COMMENTS on the TOURNAMENTgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Ajax USA: July Tour : One Thread
Last night's game was a real spectacle. I'm glad to say that Ajax was the most well-supported team, which is saying something considering the large Greek and Italian populations of the NY area. We had a loud, unified presence of approximately 200 Ajax supporters in section 134. There were also some high-spirited Villa supporters directly behind us, which was a lot of fun. We yelled insults at them, and vice-versa, but always with smiles on our faces.
Ajax looked very suspect in defense. Villa played a counter-attacking style, and it was alarming how easily and how often they were able to put real danger on the Ajax goal. The first goal, when it came, seemed an inevitability. But Ajax did settle down, both offensively and defensively, in the second half.
The penalty kicks were, as usual, a crap-shoot, and Villa were the lucky ones.
In the parking lot before the game, we were interviewed by a Dutch television crew and harrassed by Giants Stadium security. I was stuck in Lincoln Tunnel traffic coming out of Manhattan, so I didn't even get to the stadium until an hour before game-time. But it all worked out fairly well; everyone who turned up got their tickets successfully, which was the most important thing.
Today I got a phone call from a reporter from Het Parool. He asked me some questions about Ajax USA, and about last night's game. He seemed amused and amazed that Ajax had so many fans in America. But it all stems from ESPN's weekly telecasts of Ajax in 1993-95. If they begin showing the Dutch league again (on their new pay-per-view channel in the Fall, as is the rumor), we'll see many more Ajax fans "born" in America. It's hard to watch Ajax play and not fall in love.
We visited Ajax training today. Only about 8 players were there, including Stanley Menzo, Wamberto, and some guys who didn't play last night including Winters and Reuser. It was typically hot and humid, and the players were suffering a bit. They would come over to the water coolers every 15 minutes or so to re-hydrate.
It was very interesting to watch this so-called "light training" which seemed fairly intense to me. A lot of small, intense, special-rules games in confined spaces which emphasized specific things like tactical judgment in playing it back to the keeper.
I was a bit annoyed that the players didn't make a better effort to meet the fans at the end of practice. Only Wamberto came right over and greeted everyone and happily signed autographs. When it became apparent that the players would leave without saying hello, I encouraged everone to come down out of the grandstand and approach them. Each kid managed to get one or two autographs -- Aaron Winter signed quite a few because he was being interviewed by ESPN International and didn't make it to the bus as quickly as the others.
All in all, it was a very nice Ajax afternoon. I want to thank Robert Cain for giving me a ride to the training session in his red AFC AJAX-mobile!
(Other comments from those who attended?)
-- Jim (email@example.com), July 24, 1999
I agree with Jim. It was a very entertaining match. Ajax appeared to have a little difficulty with Villa's speed. They withstood the early onslaught. Villa dropped back into a more defensive set after going up 2 goals, but wilted late in the match under the intense heat and humidity. Smart substitutions around the 80' minute to get fresh legs on made the difference for Ajax. They nearly pulled it out, mounting constant pressure over the last 10 minutes, including a nice equalizer.
I am looking forward to Sunday's match. I happened to be sitting in the middle of the Panathinaikos (sp?) supporters. A great group who love their side as well. I thought they played an attractive game as well, so Sunday should be outstanding. See you all there!
-- David Allan (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 25, 1999.