Eindhoven has one, Rotterdam has two, and in fact every large footballing city across Europe has at least one. That is until you turn your eye to Amsterdam because on the face of it they have none.
What am I talking about? Answer a second club, a club who live in the shadow or share the spotlight with their near neighbours. Amsterdam though only has room for Ajax.Despite being the largest city in the Netherlands it only has room for the juggernaut that are the Godenzonen.
However when you thrall your way through the Dutch league system you do find another. A tiny club who can lay claim to being the oldest still in existence in the city having been founded five years before there illustrious city residents.
AFC Amsterdam were founded on the 18th of January 1895 after a group of young men met in the basement of a house on the Koninginneweg, a street in the southern part of the city. The name Amsterdam Football Club was promptly chosen and the clubs 125 year journey was about to begin.
In October the following year the club decided on the Red and Black colour scheme, in homage to the city that they call home, they still wear to this day. Funnily enough though it wasn’t until two years after AFC’s foundation that they entered an official competition having spent their formative yearsplaying friendly after friendly.
The competition they did enter was the second division of a league run by the Amsterdam FA. In the end the movement to competitive football completely backfired and very nearly brought about the destruction of the club.
In their very first campaign the team only picked up three points from 12 matches, finishing rock bottom after only scoring nine times whilst conceding a hefty 69. The results proved such an embarrassment to some club members that at the end of the year assembly a motion was put forward to change the team’s name.
The proposers felt that there was now too many negative connotations to go with the clubs moniker and that they had been reduced to a laughing stock. However the motion was voted down by the 42 members of the club.
The decision to retain their same identity eventually bore fruit as results on the pitch slowly began to improve and reach respectable standards. In 1906 the club won its first title, infuriatingly for them though they were denied promotion on bureaucratic grounds by the AFA.
Undeterred they came back and won the league again the next year. However again promotion wasn’t forthcoming. This time due to solely football related matters, as AFC went down to Leiden Ajax over two legs in the play-off.
A little over eight years later they finally achieved that long awaited promotion and with that came the onset of perhaps the most successful period in Amsterdamers long and vibrant history.
The season following promotion the club remarkably upset the odds and managed to win Division 1E class B and earn themselves a shot at the national Dutch title. Unlike today where there is only one league and the team at the top are crowned champions, back then the top flight was split into numerous separate groups with the winner of each one advancing to the final championship group.
As such AFC were joined by Be Quick, Go Ahead, Willem II and none other than Ajax. Sadly for AFC the title would remain elusive, though they did give account of themselves. Against their city neighbours they only went down by a single goal having been four-nil down with only ten minutes of the match remaining.
The Red’s as they had by now become known went and achieved the seemingly impossible again the next season, 1918/1919, once more winning their regional division and earning a crack at national honours.
Yet again though Ajax stood in the way and while the city’s most famous club would win the league for the second year in a row AFC achieved something arguably even sweeter. In front of 20,000 people the club from the south of the city overawed Ajax and came away with a staggering two-nil win. To this day it remains one of the biggest results achieved by the club.
The golden era alas was not here to stay and with the calendar turning into the 1920’s the club entered almost terminal decline. Large debts incurred dragged the team down and relegation was not long in following.
AFC were even forced to uproot and move their home to another part of the city, this in turn saw an out flux of members. The club had reached its lowest ebb, with survival now being the main objective.
Like any prized fighter though it is near impossible to knock them to the canvas for too long. After nearly 20 years in the doldrums they emerged the other side unbroken. In 1943 the won the AROL Cup beating AGOVV two-nil in the final.
With the 1950’s came the introduction of professional football to the Netherlands. Nonetheless AFC decided to maintain their amateur status.
“AFC has elected in the amateur spirit to continue playing as it has done the past 60 years.”
The 60’s brought about renewed success for the club as they won regional amateur titles in 1961, 1963, 1967 and 1969. Much like after their previous successful period at the start of the century however an era of stagnation was to follow during the 70’s and 80’s.
In 1995 the club celebrated its centenary with a match against the Johan Cruyff managed Barcelona. Today the club currently plays in the Topklasse Zondag, the third tier of Dutch football, with their last success coming in 2010 with victory in the Hoofdklasse.
Currently managed by Stanley Menzo, a six time internationally capped goalkeeper with the Netherlands, the club as of near the end of April sit 11th in the 16 team Topklasse Zondag.
Many may think that there is only one club of note in Amsterdam, but they would be wrong, while Ajax will always monopolise the limelight AFC will carry on their 125 year history. For they are Amsterdam’s oldest club and not even the mighty Ajax can take that away from them.
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