Holland’s De Klassieker is a tale of two contrasting cities
While Amsterdam dreams, Rotterdam works” is a phrase often used to describe the differing mindset of Holland’s two biggest cities – and that sentiment could equally be applied to their respective football teams.
Playing what was to become known as “Total Football”, coach Rinus Michels’ Ajax dominated European football in the early 1970s with a style and flair that the club’s supporters saw as a reflection of Amsterdam’s cultural sophistication.
In the working-class port of Rotterdam, however, such brash behaviour is deemed arrogant and aloof, and Feyenoord fans pride themselves on their club and their city having a strong work ethic.
In 1970 Feyenoord became the first Dutch side to win the European Cup, but the greatest moment in their history would soon be brushed aside as Ajax lifted the Champions Cup for the next three consecutive seasons.
The chief architect of those triumphs was Holland’s greatest player of all time, Johan Cruyff. Yet a decade later he took a decision that would shock the whole of Dutch football.
Having returned to Amsterdam towards the end of his illustrious playing career, Cruyff was furious when Ajax refused to offer him a new contract in the summer of 1983. Determined to play on, his angry response was to storm off and sign for Feyenoord – and then go on to lead the club to a league and cup double at the age of 37.
Relations between the two clubs have deteriorated steadily over the years and the ill-feeling has, unfortunately, often led to horrific scenes of violence, with the worst case being in 1997 when an Ajax fan was killed in clashes between rival supporters.
Clash...Feyenoord’s Jean-Paul Boetius (centre) and Renato Tapia battle with Joel Veltman of Ajax
Shock...Johan Cruyff (right) playing for Feyenoord