This week SoccerBible went on a little excursion behind-the-scenes with Ajax Amsterdam, giving our fans a chance to see what it's like on Champions League day as Ajax played host to Real Madrid.
Fans of the SoccerBible will know whenever an opportunity presents itself for us to share an insight into the football world, you don't need to ask us twice! So when our friends at adidas invited us to visit the Amsterdam Arena to go behind-the-scenes we were on the next flight over armed with cameras and dictaphone to report back.
Ajax versus Real Madrid is quite a spectacle of a game, and although the score is academic now, it's worth reminding ourselves that between the sides they have won 13 Champions League trophies! Upon arrival at the stadium, as with many of the European giants, you are struck by the size of the stadium, which in this case has a main road and car park running beneath it - that's some impressive engineering!
We were taken on a guided tour of the stadium, and when we walked down to the pitch the nerves began to slightly tingle, as you begin to imagine how it must feel for a player to step out and play in such an arena.
It would have been criminal to have gone to Ajax and not immersed
ourselves in the great history of the club, and it's footballing ethos. You also have to remind yourself of the great players that have
donned the famous white and red striped shirt, such as Johan Cruyff,
Marco Van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, Clarence Seedorf, Dennis Bergkamp and
Before the Champions League game kicked-off, SoccerBible had the privilege of meeting and
talking to a couple of Ajax legends - Dennis Bergkamp and Wim Jonk. We chatted to Bergkamp about coaching at youth level and the Ajax
philosophy of playing football, but we couldn't resist asking Dennis
about Arsenal. He told us he was disappointed about the Spurs result
and unfortunately he'd only caught the second half, but he still follows
Arsenal and when quizzed who he'd support if Arsenal played Ajax, he struggled over divided loyalties yet said he would favour the Gunners!
Wim Jonk, who also coaches at the club, briefed us on the game and told us which players to look out for. He also brought the youngster Aras Özbiliz
to our attention, although Aras was on the bench Wim told us to keep an eye out for him in the future as he's a bit special, so remember where you heard that name first!
As you would expect the pitch was an unbelievable playing surface, one we
could only dream of playing on as it looks like a perfect green
carpet. The stands themselves are intimidating structures banked steeply
onto the pitch, and with the roof on you're talking a cauldron of
atmosphere, enhanced by some frantic flag waving.
As the game kicked-off you find yourself following Cristiano Ronaldo around the pitch. He's the pantomime villain for the evening, and it seems that if he's not doing something brilliant he strolling back onside after complaining about a supposed foul. But when Ronaldo is on the ball you're expecting something special, and despite his frustrations in the first half Ronaldo was the hero netting two goals.
To the credit of Ajax they worked hard throughout the 90 minutes, but were simply just outclassed. Their fans were spectacular thoughout the evening, and the Ajax Ultra's could be heard singing for the entire 90 minutes.
Overall it was a spectacular day, and with a stadium as impressive as
the Amsterdam Arena and the history of the club, it's a shame not to see Ajax challenging Europe's elite. But with the fans and structure in place, Ajax's time will surely come again!