Ajax in Amsterdam, Part One

Editor’s Note: Today we welcome a new contributor to the Bakker Bugle Blog: Dave! We’ll let his work speak for itself, for now.

Sunday morning started quietly enough, with breakfast at a pancake house by the canal near our hotel. On our way to The Pancake Corner (this one, not the other one), we noticed a work crew setting up a temporary wall on the avenue outside our hotel. Will’s best guess was the wall was a temporary board for posting political messages prior to an election. We made a note to return to the wall and discover its purpose, at the end of our day.

After breakfast, the group broke up, with plans to meet at the Heineken Experience at one o’clock. Anita, Katherine and I went to the Van Gogh Museum on the Museumplein. On the square, we saw crews working on a large concert hall.

Once again, our curiosity was piqued. After bandying about a few ideas, we decided that they were cleaning up from a concert — most likely Elton John and Bryan Adams.

While we wandered on the Museumplein, I saw the first couple groups of people wearing red and white football shirts — or jerseys as we would call them in the states. Ninety minutes later, after perusing the works of Van Gogh, I noticed even more groups of red and white jerseys walking through the Museumplein. At that point, it occured to me that Ajax, the Amsterdam team, must have a game today. I asked Anita to text Will and to ask him when the Ajax game would start.

Now, I’ve been a follower of European football since my first trip to Europe, during the 2002 World Cup. I watch the major international tournaments, the Premier League, and the Champions League. Therefore, I know of Ajax, the major football club in Amsterdam and the Netherlands.

One of the mysteries of the day, for me, came from the fact that football clubs compete in multiple competitions in any given season. Each club has a domestic league to which it belongs, and its ranking is usually governed by a points system. As there are no playoffs, these titles can be won before all the games are played. It would be similar to the Colts locking up a playoff birth with a few weeks left in the season — but without a playoff. If this happens, all the remaining games are meaningless, at least for the fortunate team — and they are played only for pride.

Clubs also play in a domestic cup, which is usually open to all the professional teams in the country. The domestic cup format is similar to the NCAA basketball tournament, where one loss eliminates you from competition.

Not knowing the stakes of the game on Sunday, I started to wonder what type of match is going on today. “Is the game a sleeper, like when the Colts rest Manning because there is nothing to play for? Is it a local derby, where local rivals face off for bragging rights? Or is it something bigger, with a trophy on the line?” I pondered the possibilities.

We met up with Will, Mike and Laurie outside the Heineken Experience. On his walk from the hotel, Will had chatted up some Ajax fans and had determined that the game was against FC Twente, a strong club from the east of Holland. He had also determined that the game was at “half three”, a Dutch way of saying 2:30 — which isn’t always translated accurately to English.

At the tasting bar inside the Heineken Experience, the bartenders held a little trivia contest for free beer. One of them asked, “There’s a big football match today, who’s going to win?”. I yelled “Ajax!” while Will yelled “Twente!”

Will got the beer, as the bartender was from the east. She also told us that a trophy was on the line today, but we didn’t learn which trophy. She mentioned that Twente had won another trophy a few weeks back. I assumed that Twente had locked up the domestic league, the Eredivise, and that today’s game was for the the domestic cup. In my experience with English Football, the domestic cup is the second tier trophy to the the league title. However, this was clearly a big game. Will and I immediately made plans to try to catch a bit of the game in a pub.

We left the Heineken Experience, crossed the canal, and then Katherine said, “I don’t think you can see the game.” She pointed to this:

Anita and Katherine wanted to get some food, and there was no chance of that wherever the match was on. So they went off while the rest of us went to the pub.

On the way over, I told Will, “Sorry, but I do not have your back.” I knew Will was sympathetic with Twente — after all, he got a free beer! But I wanted to be clear that I would not support his preference in hostile territory.

As we walked up looking for a place to stand, we saw that the place only had one television in the corner of the bar. We found a spot outside, where we could catch about ten percent of the screen, which was fine with me. I was there for the experience, not the game.

At that point, it looked like a great chance to see European football fans in their home territory. Little did I know what was in store for us as the game wrapped up. To be continued…

9 Comments to “Ajax in Amsterdam, Part One”

  1. Laurie said...
    20 May 2011

    Well done Guest Contributor Dave! Although I was there to participate, I can hardly wait to hear the rest of the story!!

    ps- Love that you used the ‘guys-being-guys’ bus pic. :)

  2. Will said...
    20 May 2011

    Yeah, Laurie, I wondered whether one could see that, in this low-resolution form. Does that make this post NSFW?

  3. Dave said...
    20 May 2011

    Will- I have to admit, I didn’t notice the “guys-being-guys” until Laurie pointed it out.

    It’s probably SFW in Europe, not in the US.

  4. Laurie said...
    23 May 2011

    Will, I only noted b/c I knew what to look for (having chanelled my inner 10 year old and taken the pic in the first place, teehee). For some reason that cracks me up. At least at Wrigley, the guys try to find some dumpster in the corner and not just an open chainlink fence.

    Where are those Dutch public plastic troughs when you need them?!

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