Posts Tagged ‘ Eredivisie ’

Ajax, the Dutch, the War


Ajax, the Dutch, the War, Simon Kuper

This book was enjoyable but I think would have gotten more out of it if I had a better knowledge of World War II and the cultural and political happenings of the Netherlands and Europe. The relationship with the Jews for the Europeans generally and some soccer clubs specifically, is a large part of book. Again I don’t have a good understanding on this topic. Finally, a deeper familiarity with the histories of Feyenoord and Ajax would have allowed those passages to have made more sense. Having said all that, I did learn a lot, including the fact that soccer did exist during the war, which surprised me.

Whereas Dynamo was more of a linear story about a specific story line of the war, Kuper bounces around Holland and Europe to share his information and interviews. The delineation between good and evil is explored and challenges the reader. My favorite part of the book was anecdotes about various players attempting to keep playing football during the war either by changing their identity or escaping or negotiating with Nazis.

Kuper’s prose tells a tale of a very dark time in human history, and the book is worth reading because it gives a greater context to the influence of World War II on the game, the Netherlands, and football clubs in that country.

MatchDay Memory: Luis Suarez Then and Now Part II (Luis Alberto Suárez Díaz)

Imagine a time in the distant future when a player named Luis Enrique joins FC Barcelona or a new Hughes is signed by Manchester United.  That player will inevitably be compared to their predecessor, with the shadow of former glory always hovering around the player.  For Luis Alberto Suárez Díaz, who joined FC Barcelona in the summer of 2014, not only was he not the first Luis Suarez to have played for the Blaugrana, but he will probably not be as successful in terms of trophies as his predecessor.  On top of this, he also comes with his own unique baggage.

Part I  Luis Suarez Miramontes


Moving forward fifty years, the talent of El Pistolero or Luis Alberto Suárez Díaz is undeniable.  From the streets of Salto and Montevideo in Uruguay, Luis Suarez used the beautiful game to escape poverty, eventually securing a spot with Nacional in Uruguay.  After growing as a player and making a name for himself at Nacional, where he helped the club win the 2005–06 Uruguayan League, he was discovered by Dutch club FC Groningen.  As Michiel Jongsma tells the story for, club representatives were visiting Nacional to look at Elías Figueroa.  They left trying to figure out how to sign Luis Suarez, with the player also looking for a move, as his girlfriend, Sofia Balbi, had moved to Barcelona to study.  So at 19, Suarez headed to Holland, played for Groningen, and averaged nearly a goal every three games.

Ajax came calling and Suarez forced his move to the Dutch giants, scoring over 100 goals in three and a half seasons.  Suarez never won the league in a full season with de Godenzonen, but he did help the club to the 2010 Dutch Cup.  It was during the 2009/10 season that Suarez scored 49 goals in all competitions and won the Dutch Player of the Year award. European success eluded both the club and player during his time there, with their best finish coming in the 2008/09 Europa League in which the squad got to the Round of 16.


During the winter transfer window of 2011, the Uruguayan player moved to Liverpool with Fernando Torres going to Chelsea.  His arrival was part of a rebuilding project for the storied club, along with Andy Carroll from Newcastle, which finally paid dividends during the 2013/14 season as Suarez’s partnership with Daniel Sturridge saw the Reds finish second and return to the Champions League after a four year absence.  His only silverware with the Merseyside club came in the 2012 League Cup Final.


Suarez made his International debut in 2007 and is currently Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer with 41 goals in 79 appearances as of the 2014 World Cup.  He was part of a wonderful cycle that saw Uruguay finish fourth at the 2010 World Cup, losing to the Holland in the Semi Finals.  The following year, La Celeste claimed the Copa America, with Suarez scoring four goals and being named the player of the tournament.  With that success, Uruguay qualified for the 2013 Confederations Cup, making it to the Semis before falling at the hands of the hosts Brazil.

Luis_Suarez uruguay

Heading into the 2014 World Cup, El Pistolero only played two matches after undergoing surgery after the 2013/14 season but knocked out England with two well taken goals, which set up a high pressure game against Italy in the third group game.  He did not score and was involved in an incident with Chiellini, but Uruguay progressed 1-0.  Suarez was suspended for the match against Colombia, who won to move on to the Quarter Finals.

MatchDay Memory–1974: Part 1 (Johan Cruyff)

Forty years ago I came into the world and while I may not have made an impact on the game of soccer, it has surely made an impact on me.  Playing the game from a very early age, I didn’t start following the game until my early 20’s.  Starting with Manchester United, I eventually started reading everything I could get my hands on and watching whatever game was on, learning about the rich and complex history of the game.  My MatchDay Memory posts over the next few weeks will focus on events in world soccer during the year of my birth, 1974.  It is in no way a comprehensive summation but rather an examination of teams and incidents that I was drawn to in my research.


Starting my journey in Europe, the 1970’s saw the emergence of Total Football.  A post at Football Bible traces the path of footballing principles from England to Holland, focusing on Jimmy Hogan in the early 1900’s to Jack Reynolds at Ajax.  Former player turned manager Rinus Michaels laid the foundations at the Dutch club for unprecedented levels of success, and this style of play changed the game in terms of pressure, possession and spacing and continues to impact the game today.

David Winner spends a chapter diving into Total Football in his wonderful book Brilliant Orange.  Based on his interviews with many members of the Ajax and Dutch teams of the era, the system developed as a way to have a team instinctively know how and where to move to create space and press the ball in order to dominate matches.  The chapter makes the case that it was a collaborative effort between coaches and players and the more everyone engaged the system, the better it got.


The post at Football Bible also identified an intelligent midfielder as key to making the system work.  For Ajax and the Netherlands, that player was Johan Cruyff.  After three consecutive European Cups (1971-73) with Ajax, Cruyff was transferred to Barcelona in August of 1973.  In reading Chris Clement’s recap of the season for Estadios de Futbol en Espana, I was stunned to read the following passage:

Faced with a veritable can of worms, the Federation relented and allowed clubs to sign two overseas players from the start of the 1973-74 season. Anticipating the change, Real Madrid reached an agreement with Ajax for Johan Cruyff, but the world’s best player would have nothing to do with the deal that had been agreed behind his back. Sensing an opportunity, Barcelona moved in and on 13 August 1973, Cruyff signed for the Catalan giants. As news of the agreement of Real Madrid and Ajax’s deal surfaced, the RFEF refused to sanction the deal and memories of the controversial Di Stéfano transfer resurfaced. However, Barcelona and Cruyff stood firm and eventually, eight weeks into the season, Barça got their man.

To think how close Cruyff was to wearing white instead of the blaugrana.  Reading Barca: A People’s Passion by Jimmy Burns, I was struck by how Cruyff’s signing was not only a sporting coup, but was, maybe even more importantly, a political statement.  The transfer had been in the works for a couple of years and the amendment by the Spanish Football Federation finally allowed the move to take place.  In October 1973, the Dutchman appeared in the blaugrana colors for an official match, and FCB President Montal had his signature signing, and the fans could now cheer for one of the best players in the world at Camp Nou.

After a successful period during the 1950’s, Barca had suffered during the 1960’s, winning only one league title during the decade.  After a slow start to the 73/74 campaign, FCB climbed up the table, winning 20 of their last 28 matches, including a 5-0 demolition of Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, to claim the championship.  A post from Alex Mott for Football Espana recaps an amazing period in which Cruyff won a European Cup with Ajax, led FC Barcelona to the title and appeared in the World Cup Final with a series of dazzling displays.

However, after delivering La Liga in 1974, further success did not follow.  A combination of a poor coaching relationship, a fractured locker room and the absence of players able to perform Total Football saw Barca return to trophyless seasons and Cruyff left in 1978.  Burns ends his chapter entitled the Flying Dutchman with these quotes from Cruyff:

It is a challenge but you know when people cheer you on a Sunday when you do well and you win, it means more to them than simply the pleasure of winning.  It’s not just a game, football; it’s not just about the people on the terraces.  But you know what struck me most when we won the championship?  They didn’t say, “Congratulations.”  They said, “Thank you” That made a very deep impression.

Cruyff playing at Barca still impacts the club.  He later coached the team in the early 90’s, overseeing the Dream Team that won four straight La Liga titles in the early 90’s and the European Cup at Wembley in 1992.  A key player on that team was Pep Guardiola, who as manager would deliver another amazing cycle of success in the 2000’s. The Dutchman continues to wield power at the club, influencing decisions and offering his opinions.  A polarizing figure, it’s hard to argue his contribution to the Spanish giants.


I chose 1974 simply because it was the year I was born, yet in reviewing the events of those 12 months it was interesting to see how many precursors and foundations and glimpses into the future were present.  The eternal battle between disciplined defenses against attack minded opponents; players and clubs searching for the next dollar/euro/monetary unit; shock results;  the constant emergence of new and dynamic talent from all around the world.  In 1974 I imagine that there were unknown pockets of activity around the world, complete with rich storylines and regional influence, and stories these days are now part of the worldwide narrative thanks to the internet and globalization.  Teams, players, coaches and cultures are more familiar and are part of a global fabric, with the game belonging to the world and being shared with the world.  Part of the sharing is this project, which was hard work, but informative and enlightening, and I hope you have enjoyed this look back into footballing history.



Old Futbol Buffet–What I Missed

My life has been super super busy.  I have been trying to keep up on events going inEurope, which has been tough.

Two Saturdays ago I spent six hours at the local bar watching Chelsea v Spurs, Arsenal v Aston Villa (with an eye on Liverpool v Wigan) and then Real Mallorca against FC Barcelona.  Needless to say a nap was on the cards afterwards.

The London Derby wasn’t that great of a game.  Spurs seemed to be completely out of sorts with Bale drifting inside while Mata seemed awfully subdued for the Blues.  There were very few moments of quality: Adebayor’s run down the sideline and Walker’s terrible run to goal; free kicks from Bale and Mata; and double save on VdV. 2 pts from last 15 for spurs.  They will be lucky to hang to fourth.  (Did manage make the FA Cup semis against Chelsea though.)

Arsenal ran circles around Villa.  Albrighton had one nice run for the Villains but that’s about all I can remember from the visitors.  Once Given let in a soft goal from Gibbs, the writing was on the wall.  The goals from Theo and Arteta were simply spectacular.

Midweek saw the return of the Champions League, with Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Chelsea all but booked their places in the semis, with the gigantic clash between AC Milan and FC Barcelona still in the balance.  The game was entertaining but the surface and the lack of finishing kept the gloss of the game.  Zonal Marking examined the narrowness of FCB (until the introduction of Tello) and the organized pressing from the Rossoneri in his post.

The weekend in the Premiership saw more surprising results, with Arsenal losing to QPR and Wigan winning again in a dramatic last push to avoid relegation. Liverpool lost again but that’s not really a shock.  The biggest shock had to be Sunderland leading City 3-1 at the Eithad, before the blue team of Manchester pulled it back for a 3-3 draw.  If United beat Blackburn, then the Citizens may have kissed the title good bye.

The Men in Blazers pod this week was a mixed bag.  Roger’s phone line fromLiverpool was not stellar, but the banter on the previous week’s fixtures was great.  The guys spent a moment remembering Giorgio Chinaglia, who passed away last week.

Scott the Red is seeing his prediction for league honors come good in his post match wrap as United finally broke down a determined Blackburn team with two stunning goals from Valencia and Young.  I had the game on the background at work and, while it always looked like United were in control, there were some nervy moments.  As usual, I looked away and both goals were scored.  United have QPR on Sunday and if they win, surely City will feel the pressure against Arsenal.

One issue that has bothered me this season is Evra’s form for the Red Devils, which Doron addressed at  He examined all of the factors affecting the Frenchman—playing almost every minute this season, dealing with Suarez incident, negotiating the tendencies of the players around—and feels that United are lucky to have a player of his caliber.  Yes his form has dipped slightly but the rest of Europe would kill to have him.  Decent perspective, but next year Fabio has got to put up or shut up, so that Evra can be phased out.

In Serie A, Juventus thumped Napoli 3-0 to get within two points of AC Milan.  The title race is definitely back on and should be a fantastic finish.

Aaron and Marco of Juventiknows looked back at the Juventus game against Napoli which featured a comprehensive second half that produced 3 goals without replay.  Although Conte’s selections still cause some head scratching and face palms, you can’t argue with the results.  30 games unbeaten, two behind the leaders, and an easier run-in.  How great would it be if ADP ended his Juventus career by lifting the scudetto?

Speaking of dramatic title races, keep an eye on Portugal, Germany and Holland.  Epic finishes ahoy!!


Porto 60
Benfica 59
Braga 58

Ben Shave was on Beyond the Pitch to talk about the Portuguese League as the a dramatic run-in approaches.  Great information about the traditional powers and some of the surprising stories like Maritimo and Guimaraes.  They also discussed where AVB might land after his short time at Chelsea.


Borussia Dortmund 63
Bayern Munich 60


Ajax Amsterdam 58
AZ Alkmaar 57
Twente Enschede 55
PSV Eindhoven 54
Feyenoord Rotterdam 54
Heerenveen 54

Finally, Jonathan Wilson looked ahead to England’s Euro 2012 campaign by reminding readers of the events of the last two years.  His verdict: And soEngland, with three months to go until Euro 2012, is without a manager, without a captain and, frankly, without much of a clue.



Phil and Doron were back on Beyond the Pitch to look at news around Old Trafford, with the Reds picking up three vital points against Fulham.  Doron did an extensive look at Academy prospects and gave an update on the reserves.  Possible transfer window possibilities were discussed, focusing on Macheda and Berbatov.

Roberto Gotta was on Beyond the Pitch as well to discuss Serie A.  Inter took center stage as they have hired their 17th coach in 17 years.  Plus the guys looked at AC Milan down the stretch.

Grant Wahl and Alexi Lalas discussed the US’s failure to qualify for the London Olympics on the SI Soccer Roundtable and what that might mean for the coaches, players and program down the road. Interesting thoughts and well worth a listen.

Graham Hunter and Jonathan Wilson were Off the Ball Tuesday to discuss the FC Barcelona v AC Milan. Wilson pointed out that FCB’s manipulation of the refs does not cover them in glory and feels that this year’s vintage is not of the same standard as previous years.  Hunter praised the Blaugrana and thoroughly enjoyed the encounter between the European heavyweights.

Weekend Warrior

Saturday has entertainment written all over it, with the action starting early as Liverpool and United meet in the FA Cup. If you are looking for goals, I imagine Real Madrid against Real Zaragoza will provide those as Los Merengues look to take out some anger from their cup knockout on the worst team in La Liga. Over in Serie A, Juventus hosts Udinese in key clash between top teams in Italy. Might not be many goals but the result may affect the destination of the title.  Finally FCB travel to the Madrigal to face Villarreal.  The Yellow Submarine were hammered at the Camp Nou and really, really need three points.  Could be a tight match.

Sunday is a little light. There is a big fixture in Holland as Feyenoord plays Ajax. The hosts are in sixth place three points behind the visitors and eight points off the top.  Aston Villa travels to the Emirates in what could be a pivotal day in Wenger’s reign at Arsenal. A loss and I think the tide could really turn. The Gunners should really run riot over the Villains but that’s what you play the game. At the end of the day, Malaga and Sevilla play in a game that neither team can afford to lose. If Sevilla goes down, expect the other shoe to drop for Marcelino.

All Times Eastern Standard Time


7:30a FA Cup Liverpool Manchester Utd FSC
2:00p La Liga Real Madrid Zaragoza GolTV
2:30p Serie A Juventus Udinese FSC/ESPN3
4:00p La Liga Villarreal FC Barcelona ESPN3


6:30a Eredivisie Feyenoord Ajax ESPN3
11:00a FA Cup Arsenal Aston Villa FSC
4:00p La Liga Malaga Sevilla GolTV

Weekend Warrior

This Saturday is shaping up to another feast of footy. Newcastle continues to run the gauntlet with Chelsea coming to town; BMG v BvB in a top of the table Bundesliga clash; United try to get back to winning ways against Villa; and Barcelona try to keep the pressure on Real Madrid while creating some distance between themselves and their opponents, Levante.

Sunday sees Feyenoord Rotterdam hosting PSV in a battle between two of the top teams in Holland; and Juventus host Cesena after their epic match against Napoli in midweek.


Premier League
Newcastle United
Bayern Munich
Werder Bremen
Borussia Dortmund
La Liga
Premier League
Manchester United
Aston Villa
La Liga
La Liga
Premier League
PSV Eindhoven
Serie A
Serie A
AS Roma