LONDON: It is a cold Thursday morning at Ajax’s De Toekomst complex, where the canteen doubles as a trophy room, the sheer weight of football knowledge can be overwhelming, and the atmosphere is unsurprisingly buoyant after the events of the previous evening at the Amsterdam Arena. Nothing is being taken for granted but Ajax can be excused for feeling pleased with themselves after their stunning performance in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final. These occasions are supposed to be cagey, cautious affairs and they have just torn up the script by beating a dangerous Lyon side 4-1.
Out on one of the pitches, the team are doing a light recovery session. The rondos are over and the time has come for some shooting practice. Edwin van der Sar is watching from the touchline and the coach leading the forwards is Dennis Bergkamp. One of the players to catch the eye is Justin Kluivert, a young winger who keeps finding the top corner with eerie calm.
It is a scene that sums up Ajax’s philosophy, with each character representative of a part of the club’s soul, and the past and present combining to create a brighter future.
Bergkamp is the cerebral genius who looks as if he could still do a job on the pitch, Van der Sar the former goalkeeper who has become an unlikely marketing expert and Kluivert the teenage son of the man who scored the winning goal when Ajax won the last of their four European Cups by beating Milan 22 years ago. The manager is elsewhere. Peter Bosz, who was so fascinated by Ajax in the 90s that he would drive from Rotterdam to Amsterdam to watch Louis van Gaal’s training sessions and whose ideals developed from his heaving scrapbook of Johan Cruyff articles, spends the morning inside his office, pinpointing areas for improvement before Thursday night’s second leg at Stade de Gerland.
He is worried. Alexandre Lacazette, Lyon’s star striker, is fit again after a thigh injury. Agencies
ISLAMABAD: Islamabad Police have arrested nine outlaws including two drug smugglers and recovered narcotics, wine and weapons from their possession,...Read more