Due to the coronacrisis, for the first time in history there is no audience present at De Classical between Ajax and Feyenoord. But what can supporters do to keep the rivalry between the clubs alive and ignite the fire? Football first talks about this with Fabian Nagtzaam, chairman of SV Ajax.
The KNVB deliberately planned the top matches in January, in the hope that fans could be present. But the infection figures simply do not allow that. For the first time in 31 years, De Classical has to pass itself by. “I must have seen some fifty live there,” he says. “It is the competition of the year that must be won. I am eagerly looking forward to it, despite the fact that unfortunately there is no audience to be present.”
The rivalry stays there may not be an audience, the hype is no less about it. “You notice that there is a mutually apprehend between supporters groups that are already bombarding each other. We circled this date with red in the calendar,” says Nagtzaam. “There have been no fans for years, so the De Classicers jeu is already a lot less. But the mutual rivalry remains, only no longer in and around the stadium. The corridor to the stadium is not there and you cant raise each other a little bit, so the competition tension is already a lot less. But its still The Classic. Theres only one game that has that title. Sunday we played PSV. That too is an important competition, but it doesnt make it to the importance of this competition.”
The Supportersvereniging Ajax is doing what it can to put a heart under Ajax now that this is not possible live. “As a supporters association, we retrieve old images, photos and memories of earlier Classics. Youll get a lot more comments on that than in other competitions. Thats how we try to create an atmosphere,” says Nagtzaam. “Of course, the players will also be supported. I know whats going to happen, but I cant say anything about it yet.”
“Ajax has Argentines and Mexicans and they just need to feel what we feel: that they must fight for the city, for the three crosses, for the club and for us. When they step into the field with their chest forward, they must be so loaded that they want to completely overwhelm Feyenoord. Then I guarantee you were just gonna win that contest. We want to pass that on to players.”
Anyway, playing without an audience affects the home advantage, agrees Nagtzaam. “Absolutely. I think if the course of Ajax – PSV (2-2, red.) had gone the same with the audience, Ajax would have won that match. Then there will be such a madhouse in the Johan Cruijff Arena. It used to be said that there were cinema audiences, but nowadays it really is no longer the case. Its been a swirling stadium for years. It has also become a real football stadium, an Ajax stadium.”
But the critical Ajax audience sometimes tends to turn against the team when it doesnt run. “They have to be able to cope with that, which is why they also play at Ajax. Thats where they need to get their strength. Luckily they did the same last Sunday. Theres always something going on around a classic. Whether its inside or out of the field, theres always something going on. That makes such a competition special.”
“When Ajax turns on a bit, the audience goes along with it to bring it to a successful conclusion. In De Meer it was always the case. When Ajax came up the field, they were already up by 1-0. It has been the case in recent years, just not now. Those players now have to take it out of themselves, encouraging them from the bank for 94 minutes.”
It is clear that playing in an empty football stadium should not exist. “Its a great horror, but we cant do anything else. We have to accept it. I understand the measures, but we miss it enormously. I say that from the bottom of my heart. I hope they want to win that competition without supporters, before the supporters,” concludes Nagtzaam.
(Tim van Duijn/Football scoop)