The Greatest Rivalries: Ajax Versus Feyenoord

Account KillerAnalyst IAugust 19, 2008

In the third edition of The Greatest Rivalries, I will be looking at Holland's main derby match in the Eredivisie.

Despite PSV Eindhoven dominating domestically in recent times it is the Klassieker between Ajax of Amsterdam and Feyenoord Rotterdam which remains the most important match in the Dutch footballing calendar.

Success in the early years of Dutch football served to create the rivalry between the two clubs, with many league titles and KNVB Cup's being shared between Amsterdam and Rotterdam's flagship clubs.

To date, Ajax are Holland's most successful club ever with 29 Eredivisie titles, more than double the 14 that Feyenoord have to their name. Ajax have also enjoyed far more success on the European stage than any of their domestic counterparts with four European Cup wins compared to just one of Feyenoord (and PSV).

The rivalry between the two clubs can also be seen as a rivalry between Holland's two biggest city's. These games are not only a footballing clash but also one of different cultures and attitudes.

Rotterdam is the industrial heartland of Holland, with one of Europe's biggest ports. Feyenoord is the club of the working man.

Amsterdam, on the other hand, is seen as a cultural city for tourists. People from Rotterdam see Amsterdam as arrogant and lazy.

There is a famous quote from Sparta Rotterdam fan Jules Deelder which can perhaps explain the way Amsterdam is viewed, "Holland's money is earned in Rotterdam, divided in The Hague, and flushed down the toilet in Amsterdam."

Such differences in attitudes between the cities and fans has invariably led to a fractious relationship between fans. In 2004 during a reserve team match between Ajax and Feyenoord, a player for the Rotterdam club, Jorge Acuna, was taken to hospital after being attacked by an Ajax "firm." However, the most infamous incident must be the Beverwijk incident.

Rival fans came to conflict in the town of Beverwijk near Amsterdam in 1997. Many were injured and one Ajax fan was even killed. Such incidents have acted as the catalyst for some of the most innovative policing methods for football matches in Europe. Violence between fans has reduced as the police have tried to escort fans from buses and trains to the stadiums and match days when the two teams meet.

The Klassieker is yet another example of a match which transcends the definition of ordinary footballing rivalries. This time however, it is not politics and religion which interfere but culture and attitude.

As a neutral observer it seems perhaps that Feyenoord fans are envious of the attention that Amsterdam receives. Ajax are Hlland's most famous club and it seems Feyenoord and Rotterdam are tired of living in their more illustrious neighbours' shadows.

Ajax are seen as arrogant, and as long as Feyenoord and their fans continue to try and bring them down this will continue to be a great rivalry.


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