The Netherlands

Celebrating 120 years of Ajax

Ajax Amsterdam v NEC Nijmegen - Eredivisie
© Getty Images
  • Ajax celebrate their 120th anniversary today
  • The Amsterdam club has produced countless world-class players
  • The No14 shirt has been permanently retired

🎂 Happy Birthday

Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp, Ronald de Boer, Nwankwo Kanu, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Luis Suarez are just some of football’s greatest-ever names to have worn Ajax’s legendary red and white shirt.

Today, 18 March 2020, we congratulate Amsterdamsche Football Club Ajax on reaching its 120th anniversary and look forward to many more Ajax stars lighting up the footballing world in the years to come.

I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal.

Johan Cruyff

📝 The club today

"Ajax are back to full health," said coach Erik ten Hag during a 2018/19 season in which he led his young side to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. Throughout the campaign, Ten Hag's charges played a breathtaking brand of football that was reminiscent of the ‘total football’ that captivated fans and brought such success during the Cruyff era.

Ajax’s brightest starlets were snapped up by some of Europe’s biggest clubs last off-season. Frenkie de Jong moved to Barcelona, while 19-year-old captain and defensive leader Matthijs de Ligt joined forces with Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus. Hakim Ziyech, meanwhile, is set to join Chelsea at the end of this season.

That exodus of talent meant that Ajax failed to progress beyond the group stage of this year’s Champions League but the Amsterdam giants will no doubt bounce back with an array of new names on the backs of their shirts. Because just as Johan Cruyff once said, it is no secret that youth is the key to the club’s success.

🏆 The trophy cabinet

Domestic honours

  • Eredivisie: 34
  • KNVB Cup: 19
  • Johan Cruyff Shield (Dutch Super Cup): 9

🌍 International honours

  • European Cup / UEFA Champions League: 4
  • European Cup Winners’ Cup: 1
  • UEFA Cup: 1
  • UEFA Super Cup: 3
  • Intercontinental Cup: 2

*The titles listed here are the most important in the club’s history and do not include every trophy

👀 Looking back

Han Dade, Carel Reeser and Floris Stempel founded the ‘Football Club Ajax’ at a historic meeting at the Cafe Oost-Indie in Amsterdam’s Kalverstraat on 18 March 1900. Success soon followed, with two second-place finishes in the AVB Championship. Ajax enjoyed their first heyday in the 1930s, winning seven league championships and five national championships in the space of ten years.

The team experienced its second era of success under coach Rinus Michels, who introduced the attacking style that the club is still known for today. Under the watchful eye of the ‘General’, Ajax won four league titles and three KNVB Cups in six years, securing their first domestic double in 1966/1967. In 1969, Ajax became the first Dutch club to reach a European Cup final, and although they lost 4-1 to AC Milan, their inexorable rise was well underway. Ajax won the European Cup three times in a row in 1971, 1972 and 1973 and lifted the Intercontinental Cup for the first time in 1972.

On 24 May 1995, Ajax celebrated their fourth triumph in Europe’s biggest club competition as Patrick Kluivert netted the winner against AC Milan in Vienna.

AJAX AMSTERDAM CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SIEGER 1995
© Getty Images

🔢 Records and stats

👕 Most games played for Ajax: Sjaak Swart (463)

⚽️ Most goals scored: Piet van Reenen (214)

🎯 Most goals in a single season: Henk Groot (41)

👏🏻 Biggest domestic win (Eredivisie): 12-1 against Vitesse Arnhem (1971/72)

👏🏻 Biggest international win (European Cup): 10-0 against Omonia Nikosia (1979/80)

👀 Looking ahead

Ajax’s legendary academy bears the name De Toekomst – “the future”. It is a mine of talent that has been producing gems for years. The first-team squad that embarked on that stunning recent run to the semi-finals of the Champions League last year included 13 academy graduates. As well as providing young players with an excellent grounding in the game, the club has also acted as a springboard for the careers of eventual global stars such as Clarence Seedorf, Wesley Sneijder, Christian Eriksen and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

What makes the Ajax academy so unique? Part of its secret is the emphasis placed on technique, intelligence, personality and speed – the TIPS model.

There is also a focus on continuity. All youth sides play in the same 4-3-3 system as the first team, meaning youngsters can adapt when they make the jump up to the professional ranks. The academy also goes to great lengths to ensure that its young players identify with the club from the start. All youth teams wear the same training kits and matchday strips, and Ajax aim to retain former players at the club as youth coaches.

When scouting for new talent, Ajax look well beyond their backyard for future stars, and do not limit their search to the Netherlands alone. Over the years, the academy has established an extensive network of partners that includes the following clubs, among others:

  • Ajax Cape Town (since 1999)
  • Almere City (since 2005)
  • Barcelona (since 2007)
  • Beijing Guoan (since 2007)
  • Cruzeiro (since 2007)
  • Palmeiras (since 2010)
  • FK AS Trencin (since 2012)
  • Sagan Tosu (since 2018)
  • Sydney FC (since 2018)
  • Sparta Rotterdam (since 2019)
  • Sharjah FC (since 2020)

Ajax on the world stage

Many of Ajax’s players have dazzled on the international stage, particularly at FIFA World Cups. At the height of their success, the Oranje could always rely on a strong Ajax contingent when they took on the best teams in the world.

The Netherlands reached the final with Cruyff and Johan Neeskens at the 1974 FIFA World Cup™, showcasing the best football of the tournament along the way.

Dennis Bergkamp made his international breakthrough at the 1994 World Cup and secured a move to Arsenal, before stunning the world with a dream strike against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup.

Ajax midfielder Sunday Oliseh netted a legendary goal for Nigeria against Spain at France 1998 and before him two other Ajax players had already made a name for themselves on the international stage with Nigeria. Nwankwo Kanu won an Olympic gold medal in 1996 and then competed at the World Cup in 1998 and 2002, while Finidi George was a standout performer for the Super Eagles at USA 1994 as they reached the Round of 16.

No less than 11 of the Netherlands side that reached the 2010 World Cup Final previously passed through the Ajax academy: Sander Boschker, Maarten Stekelenburg, Khalid Boulahrouz, John Heitinga, Gregory van der Wiel, Andre Ooijer, Nigel de Jong, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart, Ryan Babel and Eljero Elia.

Ibrahimovic's habit of scoring extravagant goals during his time at Ajax earned him the admiration of football fans all around the world. It is no surprise that the Swedish marksman went on to win the FIFA Puskas Award during his long and impressive career.

Uruguayan record goalscorer Luis Suarez also honed his striking instincts in an Ajax shirt. El Pistolero went on to earn a reputation as a world-class forward at Liverpool and Barcelona.

14

In April 2007, Ajax announced that they would be retiring the No14 shirt in honour of Johan Cruyff to mark the legendary player's 60th birthday.

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