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 from 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.
It’s El Clasico in Spain, the Old Firm derby in Scotland, Superclásico in Argentina, and De Klassieker in Holland – the biggest game of the season. The main football rivalry of the Netherlands, the most important game of the year, that’s Ajax against Feyenoord. They meet tonight in the quarter-final of the KNVB Cup in the Amsterdam ArenA. A game the fans have been looking forward to since the day of the draw.
The hatred of the fans towards each other lies so deep that it’s not only the two clubs who’ve had clashes, but also the fans. ‘The Battle of Beverwijk’ in 1997 was infamous. To cut a long story short: 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 of fighting. As a result of the incident, the two Klassiekers in 1997/98 were played without away fans. In April 2004, Ajax supporters attacked players of Feyenoord during the Reserves game, kicking and hitting them, and Ajax players and their coach had to jump and protect their opponents. 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.
Apart from the fact I don’t understand violence in football, I don’t feel the hatred towards Feyenoord the majority of Ajax fans feel.
I was born and bred in Tilburg, a city a hundred kilometres south of Amsterdam. My dad has always been an Ajax supporter, despite living in Willem II’s city. If he’s to believe, I became an avid Ajax supporter at the age of four. He has obviously influenced that ‘decision’.
In football you have love and hate and everything in between. You feel an unconditional love for the club you support. There’s also the complete opposite feeling of hate. Normally you feel hate towards your so called biggest rivals. I’m different. I’ve grown up with a dad who had a huge aversion against PSV. I’ve developed one too.
I don’t know if it’s because we aren’t from Amsterdam and don’t understand this Rotterdam-Amsterdam battle. Or because we live in a city near Eindhoven. Or just because Feyenoord is actually a likeable club. They do play attractive football. They have very loyal supporters who are there in good but especially in bad times. They have the most beautiful ground in Holland and they haven’t won a championship since 1999.
The latter could be a part why I don’t feel the hatred towards Feyenoord. They haven’t won the Eredivisie title in the majority of the 22 years I’ve been on this planet. They’ve faced a serious struggle in the last few years and are slowly getting back to where they belong. In those years, PSV and even FC Twente have become bigger rivals in our battle for the championship. PSV has arguably become our biggest rival. They won four consecutive league titles from 2005 to 2008. FC Twente won it in 2009 before Ajax started their reign that has yet to be ended.
I’ve always wondered why I dislike PSV so much and, unlike the majority of my fellow Ajax supporters, not Feyenoord. As I’ve said, there could be a geographical reason. Another reason could be that both clubs have a successful youth academy, giving young players a chance to prove themselves instead of spending a lot of money on new players. Basically because they can’t (Feyenoord) or don’t want to (Ajax).
PSV have been throwing money around in the past few years. In 2011, the Eindhoven city council agreed to bail out their local football club by buying the ground under its stadium for 49 million euros and leasing it back to the club for 2.3 million euros a year. Meanwhile they were on the verge of signing Feyenoord’s attacking midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum for €5 million. The club had already almost finalised the transfer of internationals Kevin Strootman and Dries Mertens from FC Utrecht for a fee of €13 million. This transfer window they signed Bryan Ruiz on loan from Fulham FC until the end of the season for a fee of 1 million euros. Many people, including me, question that signing. Ruiz stands in the way of (youth) players like Florian Jozefzoon, Zakaria Bakkali and Luciano Narsingh.
It’s something that’d never happen at both Ajax and Feyenoord. The youth academy is the artery of both clubs. In quite a few ways, Ajax and Feyenoord are more similar than fans would like to admit.
I’ll never completely figure out why I have a strong aversion to PSV and a slightly milder one against Feyenoord. It probably is because it’s an emotional issue, which are hard to explain. One thing is for sure: a victory against Feyenoord will still always be as sweet as against PSV.