Our trip to Amsterdam took in a lot of things.
On arrival at the Amsterdam Arena we were given a tour around the stadium and got to look at the state-of-the-art facilities at first-hand. The ground really is different class with high tec features like a retractable roof which also has UV lights so that the grass can still get light if it is closed due to bad weather.
They sprinklers spread out below the pitch and again, if the roof is shut they have 6 gigantic fans spread around to blow the grass dry!
Apparently, the grass gets mouldy and could die if it doesn’t get dried properly. They have literally thought about everything. Another amazing thing is their control centre. They have cameras spread around the whole stadium both inside and outside of it. They cameras are so good that the tour guide said they were able to read your text messages.
Around the stadium they have decorated the walls with features from important years in the club’s history – such as 1972 when Ajax became the first team to ever win 5 big trophies in one season. Another decoration of the walls inside the Arena is “Club van 100”. This is the wall where players get their pictures put up if they’ve played 100 games or more for Ajax. There are some unbelievable players on that wall, such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luis Suarez, Wesley Sneijder and so on.
After the tour we headed into the main area of Amsterdam. We were divided into groups of 3 and 4 and we were given 1 hour and a half to try our best to find 12 of the main attractions of Amsterdam. Places like the Anne Frank house, Royal Palace and the National monument were on our list. It was a good opportunity to see some of Amsterdam and I think we all found it a very nice city, which is made all the more unique by its impressive canal system and the sheer number of cyclists.
Before going to watch the game we stopped off to attend a Question and Answer session with Edwin Van der Sar and his son Joe, who is the same age as us. They answered our questions in a great manner and I think we all learnt a lot from it. They were two great guys and it was a great experience for us all.
After the Q and A we headed back to the Amsterdam arena to watch the Johan Cruyff Shield match between Ajax and PEC Zwolle.
Our tour guide compared the teams with Manchester City v Wigan from the FA Cup final a couple of seasons ago and forecast an Ajax victory.
At half-time the score was 0-0 and the favourites hadn’t lived up to their billing while the Zwolle fans encouraged by their team’s performance were making a great deal of noise which was amplified further when they took a 1-0 lead ten minutes in to the second period.
If the expectation was the Ajax would dominate possession from there on in that wasn’t the case. In fact Zwolle created even more chances and could’ve easily added a second goal.
From watching that game, I found that the main difference from English football is that they try to play out the back a lot more, which means that the keeper is a lot more involved. Also, there were a lot of young players on the pitch which is something they focus a lot of in Holland.
After a great day out in the Dam it was back on to the training pitch. Our morning sesson worked on technical ability and then in the afternoon we had a session based around small sided games. In the sessions we worked on receiving the ball on the half turn ready to drive towards the opponents goal, which is a fun theme and it’s something I find helpful to my game.
At the end of last week only Brandon (Haunstrup) and I were left to sing a song in front of the group – so having had since Friday to prepare we went for it and decided to put on a production of our own rather than just singing a song performed by a famous artist! It seemed to go down well but you’d have to ask the other lads about our skills as vocalists!