Archive for January, 2011

What Became Of Ajax ’95 (Part 2)

Part two of this series looking at the 1995 Champions League winning team who defeated AC Milan in the final of the competition looks at the sides’ engine room, the midfield.  As with the backline this quartet is also an all Dutch affair, these players amassing an impressive 301 caps for the national side between them.

Some of the greatest midfield talent to ever come out of this proud footballing nation, backed up by an impressive array of honours, individual records and awards these players have played for some of the world’s most respected clubs.

Frank Rijkaard:  Another of the Ajax ’95 team that turned his hand to management once his playing days were over, winning La Liga (twice) and The Champions League with Barcelona and also coaching the Dutch national side to the semi final of Euro 2000.  He currently finds himself without a club having been relieved of his duties at Galatasary in the autumn of 2010.

The final of 1995 was the curtain closer on his illustrious playing career coming at the end of a second stint as an Ajax player.  Ironically, that night in Vienna the opposition club was the one at which he was most revered having won back to back European Cups in 1989 and 1990(himself scoring the only goal in the final defeat of Benfica), later repeating the feat in Serie A (’92 and ’93).

Earning 73 caps for the Netherlands he is the only player in this list to win a trophy with Oranje, part of the triumphant national side at Euro ’88 in West Germany.

Ronald De Boer:  An ambassador for the successful Qatar World Cup 2022 bid De Boer lives in Doha, the capital of the country where he ended his playing career following stints with Al-Rayyan and Al-Shamal, he also completes television work for sports channel Al Jazeera.

Another player enjoying his second stint at Ajax at the time of the 1995 final, having left to join Twente for two seasons.  The midfielder also played for Barcelona and Rangers in the second half of his career winning league titles in both countries in the process.  Playing side by side with twin brother Frank for most of his career he won 67 caps for the Dutch national team, a member of the 1998 World Cup side that reached the semi final stage in France.

Edgar Davids:  Now an ambassador for the official street soccer federation of the Netherlands (SVBN), founder of The @Foundation and also involved with The Suriname Conservation Foundation which sustains rainforests in Suriname (Davids’ birthplace).  He is the front man for MONTA (a street soccer apparel company) and was also seen on British television screens during the summer of 2010 as a pundit for ITV’s World Cup coverage in South Africa.  More recently Davids enjoyed a brief spell as a player for Crystal Palace between August and November 2010 having previously retired from the game in 2008.

Nicknamed The Pitbull, his career at Ajax began in 1991; one year after the final of 1995 Davids joined that night’s opposition, AC Milan before moving to Juventus the following season.  A successful spell wearing the bianconeri shirt of The Old Lady prior to moves that took the defensive midfielder to Barcelona, Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur, culminating with a final swansong at Ajax in the 2007/08 season.  The Pitbull can add 74 Netherlands caps to his impressive array of domestic league titles with Juventus and Ajax amongst other domestic and European trophies.

Clarence Seedorf:  The last of Seedorf’s 87 Oranje caps came in a European Championship qualifying match back in 2008, despite this his club career is still going strong.  AC Milan’s number 10 will be hoping to add to the honours he has obtained whilst wearing the famous rossoneri shirt, with the club still in contention in both Serie A and The Champions League.  The 35 year old received many plaudits for an impressive showing as a pundit for the BBC during last summer’s World Cup in South Africa and has also found time to establish his own charity;  Champions For Children.

Aged 16 years and 211 days Seedorf was to become Ajax’s youngest ever debutant and from here he never looked back, scooping two Eredivisie titles and a Champions League with the club before being transferred to Sampdoria.  He played in Italy for one season before Fabio Capello personally requested his signature for Real Madrid (aged 19).  Seedorf’s maiden season in Spanish football brought him a La Liga title, with a second Champions League winner’s medal following in 1998 before a move to Inter Milan. 

A transfer from Inter to fierce rivals AC Milan saw a flurry of trophies added to the player’s honours list.  A Coppa Italia and Champions League double was had in 2003 (marking Seedorf as the only player in history to win The Champions League with three different clubs), A triumphant Serie A campaign in 2004 led to the fourth domestic league title win of his career, a feat matched when he won The Champions League for the fourth time in 2007.  The final trophy of this impressive haul came in 2007 seeing Seedorf set another record, becoming the first European player to win the FIFA Club World Cup for three different clubs following success with Ajax (’95) and Real Madrid (’98).

Disregarding the fact that a majority of this triumphant side is Dutch there appears to be a vast amount of symmetry that runs throughout, this is no more apparent than in the midfield.  With three of these players hailing from Surinam, Seedorf must be eternally grateful to his parents for turning down a move to Real Madrid on his behalf aged 15, thus enabling him to go on and play in the same side as his boyhood idol Frank Rijkaard (whose father is Surinamese). 

The final player of Surinamese descent; Edgar Davids also played for AC Milan just like the other two and again all three share the impressive accolade of being named amongst the FIFA 100.  Despite the name the FIFA 100 is a list of the greatest ever 125 players to play the game nominated by none other than arguably the best player the world has ever seen: Pele.   

Without forgetting Ronald De Boer, who went on to play in Spain just like his three midfield compatriots.  Of the four only Rijkaard didn’t play for La Liga’s big two of Barcelona and Real Madrid, having a short stint in Spain with Real Zaragoza before his transfer to AC Milan.

Tribute must be paid to Ajax for giving these four remarkable players the opportunity to cut their teeth in senior football, with two of them (Davids and Seedorf) being promoted from the much lauded youth academy at the club.

What Became Of Ajax ’95 (Part 1)

Upon seeing Kanu’s name pop up on the videoprinter (do they still call it that!?) having scored in the 26th minute of Portsmouth’s game against Nottingham Forest in January it left me pondering what had happened to the rest of the famous Ajax team that defeated AC Milan in the final of The Champions League in 1995.

Many superlatives could be used as a prefix when describing this team due to the impressive array of individual talent on show.  However, famous seems most apt taking into account the vast amount of silverware amassed by each player in their irrespective careers around Europe and beyond, breaking records and writing themselves into the folklore of the modern game in the process.

With Louis Van Gaal deploying his favoured 3-4-3 formation in the final, the first instalment of this three part series will focus on the back line, who between them accumulated 356 caps for the Dutch national side over the course of their international playing careers.  Quite the foundation on which to build a successful side.  

Edwin Van Der Sar: At 40 years of age Van Der Sar is still plying his trade between the sticks, now into his sixth year at Manchester United having added another Champions League winner’s medal to his impressive list of honours as recently as 2008.  A fantastic career that will end at the close of the 2010/11 season following an announcement earlier this week, has also seen him don the gloves of Juventus and Fulham as well as gaining 130 caps for Holland (a national record having superseded Frank De Boer on 112 caps).

As well as numerous league titles and other domestic cup wins at Ajax and Manchester United individual plaudits have not been in short supply, named Best European Goalkeeper twice and Dutch Football Goalkeeper of the year on no fewer than four occasions to name just a few.

Danny Blind:  Currently assistant coach at Ajax to none other than the next name on this list, Blind returned to the Amsterdam clubs backroom staff in 2008 following a brief hiatus as director of his first ever club Sparta Rotterdam.  All of this after occupying the Ajax managerial hotseat between March ’05 and May ’06.

Captain of the winning side on the night, Blind was to complete his set of European club medals won with Ajax following the UEFA Cup Winners Cup and UEFA cup successes of ’87 and ’92 respectively.  Capped 42 times for the Netherlands the defender finally retired with Ajax having also won five Dutch Eredivisie Championships, four Dutch Cups, the Intercontinental Cup and European Super Cup leading him to become the only Dutch player to have ever won all international club competitions recognised by both FIFA and UEFA.

Frank De Boer:  Now aged 40 the younger of the De Boer twins currently holds the managerial reins at Ajax, he will hope to develop some of the talent he has nurtured during his time working with the Ajax youth setup.  Still early on in his managerial career he has also worked as assistant manager to the Dutch national side (a role which he occupied at South Africa 2010 where Oranje were defeated by Spain in the final), he will hope to emulate the successes of his playing career.

De Boer left Ajax to join Barcelona in 1998 where he added a La Liga title to the five league titles he won whilst a player with the Amsterdammers.  The player retired with Al-Ryann of Qatar in April 2006 following brief spells with Rangers and Galatasary.

Micheal Reiziger:  Currently studying towards his coaching badges whilst residing in Spain where he spent seven years of his playing career with Catalan giants FC Barcelona.

During his time with Barcelona the defender added back to back league titles, a UEFA Super Cup and a Spanish Cup to his already burgeoning clutch of domestic and European honours gained whilst playing for Ajax.  Stints in Italy and England with AC Milan and Middlesborough respectively sandwiched his time at Camp Nou.  The right back returned to his homeland with PSV Eindhoven having been awarded 72 Oranje caps, it was here that he called it a day but not before adding two further domestic league titles to his medal collection.

Coming into the final of ’95 Ajax had not won The Champions League since 1973 when it was then known as The European Cup, progression to the final was due in no small part to a solid defensive lineup that helped the team win the tournament without losing a game, only conceding four goals in the process.

Seeing as these four players have had glittering playing careers working under some of the greatest managers and coaches the game has ever seen it seems fitting that they should continue in football in some form of coaching capacity.  With De Boer and Blind instated as Ajax number 1 and 2 respectively, Reiziger coming to the end of his coaching badges and Sir Alex Ferguson leaving the door open for Van Der Sar to return to Old Trafford as a coach once he retires from playing it appears as though this will soon become reality.

It Began In 1992

It began in 1992; A doff of the cap for the advent of The Premier League and also an ironic musing that there really was football before this behemoth of the modern game came to the fore.

The Premier League has become the be all and end all of the English game, so much so that the playoff final which brings the curtain down on The Championship season is known as ‘the richest match in football’. The winner of this match reaching the higher echelons of the top flight, netting a cool £40m in the process. This without mentioning parachute payments which can reach up to £48m over four seasons even if the club is relegated after only one season in The Premier League.

Following the dark period of the 80’s it was the England team reaching the semi final of World Cup Italia ’90 that reignited the nations love for football, however it is The Premier League which has built upon this and encapsulated support from all corners of the globe.

Premier League matches are transmitted in 211 countries around the world with an estimated 575m homes receiving these broadcasts with no sign of the leagues reach dwindling. It is little surprise that many of the top flight clubs embark on pre season tours overseas to try and capitalise on the lucrative commercial gains that can be obtained from being affiliated with The Premier League.

Since The Premier Leagues inception in 1992 it has had the pleasure of hosting a plethora of talent both individually and collectively. From Arsenal to Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa to Wimbledon a total of 44 teams have graced the league with their presence, 4 of these teams having been crowned as champions. On an individual level fans have been blessed with being entertained by some of the greats of the modern game, listing them all would be like writing a who’s who of world football – from Asprilla, Bergkamp and Cantona to Tevez, Vieira and Zola.

With this being the first post from It Began In 1992 the aim is to keep it short and sweet, the above was intended to provide an insight into the choice of name for this blog and indeed its first entry.

Although this blog will predominantly speak about The Premier League, expanding on some of the topics touched upon in the previous few paragraphs (in particular the individual and collective brilliance that makes the league the greatest in the world), it will also focus on all things football both on these shores and abroad from the top flight down.

Look out for new posts at https://itbeganin1992.wordpress.com/, feel free to contact me via the blog, email or on twitter, your feedback is much appreciated.

itbeganin1992@gmail.com

@itbeganin1992

I92