Founded on March 18, 1900 AFC Ajax is one of the largest and most storied clubs in European football. After their founding and acceptance into Dutch Football Ajax spent ten seasons in the country’s second division before earning promotion for the 1911 season. The move to the first division did not last long though as just three seasons later the club was relegated for the first and only time in its illustrious history.
The fate of the club quickly changed with the arrival of trainer Jack Reynolds who would spend 35 years at the helm of the team. Under the leadership of this legendary coach Ajax won their first National Championship in 1918. From that point on Ajax could always be found at or near the top of the Dutch table. It was also Reynolds and his revolutionary training methods that built the foundation for what has now become the world famous Ajax Youth Training Program.
The historic win of 1918 was the first of what currently stands at an astonishing 29 league titles for the Amsterdam club. Five of those magical wins came in the decade of the 1930′s when the dominance of the red and white was at one its highest points ever. The 1930′s were also a special decade for the club as in 1934 they moved into what would become known as “De Meer.” Their new stadium where which legends would be born. It was there that Ajax would call home fore over 60 years and be the place that the club would come to dominate Dutch football and grow into a power across Europe.
Ajax’ first taste of European competition came in 1961 when the club became the first from the Netherlands to participate in the European Cup Winners Cup. Success on the European front loomed in the future as the club found a place in the 1969 Cup final before bringing home their first title in 1971. Starting with the magical victory in 1971 Ajax went on to win three consecutive European Champions Cups. In 1972, led by the world famous Johan Cruijff had one of the best seasons ever by a professional football team winning the National Championship, the Dutch Cup, the European Champions Cup and the World Cup.
“De Meer” was also the place where Ajax would develop it’s world famous youth training program and develop some of the worlds best football players, a philosophy that is even more important to their success today.
The success of the late 1960′s and early 1970′s although impossible to duplicate was followed up by 25 more years of success for the club that included 11 National Championships in the final quarter of the century. The success was highlighted by another exciting venture in Europe as Ajax again became European and world champions in 1995.
The need for a new stadium brought with it the closing of “De Meer” in 1996 and the move to the Amsterdam ArenA. With it a new chapter in Ajax history opened. In 1998 Ajax would again find themselves at the top winning both the National Championship and their 14th Dutch Cup in 1998. Now it is time once again for the club to celebrate a new beginning. This time as they head into their second century as one of Europe’s most innovative and successful football clubs.
Extra information and how to get to the Amsterdam Arena
You can go on guided tours on most days excluding match days, no need to book ahead and the tour is in English, you can extend the tour by seeing the museum too, that is also at the stadium as is a fan shop. The training ground is right next door and I once saw Litmanen as he just signed back for Ajax, well worth a trip on the train. You can get there three ways, either a €20 taxi, bus (routes 355 and 366 from Centraal Station) or ideally metro (route 54) which takes you straight from Amsterdam City Centre to Amsterdam Bijlmer ArenA Station which is next to the stadium.