After six painful years of waiting, losing and near misses, Ajax are finally the champions of the Netherlands.
This season was close and it is a testament of the increasingly competitive nature of the Eredivisie. No one team dominates the rest any longer. The make-up of the Eredivisie is no longer of Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV. In the last couple of years, AZ Alkmaar and Twente have been disrupting the equation. This year, it were Ajax, PSV and Twente. Feyenoord meanwhile were nowhere to be seen, except some weeks ago when they embarrassed PSV.
The fact that both the top two teams met at the very end of the season made one thing true: everybody was in control of their own fate. There was no luck and no hoping some other teams would do someone a favor. In the end, there were pure initiatives.
The match was a competitive game, with both sides assaulted each other’s defense relentlessly. Both took the game seriously, knowing they had everything to lose and everything to gain. There was no rest. It felt like ice hockey. The Ajax-Twente game was the definition of competition.
Several factors made the game the way it was.
First, it was the championship decider and it is especially relevant for Twente. Twente are on the rise and the second consecutive championship for them might seal their status as the new Dutch powerhouse where AZ Alkmaar has failed.
Second, only the winner would qualify directly into the lucrative Champions’ League. Ajax, PSV and Twente need to participate in the Champions League to stay in black. Ajax’s was in red for the longest time and that trend stopped only last year after Ajax played in the Champions’ League. The sales of Suarez helped but really, it was the Champions’ League.
The Europe money was all the more important considering that Martin Jol, Ajax’s former manager, left because there was no funds for new player. Ajax’s finance frustrated him. With this win and future money from the Champions’ League, Frank de Boer can strengthen the team in time when rumors of a number of key players, namely Christian Eriksen, Gregory van der Wiel and Maarten Stekelenburg, are leaving. And Ajax of course, have to find a replacement for Luiz Suarez. Miralem Sulejmani and Mounir El Hamdaoui simply will not cut it. I like El Hamdaoui but I think Ajax need someone of greater caliber.
Third, the loser of the match could have lost everything. The top three teams were that close with each other. In the end, it did not matter because PSV failed to win their last match.
Fourth, Ajax lost last week to Twente in a KNVB Cup final. Ajax’s loss was painful because Twente made an amazing comeback to win the game three goals to two when Ajax had led by two goals to none. So this league match was chance for revenge for Ajax. And revenge is best served cold.
I wish Ajax had Suarez to celebrate with. Ajax are partly here because of him.
And I do wish all the players stay with Ajax. The biggest problem with Ajax is retaining the players. Success while sweet, as always been a curse to Ajax. Ajax’s win of the European Cup in 1995 and the subsequent participation in 1996 European final are two cases in point.
What is great is that two former players from the 1990s era led Ajax to this victory. Frank de Boer and Danny Blind have led Ajax successfully where others in the recent past have failed. The victory is also important in creating stability in Ajax.
Apart from the fact that Ajax have been changing its coach all too frequently, Johann Cruyff the Ajax legend is playing a divisive role in Ajax and is massing his influence against the what Ajax are at the moment. The win gives de Boer the capital he needs to hold Cruyff off and provides some stability in Ajax.
I honestly think Ajax need the stability that de Boer and Blind can now offer to the team.
And, if I may:
We are the champions!