In terms of youth development, it has long been said that where Ajax leads, the rest tend to follow.
The Amsterdam giants, kings of European club football on four separate occasions, have certainly earned a reputation for possessing a productive and at times prolific conveyer belt of fresh young talent, with legendary players such as Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Dennis Bergkamp among countless to have rolled off their production line.
They have remained pre-eminent in this respect and it was certainly no surprise that, of the players involved in last season's UEFA Champions League, more had been produced by Ajax's world-renowned youth academy than any other, with every graduate schooled in Ajax's much-admired football philosophy.
The club's vision in this aspect of their development is simple: 'To continue to be the most successful football academy.' However, with a vision must come a strategy, and Ajax's is to be innovative and 'challenge the status quo', something illustrated by their commitment to leading the way in the use of FIFA-certified artificial turf.
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In 2002, the current Dutch league leaders became one of the first clubs in the world to install FIFA RECOMMENDED 1 STAR turf and recently upgraded their installations to the latest generation of artificial turf, the FIFA RECOMMENDED 2 STAR.
It is widely believed that such high-quality artificial turf will become the norm in the next decade, and Ajax's academy coaches certainly appreciate its value as a playing and learning environment.
The club's coaching staff have also led from the front in acknowledging the impact of players' psychology in their response to the artificial turf, with every member of the academy team enthusiastic about, and committed to, supporting the many benefits that FIFA RECOMMENDED 2 STAR turf can have in the development of yet more young players to follow in Cruyff and Van Basten's illustrious footsteps.