Ajax and Feyenoord. Feyenoord and Ajax. The two biggest rivals in Dutch football. Since the first game in 1921, it has always been a grudge-match. Ajax won that game with 3-2 but after protests of Feyenoord, the full time score was officially set at 2-2. It’s also a game between the two biggest cities of Holland: Amsterdam and Rotterdam. In Spain it’s El Clasico, in Holland it’s De Klassieker. The main football game of the season. The main football rivalry of the Netherlands, the most important game of the year, that’s Ajax – Feyenoord. But is it still like it has been before? No, unfortunately not.

Ajax and Feyenoord have had many clashes on the football pitch since 1921, but not only the teams, also the supporters have had clashes of which ‘the Battle of Beverwijk’ in 1997 was infamous. To make a long story a short one: One Ajax fan, Carlo Picornie was beaten to death by rival supporters. It wasn’t on match day. It was a meeting of supporters with the only goal to fight. Result: one dead. As a result of the incident, the two Klassiekers in 1997/98 were played without away fans. In April 2004, Ajax supporters abused players of Feyenoord during the Reserves game. They got hit and kicked by the Ajax fans. Ajax players and their coach had to jump and protect the players in Feyenoord’s red and white. It’s too crazy for words. A year later, in April 2005, riots took place around Feyenoord’s ground De Kuip. Travelling Ajax fans had demolished the trains transporting them to Rotterdam, and were forced to wait outside the stadium until the match was over. Meanwhile, Feyenoord supporters who had just seen their team lose, were determined to clash with the rivals from Amsterdam. Because of this, the mayors of both Amsterdam and Rotterdam made an agreement with the KNVB to ban visiting fans from the away games for the next five seasons in an effort to curb the violence. In February 2009, Feyenoord supporters sing offensive chants towards Ajax and their players during the Reserves game. From that moment, both clubs have decided to play also the Reserves games without away fans.

De Klassieker without away fans isn’t a real game anymore. There’s no banter between the supporters. They still sing songs to humiliate the other teams, they still abuse the other team, they still make funny banters but all this doesn’t really make sense. Something’s missing. Supporters of both clubs agree on that one. Banners with ‘De Klassieker is killed’ etc. are shown. You need two sides to make a great atmosphere. Even though they hate each other with a passion, Ajax supporters need the Feyenoord supporters and the other way around to make it a real football game.

It’s not only the fact that supporters aren’t allowed in each others grounds anymore that has led to an Klassieker that isn’t a real Klassieker anymore. It’s also the difference in the league table. Feyenoord aren’t the top club anymore they used to be. Same for Ajax, but at least this club are still contenders for the league title every year. Feyenoord are contenders for the 4th, 5th, 6th or 7th spot (normally). This season they’re even fighting not to get into the relegation zone. Ajax vs. Feyenoord was supposed to be a top game, a game that could maybe decide who would win the league, a game with high expectations. Ajax have won 90% of the games in the last 10 years. The tension is gone. It’s more like a normal game these days. Like Jan Vertonghen said: ‘it’s still De Klassieker but in my opinion it’s not a top game anymore like the games against PSV and Twente are’. That doesn’t mean it’s not an important game anymore. It still is Ajax – Feyenoord. From Ajax’ point of view, this is a game that just can’t be lost (and it’s the same from Feyenoord’s point of view). Still a special game. For the fans, for the players and for everybody that’s involved with one of the clubs.  It’s just that it’s not the same as it was anymore, and that’s a real pity.

Ajax – Feyenoord is like a pie without whipped cream nowadays: it’s nice but not irresistible.