Ajax FC - The Amsterdam ArenA - Capacity: 51,600 All Seater
The Stadium – The Amsterdam ArenA The Amsterdam ArenA was one of the most modern stadiums in the world when it opened its doors in 1996, and still today it has a number of features that make it unique. Ajax’s previous grounds were the De Meer Stadium, located around 2 miles to the north of the ArenA, and the Olympic Stadium located in the south east of the city. The De Meer stadium was Ajax’s home for over 60 years. It was a tiny, basic stadium but it saw many of the most famous games in the club’s history. The bigger European games were played across the city at the Olympic stadium, which was built for the 1928 Olympic games. During its peak the stadium held over 64,000 spectators. It is now used for athletics meetings, whilst the De Meer was demolished and is now a housing estate.
The Amsterdam ArenA opened to a great fanfare with a friendly versus AC Milan in 1996, after a two-year construction period and a cost of €98million that was met by the local authorities. The original plan was that the new stadium would be the centrepiece of Amsterdam’s successful 1992 Olympic bid, but this was won by Barcelona.
The stadium was the first in the world to have a retractable roof, allowing the stadium to be used as a multi-purpose arena. However, this brought its own problems as the stadium grass failed to grow in the shadow of the roof, and it was replaced four times in its first year. The stadium was also the first to have a road run underneath the pitch. Fans enter the stadium at ground level, but the pitch is actually three levels up, with the lower two levels taken up by a car park and a road that links the east and west of the stadium area. Therefore, expect a huge trek upwards if you are in the upper tier, although the stadium does have a number of escalators to take fans up to the stars. The lowest levels of seating are located around 6 foot above the pitch level, so views are excellent, as is the leg room.
The stadium was also one of the first in the world to be cash free, using the ArenA card, similar to those used by Schalke and Vitesse Arnhem. There are a number of points around the stadium to buy the cards, which come in €10, €20 and €50 denominations. Once you have a card then it can be topped up on any future visits. If you have any credit left at the end of the day you can exchange the card back for cash at the same kiosks. The atmosphere in the stadium on a match day is fantastic, with the two huge screens hanging from the North and South ends providing a great view of the action as well.
Who Plays There? - FC AJAX - http://www.ajax.com As with most famous clubs in the world, Ajax can be recognised by their unique shirts. The shirt is timeless, having been worn by the club for nearly 80 years. The white shirt with the single red vertical stripe represents the foundations of the club – technical excellence, hard work and respect. Today, the club’s academy, The Toekomst, still continues to produce a conveyor belt of talent that has produced some of the world’s greatest players, including Marco Van Basten, Johan Cruyff and the De Boer twins.
The team were originally formed in 1900 with a combination of a number of local teams to compete as the sole representative of Amsterdam in the newly formed Netherlands Regional Championship. It was nearly 20 years before they won their first title, taking the Dutch National Championships in 1918. In 1928 the club moved to its new stadium, the De Meer and under new English coach Jack Reynolds started a remarkable run that saw them capture five titles during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.
The club’s fame still hadn’t stretched outside the Netherlands, as the league was perceived as a weak one when compared to the likes of England, Spain and Italy. This didn’t change for decades, as the club continued to struggle in Europe. They played in their first European club in 1957 and reached the quarter finals. In the late 1960’s Dutch coach Rinus Michels took over the team and started a revolution that was to lead to the club being crowned one of the greatest teams Europe had ever seen. He introduced the concept of “Total Football” – the idea that any player could cover for any position on the pitch, allowing fast attacking play that often overwhelmed their opposition. In the space of 10 years the club went from also rans in their own domestic league to winning the European Cup three years in a row.
They started with consecutive League titles in 1966, 1967 and 1968. The following season they reached their first European Cup Final but the young team captained by Cruyff lost to AC Milan. The team was strengthened by new talent including Johann Neeskens, Arrie Haan and Rudi Krol. During the remarkable three-year period from 1971 to 1973, the club won three European Cups, two European Super Cups, the Intercontinental Cup (becoming the World Club Champions in 1972) as well two League titles and two Cup finals.
Whilst domestic honours continued to arrive at the De Meer, including the double in 1979 and 1983, Europe provided a bridge too far as the English teams dominated the competition. In 1982 Cruyff returned to the club bring to them the double in a team that included a 17-year-old Marco Van Basten for the first time, and midfielder Frank Rijkaard. It would be a few years later that Rijkaard would depart for AC Milan and his place would be taken by Denis Bergkamp.
In 1991 Louis Van Gaal took over the reigns of the team and oversaw the second coming in terms of European football. He was responsible for blooding players such as Edwin Van Der Saar, The De Boer twins, Edgar Davids, Marc Overmars and Patrick Kluivert. His first success was the UEFA Cup in 1992 when they defeated Torino on away goals. A year later he captured the national championship again, giving them entry into the European Cup for the 1995 season.
In an impressive faring in the group stages, they won a group containing AC Milan, Salzburg and AEK Athens. They had luck on their side in the next round, brushing aside a weak Hadjuk Split before beating Barcelona 5-2 in a classic semi-final encounter in the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam. The final saw the young team pitched against one of Europe’s strongest teams, Juventus. In a tense game in Vienna a late strike by Kluivert was enough to bring the title back to Amsterdam.
The following season their European form was just as impressive in their new stadium, scoring 15 goals, and conceding just 1 in their 5 wins at the group stages, before beating Borussia Dortmund and Panathinaikos to reach the final against Juventus again, this time in Rome. Unfortunately, lady luck was not on their side as the team lost on penalties after a 1-1 draw during normal time.
The team then dispersed across Europe, and although Van Gaal, and latterly Ronald Koeman delivered domestic honours with regularity, it was the team from Eindhoven that took over the mantle as the Netherlands best team. Ajax took the double in 2002 and the title in 2004 but have since failed to make an impression in Europe.
Last season they made the Group stages, and surprised many by finishing runners up to Arsenal but couldn’t overcome Inter Milan in the next round. This season they lost a qualifying match with Copenhagen, meaning that the team had to settle for a place in the UEFA Cup. In the league, Henk te Cate’s team started off at a blistering pace, winning 10 of their first 11 games, although a home defeat to PSV in early November saw the team from Eindhoven take over the lead in the Eredivisie. Jaap Stam is currently adding the experience to the team, and Klaas Jan Huntelaar scoring the goals.
How to get to the Amsterdam ArenA The stadium is within walking distance of two railway stations – Duivendrecht and Biljmer. Biljmer is the nearest to the stadium, being less than a 5 minute walk away, but consequently is the most crowded. Services run to these stations from the central station platforms 2 and 7b, taking less than 15 minutes. There are more trains put on before and after the games to cope with the demands of the fans. A ticket to Biljmer costs €3.70 return.
If you are coming by metro, then the stadium has its own stop, close to the north and east stands called Strandvliet/ArenA. The station is on line 54 in the direction of Gein from the central station. A ticket will cost €4.50, although it is probably easier to buy a day pass for €6.30 if you are travelling around a bit.
If you are coming direct from the airport then catch a train to Duivendrecht, which runs every 15 minutes and costs €5.10 return. From here, exit the station and then follow the train line path alongside the training pitches. The stadium is visible from quite a distance away. A taxi from the city centre will cost around €20, and they will wait outside the main entrance to the stadium after the game.
How to get a ticket for the Amsterdam ArenA As with all other clubs in the Dutch league, you cannot just book a ticket on spec, or turn up to get in unless you have a Club membership card. But fear not. Like PSV Eindhoven, the club reserve a number of tickets that are specifically available for foreign fans. The club also offer special packages that combine lunch at the training (The Toekomst), entry to the museum, an official picture taken on the pitch and a ticket for the game. These packages start from around €95 per person and can be booked direct from the club.
If you are able to get a ticket for a league game then you should not pay more than €40 for a seat in the East or West stands. The average attendance at the ground for league games is close to 48,000 so expect most games to be available on a match day. The ticket office is located on the west side of the stadium, close to gate B. Check the latest details on the English version of the website.
The Museum If you are bored of visiting the Sex/Hemp/Torture/Anne Frank museums on the Amsterdam tourist trail, may I suggest a visit to the Amsterdam Arena, home of Ajax.
As ever check the Ajax website but normally vary between 5-7 tours daily.Adults 10.50 euro, kids 9.50 euro. Lasting an hour, the enthusiastic guide will show you the:
- The poor quality pitch and efforts made to maintain it under roof, - Press room with a fantastic photograph of Ajax players in classic 60s pose.
Two tips to improve the tour. First, let the punters into the dressing room and allow them to walk onto the pitch. Secondly, why can’t the guide do the pitch visit/talk at the 'home end', with its opportunities to photograph the artistic graffiti of the F – Side fans. A talk at this point about supporters input into Ajax club would enhance the tour.
Tour ends with free entry to Ajax museum. As well as an impressive collection of European Cups, the museum was memorable for the great artifacts and momentos on display. Highlights for me included a photograph of a teenage Marco Van Basten, It was reasuring to see that if I did share Van Basten’s prodigous footballing talent, at least we both had bad skin and 80s casual haircut.
Thanks to Paul Whitaker from the Maracana Manor for the above information
Getting around Amsterdam is a compact city and is best transversed on foot. Most places that you will want to visit, apart from the stadium, can be reached within 20 minutes from any point. The city does offer a host of different types of transport, including canal boats as well as the more conventional trams, metro and buses. GVB passes are available for 24, 48 and 72 hours offering discounted travel – these can be purchased from most major hotels and the tourist office opposite Central Station.
Schiphol Amsterdam International Airport is one of the busiest in the world. It is also one of the most weather-prone, meaning that early morning flights in and out are often delayed or cancelled due to fog, which has a knock on effect throughout the day. The airport is huge and has a couple of hotels within the terminals, hundreds of shops and its own Casino. The airport is served daily from the UK by Easyjet from Belfast, Bristol, London Gatwick, London Stansted, East Midlands and Newcastle, BA fly here from London Heathrow as too do BMI. Jet2 arrive here from Manchester and Leeds Bradford, and ThomsonFly have just opened this route from Doncaster Sheffield. Finally, VLM fly here from London City.
To reach the city centre from the airport, head to the railway station under Schiphol Plaza where trains leave every 15 mins with the journey taking around 15minutes into central station. A ticket costs €3.60 return and can be bought from the yellow machines.