10 May 2004
AMSTERDAM — About 15,000 Ajax fans gathered on the Leidseplein in Amsterdam on Sunday after the Dutch capital’s home football team won its 29th national championship, but the feared riots and public disturbances did not break out.
Car horns blared as Amsterdam became a sea of red and black Ajax flags and shirts. But festivities remained in general good natured, much to the satisfaction of Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen in view of recent violence in Amsterdam after a clash between the Ajax and Feyenoord reserves teams.
The mayor had previously warned that if violence broke out, Ajax fans would be banned in future from celebrating championship wins on the Leidseplein. But a contended Cohen watched the jubilant festivities peacefully unfold from the Stadsschouwburg steps.
And Ajax players were given a loud roar when they appeared on the balcony of the Stadsschouwburg and took turns to hold the Premier Division Cup aloft later in the evening. Coach Ronald Koeman thanked the public for its support.
Most fans had already left for home when the Ajax players appeared on the balcony, but soon after a few minor incidents were reported in the city centre, news agency ANP said.
Police arrested several people on charges of public drunkenness and for throwing fireworks and because a large number of drunken people were still out on the street, police closed cafes and bars on the Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein at about 10pm.
But a police spokeswoman was pleased with how celebrations proceeded. They were in stark contrast to when Ajax won the national championship in 2002, when riots around Leidseplein saw riot police called in to restore order.
An expectant atmosphere had been evident early on Sunday afternoon before the Ajax match started and by the time that the Amsterdam club had sealed the championship win, a couple of thousand people had already gathered at the popular city square.
Amsterdam had been talking about the looming Ajax championship since February, but the home club finally sealed its success by defeating Breda’s NAC 2-0 at the Amsterdam Arena on Sunday.
The win means Ajax can no longer be knocked from the top of the league ladder, securing its 29th national title. PSV (Eindhoven) has 17 titles and Feyenoord (Rotterdam) is third with 14.
NAC had already defeated Ajax twice in the 2003-04 season, but with the championship title looming at the end of the tunnel and the return from injury of Ajax players Rafael van der Vaart and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a tough duel was promised.
But Ajax’s play was far from sparkling and it was a badly-battered NAC line-up that entered the match. Due primarily to the individual skills of Ajax players, the Amsterdam club secured a 2-0 victory, but it was not a match boasting championship quality.
Ajax sealed the win in the first half as mid-fielder Wesley Sneijder received the ball near the penalty spot and deftly kicked it into the corner of the net, making it 1-0 after just 10 minutes. Ibrahimovic scored the second and last goal of the match.
About 50,000 fans at the Arena started celebrating the Ajax championship at half-time, newspaper De Telegraaf reported.
Coach Koeman was level-headed after the match. “We have had ups and downs this season, it was not an easy season for us, although the joy of the title dominates at the moment,” he said.
Koeman was referring to Ajax’s quick departure from the European Champions League after the first round and said he had also expected more from certain players this year. Furthermore, he said the club had been hard hit with injuries.
Nonetheless, the club can look back to the 2003-04 season with pride — the trophy is now securely in the club’s hands.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news