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August 2017
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The dying “Klassieker”

De Klassieker

De Klassieker

Carlo Picornie was a die-hard Ajax fan, quite literally. He was killed after getting hit by a claw hammer right on the head by Leonardo Parton, a supporter of the arch rival club Feyenoord during the infamous “Battle of Beverwijk”. No one was arrested that day although the police did come and picked up some weapons after everything was all but over. Two things can be learnt from the incident. Number one, police do not only arrive late in movies; number two, the rivalry between Feyenoord and Ajax Amsterdam is among the most intense in the world of football, or at least it used to be.

The hatred between Feyenoord and Ajax traces back to the beginning of Dutch football. Starting out as the rivalry between the two biggest cities in the Netherlands, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, people of the two cities have always been in conflict and of course football was no exception. However, not until the 1970s was the rivalry really heated up. During that time, both Ajax and Feyenoord were among the finest clubs in the world and the match between the two sides, nicknamed the “De Klassieker” (The Classic), was the only way to prove which one was better. But that was the story of some 40 years ago, a lot has changed during that course of time and so has the “De Klassieker”.

A warm welcome at De Kuip

A warm welcome at De Kuip

Richard is a die-hard Ajax supporter, figuratively of course. He is currently working as a tour guide at the Amsterdam ArenA stadium, the home of Ajax Amsterdam. Speaking about the “De Klassieker” nowadays, he said: “For 9 years, Feyenoord has only won a single match against us so for Ajax supporters like me and my colleagues, the rivalry is less. For us it’s just a normal match to play. It also doesn’t help that the mayor of Amsterdam decided that there would be no Feyenoord fans allowed here and vice versa so it kind of takes away the heat of a classic. It’s getting less exciting”. What Richard said was very clear and was mutually agreed by all the Ajax supporters interviewed. However, it is only fair to gain the insight from both sides.

Roy, a player for the Feyenoord youth team, spoke about the “De Klassieker” on back of a defeat to the Ajax counterparts: “For me it’s no difference, a game is a game and they were just simply better than us”. Roy’s father and also a lifelong Feyenoord supporter added: “The classic is not a classic anymore because there are no support from the other club at De Kuip (Feyenoord’s stadium) and there is no Feyenoord supporters in the Arena and that is really depressing”.

Just a normal, friendly match

After talking to supporters and players from both sides, it is clear that two problems have been affecting the modern “De Klassieker”. First of all, the power balance between the two clubs is nowhere near how it used to be a few decades ago. Feyenoord and Ajax are no longer neck and neck with the Amsterdam side dominating the “De Klassieker” in the last decade. While they still remain one of the stronger sides in Dutch football, Feyenoord has been left behind by Ajax, and by quite a distance. Secondly, ever since the 2009, mayors of the two cities have passed on a policy that restricts supporters of the two clubs from going to each other’s stadium during match days in order to reduce possible violence that can happen outside the pitch. However, the policy is a double-edged sword. Along with the reduced hostile environment, the natural heat of a clash between two rivals was also taken away. With the competitiveness and the heat taken off the table, what left is just pretty much a tame, normal match between two football sides.

There are not many kids like this. Not anymore.

There are not many kids like this. Not anymore.

That said, there are still indeed hardcore supporters from both sides that maintain an intense feeling towards the “De Klassieker”. One of them is Joelle, a former Feyenoord youth team member with the club emblem tattooed on his arm. For him, Feyenoord is a religion and a key part of it is what he called “No 20”. 20 is the regional code for Amsterdam and for a hardcore Feyenoord supporter and Rotterdammer like Joelle, he just cannot stand anything related to the capital city, especially Ajax. When asked about the “De Klassieker”, he said: “The hate is definitely there. They are so arrogant. We hate them. They think they are the best just because they win the championship every year but we have the best fans”. Joelle is definitely an extreme case considering he was the only one interviewed to show a palpable hatred towards Ajax Amsterdam and the city Amsterdam itself. People like him are the minority who are still keeping this classic match-up alive. However, it is undeniable that the majority is losing interest in the “De Klassieker” and unless something changes, this match-up will soon lose its position as the classic game of Dutch football.

 

 

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