Total Dutch Football columnist Jos Boesveld discusses why he is looking forward to the Champions League group stages…
I’m one of the millions that are happy men tonight. A new adventure has begun. A competition, so fierce and exciting, that we all make time so see as many matches as we can watch. I’m talking, of course, about the UEFA Champions League.
And what a start on Tuesday! Real Madrid overpowering FC Basel with their counter attacks, Borussia Dortmund, with all their pace, destroying Arsenal and as always, some surprises. Like Ibrahim Afellay, five years ago one of the biggest talents in the Netherlands, but after his move to Spain, he only made it to a little over fifty matches in four years. Now he was important for his new club, Olympiakos against Atlético Madrid. With a goal and an assist, Afellay is back on the map.
As the last couple of years, Ajax is also participating in the Champions League. You can say that Ajax is also back on the map in Europe, but just for a while. The media write about Ajax now but after they have been defeated in this group with strong teams, the name Ajax will die a slow death. It’s a tough draw again for Ajax, starting against Paris Saint-Germain and playing against Barcelona and APOEL Nicosia as well. The French came to Amsterdam on Wednesday and a pretty funny and typical thing happened on the press conference before the match.
A French journalist travelled to Amsterdam to ask Frank de Boer a few questions and next to him sat captain Niklas Moisander. Because the question was asked in French, a translator rephrased the question in Dutch. It was something like this. “You’ve told us that you think Paris Saint-Germain can win the Champions League with the current squad. But what about Ajax? Can they do what they did about twenty years ago?”
I still don’t know if the journalist was trying to be funny, or was dead serious, but he got some good laughs after his question. De Boer answered polity, but told the Frenchman that Ajax sees the survival of the group stage as their target and it would be a victory if they make it through to the next round.
A lot has changed in football since 1995, when Ajax won their last Champions League. Before that year, Paris Saint-Germain only won five prices, containing two league titles and three victories in the French cup. Hell, Paris Saint-Germain existed for three years when Ajax won their third Champions League (in a row) in 1973.
Now Ajax is afraid of Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League. Money won over history, but football is still football. I’m looking forward to the game in the Amsterdam ArenA. Every result in favour of Ajax, being a draw or a win, is a bonus against this team. Times are changing, but there’s always the element of surprise. Surprise me Ajax, surprise me Champions League.
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