Cup twice, and a predecessor of the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 1962.
Ajax succeeded in promotion to the highest level of Dutch football in 1911, under the guidance of Jack Kirwan (their first official coach). The promotion meant that Ajax were forced to alter the club's strip, as Sparta of Rotterdam had the same kit, red-white vertical stripes with black shorts. Ajax adopted a broad vertical red stripe on a white background with white shorts, the club's kit to this day.
Although their efforts were not unnoticed (Gé Fortgens became a frequent member of the Dutch national team for a while) they were relegated in 1914. While they immediately bounced back, they had to wait until 1917 to regain higher level status again: they did become league champions in both 1915 and 1916, however the 1915 league was declared unofficial (due to World War I), whereas in 1916 they did not make it through the promotion round.
Under the guidance of Jack Reynolds (Kirwan's successor as of 1915) the club was promoted to the highest level in 1917 and won the Dutch national cup final, defeating VSV 5-0. Ajax went on to win their first national championship in 1918. The championship was secured in Tilburg where they faced Willem II without Jan de Natris, arguably the club's first 'star player', who missed the train to Tilburg and opted to stay in Amsterdam instead - earning him a fine of 10 cents. In the following season he earned a six month ban, but Ajax did well in his absence: not only did they retain the championship title, their 1919 campaign was also an unbeaten run for them - an accomplishment that was only repeated 76 years later by Ajax themselves.
Now a regular contender for the Western Regional championship in the Netherlands, Ajax marched through the twenties with regional titles in 1921, 1927 and 1928, next to a few minor cups. The 1930s would prove to be more successful however; with household names as Wim Anderiesen Sr., Dolf van Kol, Piet Strijbosch, Wim Volkers, Jan van Diepenbeek, Bob ten Have, Erwin van Wijngaarden and prolific striker Piet van Reenen, Ajax' period from the late twenties until World War II was so successful that many people dubbed it 'the golden century' (a reference to the 17th century, the heyday of the Dutch Republic).
With six regional titles (1930, 1931, 1932, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1939) and 5 national championships (1931, 1932, 1934, 1937, 1939) Ajax was the most successful team of that era. The thirties were also notable for the final culmination of the rivalry with Feyenoord, another squad that earned many awards in that time, as well as the creation of the stadium 'het Ajax-Stadion' dubbed 'De Meer' (named after the borough of its residence). Until the emergence of the Amsterdam ArenA in 1996, this was Ajax' home ground together with the Olympic Stadium for the bigger games.
As of the 1940s, perhaps in line with Jack Reynolds' retirement (he had stayed - save for a few spells of absence - on for the entire time as Ajax' manager since his entry in 1915), Ajax went through a period of rebuilding. Gerrit Fischer and Erwin van Wijngaarden were retained, with Joop Stoffelen, Guus Dräger, Gé van Dijk, Jan Potharst and later Rinus Michels and Cor van der Hart brought in. After a Cup Final victory in 1943, Ajax went on to finish second in the championship league in 1946 (behind HFC Haarlem) followed by a league championship win in 1947.
They became regional champions in 1950 again, though they never came near winning the championship. The season was notable for a match against Heerenveen, with Heerenveen coming back from 5-1 down to win 6-5. In 1941 Ajax performed the opposite: after being 6-0 behind to VUC in The Hague they managed to pull out a draw in the end (6-6).
Until 1954, the year that professional football was introduced in the Netherlands, Ajax had some minor successes, with the regional title in 1952 and a second place in the regional championship in 1954 (equal in points with fellow Amsterdam club DWS).
Ajax achieved some success on the domestic level, earning the first Eredivisie-championship in 1957 and again in 1960 - the 1960 title decided by a playoff after equalling in points with arch-rivals Feyenoord. Ajax cruised to a 5-1 victory with a hattrick by striker Wim Bleijenberg.
Bleijenberg was not the top scorer however. Henk Groot - the younger brother of Cees Groot who scored a 100 goals for Ajax in his 5 year stay - arrived in 1959 from Stormvogels and scored 38 goals in 1959/60 and 41 goals in 1960/61. He was a vital part of Ajax in the early sixties, replacing star striker Piet van der Kuil who left for PSV in 1960. Alongside the man who would later become Mister Ajax, Sjaak Swart, Co Prins, Ton Pronk, Bennie Muller and a young Piet Keizer, Ajax added the National Cup in 1961 and the Intertoto Cup 1962 to their trophy cabinet.
After missing out on the championship after a 5-2 defeat against PSV in 1963, Ajax entered a period of decline in the national league. Henk Groot left to Feyenoord that summer, and in 1964/65 they were near relegation. Things improved after former player Rinus Michels replaced Vic Buckingham as the head manager. Ajax managed to secure a midtable spot under Michels; however Buckingham's second tenure saw the introduction of Johan Cruijff during a 3-1 loss at GVAV.
Michels started a revolution in Amsterdam, beginning with the return of Henk Groot and Co Prins, as well as the signing of goalkeeper Gert Bals. Michels built a side around the vision of Total Football, sacrificing players who he considered not to be good enough or fit the style of play. The most notable example of this was defender Frits Soetekouw - replaced by Ajax' new captain Velibor Vasović - whose own goal aided the victory of Dukla Prague in the quarter-final of the European Cup in 1966/67, after Ajax had knocked out Beşiktaş and defeated Liverpool 5-1.
Ajax sealed their second consecutive championship in 1967. They were not as dominant as the previous year, but with a seemingly unstoppable attack they scored no less than 122 goals (still a national record), of which 33 were from Johan Cruijff, at 20 years old already the star player. It was also the season for another important milestone: for the first time in history, Ajax won the double (after defeating NAC in the cup final).
It earned them European Cup qualification, being knocked out by Real Madrid in the subsequent season, with Ignacio Zoco scoring the winner for Los Merengues in extra time after two 1-1 draws, results which greatly enhanced the reputation of the club.
Ajax won the Dutch title of 1968 overhauling Feyenoord, the league leaders for much of the season, and reached the European Cup final of 1969 in Madrid against AC Milan. In qualifying for the European Cup final Ajax defeated FC Nuremberg in the first round. They were almost knocked out by Benfica in the second, losing 3-1 to them in Amsterdam but winning the second leg through goals by Inge Danielsson and Johan Cruijff in a 3-0 win. They repeated this score at home against the next opponent, Spartak Trnava in the next round, but struggled in the second leg qualifying narrowly on aggregate. In the final, Milan - lauded for their excellent defense and counter-attacks - easily won 4-1 with Pierino Prati opening the scoring after seven minutes and going on to score a hattrick, while Velibor Vasović was the only Ajax player on the scoresheet with a penalty. Milan's win was capped by a goal by Angelo Sormani.
In 1969-70 Ajax won the Dutch league championship, winning 27 out of 34 games and scoring 100 goals. Feyenoord remained in contention throughout the season, but they had to settle for second place. Both clubs won a trophy however, with Ajax winning the Eredivisie title while Feyenoord captured the European Cup. Ajax reached the semi-finals of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1970 (being knocked out by Arsenal after defeating Hannover 96, Napoli, Ruch Chorzów and Carl Zeiss Jena)
1971 became the long awaited year of glory, with Ajax winning trophies at both domestic and European level. For a substantial part of the season Ajax seemed to be on their way to the treble (a feat only previously performed by Celtic in 1967). Domestically, Ajax finished second to Feyenoord in the league, winning the KNVB Cup after a replayed final against Sparta. In Europe, Ajax defeated 17 Nëntori, FC Basel, Celtic and Atlético Madrid en route to the 1971 European Cup final played at Wembley on June 2. There, 83,000 spectators witnessed a 2-0 victory over Panathinaikos, with goals from Dick van Dijk and a deflected Arie Haan's shot by defender Kapsis. Captain Vasović could finally lift the European Cup, having lost two previous finals in 1966 with FK Partizan and again in 1969.
In the following years Ajax established itself as the foremost club in European football. Stefan Kovacs replaced coach Michels in 1971, while Rijnders and Vasović' departed in the same year. Van Dijk's departed in 1972. Such changes in the side and management did not disrupt the success of the club, with Ajax completing The Treble of European Cup, Dutch National Championship and the KNVB Cup in 1972 to which was added the Intercontinental Cup and UEFA Super Cup. In 1973, Ajax won a third consecutive European Cup and another Dutch championship; however, failure in the KNVB Cup meant Ajax missed out on a second consecutive Treble.
The departure of Johan Cruijff for Barcelona in 1973 signalled the end of the period of success, effectively ending the reign of the so called 'Twelve Apostles' (The usual line-up Heinz Stuy, Wim Suurbier, Barry Hulshoff, Horst Blankenburg, Ruud Krol, Arie Haan, Johan Neeskens, Gerrie Mühren, Sjaak Swart, Johan Cruijff, Piet Keizer plus the usual twelfth man who was Ruud Suurendonk until 1972 and then Johnny Rep). Whereas clubs like Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Internazionale, Arsenal, Juventus and Independiente were beaten by Ajax between 1971 and 1973, failure in the European Cup at the hands of CSKA Sofia in late 1973 signalled the decline of Ajax in European football.
Nevertheless, the Total Football that they had propagated became a lasting memory for many football fans, contributing to the Dutch national team reaching the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup using similar tactics. The decline of Ajax and the loss to the Germans in the World Cup final saw the end of the Total Football era; later Ajax manager Tomislav Ivić would dub the era 'Gloria Ajax', illustrating the impact of their years at the top.
After leaving the club in '83 after a conflict with president Harmsen, Cruijff returned once again in 1985 as the new manager. Cruijff's attacking tactics were immediately illustrated in his first active season, where Ajax ended the season with 120 goals in total, of which 37 were from Ajax's new star player Marco van Basten. Despite this, Ajax finished as runners up in the league to PSV Eindhoven twice in a row in '85/'86 and '86/'87. Despite the lack of domestic league success, Cruijff's Ajax won the '87 Cup Winners Cup, beating Lokomotive Leipzig. They reached the final again in the following season, losing out to KV Mechelen.
Cruijff departed prior to the second Cup Winners Cup final, as a result of the declining results in the national league. With most of the 80's stars such as van Basten also leaving, Ajax once again declined. They continued to compete for the title with PSV in subsequent years, who became the dominant club in European and Dutch football, matching Ajax's 1972 achievement of The Treble in 1988. Negative aspects of the period 1988-1991 were the fraud-case in 1989 and a year long ban from European competition in 1990-91 following an incident whereby a fan threw an iron bar at the Austria Vienna goalkeeper during a UEFA Cup tie in the 1989-1990 season. Under manager Leo Beenhakker, Ajax went on to win the championship race with PSV in 1990. They almost won the league again in 1991, losing narrowly to PSV.
In 1993, Bergkamp and Wim Jonk left to Internazionale, allowing Finn Jari Litmanen to establish himself as the new number 10 of Ajax. Aside from Litmanen, Ajax attracted Finidi George and the return of Frank Rijkaard, providing a base for Van Gaal to build on.
1994-1995 saw the return of European success after two decades, with Ajax winning the UEFA Champions League 1994-95 and the league title. The season saw an unbeaten run in the national league and the final season for Frank Rijkaard, while striker Patrick Kluivert had an excellent start to his season, with the then 18-year-old coming off the bench to score a late winner to beat AC Milan in the final of the Champions League. Ajax went on to beat Brazilian side Grêmio on penalties to win the Intercontinental Cup. The following season, Ajax continued to succeed on the European front, succumbing only to Juventus on penalties in the European Cup final.
However, the subsequent period saw the departure of manager Van Gaal along with an exodus of many key players, several on free transfers following the Bosman ruling. Clarence Seedorf departed in 1995, Edgar Davids, Michael Reiziger, Finidi George and Nwankwo Kanu in 1996, Patrick Kluivert, Marc Overmars and Winston Bogarde in 1997, Ronald de Boer and Frank de Boer in 1998 and Edwin van der Sar and Jari Litmanen in 1999, together with the retirement of Frank Rijkaard in 1995 and Danny Blind in 1999. Van Gaal's replacement, Morten Olsen, attracted Danish national team captain Michael Laudrup to the club. Ajax won the league championship and the Dutch cup. Despite this success, Laudrup could not replace the key players who had departed or maintain the success under Van Gaal. In Olsen's second year at the club, tension arose between Olsen and the Dutch players Ronald de Boer and Frank de Boer, and Olsen was sacked in 1998.
Koeman's early success was short-lived. In 2005, he resigned after Ajax' defeat to Auxerre in the UEFA Cup tournament. This resignation was also the aftermath of Koeman's long-standing spat with then football director Louis van Gaal who had questioned Koeman's managerial abilities after Ajax' dry spell in the domestic league — which saw them languishing in fifth position at the beginning of 2005. Former Ajax-player Danny Blind, who, aside from working as Koeman's technical coach and advisor, had virtually no top-level manager experience, was unveiled as their new coach. Blind instantly caused consternation by announcing that the club was to play using a 4-4-2, abandoning the Total Football-oriented 4-3-3 that has become Ajax' trademark. This season also saw the departure of key players Rafael van der Vaart and Nigel de Jong to HSV, while six others (Hatem Trabelsi, Tomáš Galásek, Hans Vonk, Nourdin Boukhari, Steven Pienaar and Maxwell) revealed they would leave the club at the end of the 2005-2006 season. Blind was sacked on May 10, 2006 after 422 days in charge. New coach Henk ten Cate, who won the Champions League and La Liga in 2006 as the assistant of Frank Rijkaard with FC Barcelona gave youngsters a shot to enter the selection of the first team. Ten Cate said youngsters Jan Vertonghen, Rydell Poepon and Robbert Schilder would be included in the selection, whereas Greek forward Angelos Charisteas was sold to Feyenoord. Ten Cate announced that he wished to return to form and win the Eredivisie in 2007.
Ajax missed out on a Champions League place in 2006/2007 after their defeat against FC Copenhagen (3-2 on aggregate). As a result, Ajax played against IK Start from Norway in the first round of the UEFA Cup September 14 and 28, and won the match 9-2 on aggregate (2-5 away and 4-0 home). Having then gotten through the Group Stage, they drew German club Werder Bremen in the Round of 32. In the first leg in Germany, Ajax lost 3-0. On the return leg in Amsterdam, they rallied for two second half goals to win 3-1, but lost 4-3 in aggregate.
In the 2006-07 season Ajax also achieved some successes with Henk ten Cate in charge. They won the Johan Cruijff Shield after a 3-1 win over rivals PSV and they also beat AZ 8-9 on penalties in the Dutch Cup final after a 1-1 draw after extra time. Ajax was very close to clinch the Eredivisie title after deducting a 10 point deficit from PSV, but lost it on goal difference on the last matchday to PSV (PSV: 75-25, Ajax 84-35).
In the following 2007-08 season Ajax sold two of the biggest talents, Ryan Babel for 17 million Euros to Liverpool and Wesley Sneijder for 27 million Euros to Real Madrid. Luis Suárez came from FC Groningen to replace Ryan Babel. Ajax decided not to buy a replacement for Wesley Sneijder because of the difficulty in finding a similar-position type of player to replace him and also because the deal was finished close to the transfer deadline and Ajax would not rush though any signings.
These events together with Edgar Davids breaking a leg disrupted the preparation for the qualification games for a Champions League place. Opponent Slavia Prague won both matches; with a 2-1 scoreline in Prague and 0-1 victory in Amsterdam. The failure to clinch a position in the Champions League group stage led to great criticism from both the supporters and the media, mainly directed at Henk ten Cate and the board of directors. A 1-0 victory over PSV for the Johan Cruiff Shield could not make up for the loss of a Champions League spot. Despite quite a good start in the competition with a lot of goals from both Luis Suárez and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Ajax lost ground again in Europe after not making it to the group phase of the UEFA Cup; managing a 0-1 win away against Dinamo Zagreb but lost the tie in Amsterdam after extra time with the score 2-3 to Dinamo. With these string of European failures, coach Ten Cate has already failed to lead the team to the Champions League group stage for two seasons in a row and no European football at the ArenA for the remainder of the 2007/2008 season. With this result, Ten Cate lost the confidence of the supporters who demanded that the board sack him. A more viable solution came when Chelsea (in the same week) offered Ten Cate the job of assistant manager with a 3-year deal. On Tuesday October 9 Ten Cate left Ajax. Adrie Koster was selected to helm the squad. On 29 October 2007, captain Jaap Stam announced his immediate retirement from professional football, because of a lack of motivation to continue.
Ajax' first stadium was built in 1911 out of wood and was simply called The Stadium. Ajax later played in the stadium that was built for the 1928 Summer Olympics, held in Amsterdam. This stadium, designed by Jan Wils, is known as the Olympic Stadium. In 1934, Ajax moved to De Meer Stadion in east Amsterdam, where they would play until 1996. During big European and national fixtures the club would often play at the Olympic Stadium, where the capacity was about twice as high.
In 1996, Ajax moved to a new home ground in the southeast of the city known as the Amsterdam ArenA that was built at the cost of $134 million. The stadium is capable of holding approximately 52,000 people. The average attendance in 2006/07 was 48,610 people; in the next season this rose to 49,128. The Arena has a retractable roof and was the example for other modern stadiums built in Europe in the following years. In the Netherlands, the Arena had earned a reputation for having a terrible grass pitch caused by the removable roof that, even when open, takes away too much sunlight and ventilation from the ground, and by the NFL Europa's Amsterdam Admirals who played their home games on it.
The much-loved De Meer stadium was torn down and the land was sold to the city council.
More recently, the issue has become a significant social problem in that in an increasingly bizarre and racist way, opposing supporters specifically use antisemitism to express their antipathy towards Ajax. This is expressed in chants such as Hamas, Hamas/Jews into the gas (Hamas, hamas, joden aan het gas) or producing hissing sounds that imitate the flow of gas.
However, hardcore Ajax fans, although mostly gentiles, are proud of their 'outsider' image as "Jews" and feel encouraged to display more Jewish/Israeli symbols at matches, using them essentially as a "badge of battle".
English premiership side Tottenham Hotspur F.C. has a similar situation.
Hamel, the only first-team member to die in World War II, was murdered in Auschwitz.
As of the 2007-08 season, no player will wear the number 14 shirt at Ajax, since the club decided to retire the shirt out of respect for legend Johan Cruijff. Cruijff himself said that it would be better if the best player of the team would wear number 14. Spanish midfielder Roger was the last player to wear the number.