Ajax undiminished respected in Germany: ‘Nobody will make the mistake of underestimating Ajax’

Ajax has entered the winter break. A disappointing block is over and the focus is on the World Cup in Qatar. The opinions about the past period have often been given and now people are looking within the club good luck for the new year. European football will also return in that new year. Although the team from Amsterdam was relegated from the Champions League to the Europa League, a nice poster awaits there too. Ajax takes on Union Berlin, the number five of the Bundesliga. Reason enough to talk to Lisa de Ruiter, follower of Union Berlin on behalf Sky Sports. The journalist talks about the reaction in Germany to the draw.

Ajax could have met the Manchester United of former Ajax players Erik ten Hag, Lisandro Martínez, Christian Eriksen, Antony and Donny van de Beek, but it became the Union Berlin of former Ajax players Sheraldo Becker and Danilho Doekhi. On paper an easier job for the club, but how do people view it in Germany? ‘The fans and the club are looking forward to the matches against Ajax. Not only because Ajax has a strong team, but also because they have a great stadium and good fans’, says De Ruiter. ‘Everyone knows that it will be a tough task to survive against Ajax. A very tough draw.’

Although there is still respect for Ajax, the club did not show its best side in the Champions League. Rangers won twice, but Alfred Schreuder’s team had no chance against Liverpool and Napoli. The question is what that has done to Ajax’s status in Germany. ‘Nothing, I think. Everyone knows that Ajax has a great history and no one will make the mistake of underestimating Ajax. It is a dangerous situation for Union Berlin, because Ajax will want to make up for the results in the Champions League. Everyone knows Ajax as a great club for young players and talents who eventually end up playing for the biggest clubs in the world. Ajax is always a serious opponent.’

Ajax meets Union Berlin, sinking

In Union Berlin, Ajax has to deal with a stunt team. It briefly topped the Bundesliga this season, but has now dropped to fifth place. However, the gap with number two SC Freiburg – the club that Union Berlin recently lost 4-1 – is only three points. ‘The past few weeks have been tough for the team,’ says De Ruiter. ‘Since the beginning of September, Union has played two games a week. It is an intense task for them. Trainer Urs Fischer rotates a lot, but it requires a lot of content. Everything went great at the start of the season, especially in the Bundesliga. Many small victories were won, there was a lot of fighting spirit and a high level of discipline. The team then got the most out of it. We should not forget that the team has only been playing in the Bundesliga since 2019. What has happened since then is almost unique. Union is always able to win games, often in a “dirty” way.’

Not only does Ajax encounter an opponent who can be dangerous, it is also a reunion with two old acquaintances. The aforementioned Becker and Doekhi were active in the white-red-white of Ajax in the past and stand for an important meeting. The two are doing well in Germany, it turns out. Becker in particular has been a key player since the second half of last season. He has scored important goals and is the club’s top scorer this season. He is very ambitious and always shows that on the pitch. He is very popular with the fans and I think Union is the perfect club for him to work on his quality. Doekhi needs a little more time and that is not always easy given the rotation system. He is a player for the future of Union, he fits well with the team. I think they will both be extra motivated to play against Ajax.’

‘Two matches in special stadiums’

Finally, journalist De Ruiter talks about her expectations of the diptych. She is especially looking forward to the atmosphere that will develop during the two games and expects that anything is possible. “I know at least that we will see two matches in special stadiums with extraordinary fans. Thousands of Union fans will travel to Amsterdam to celebrate. The result would hardly matter. Ajax and its fans can look forward to a great atmosphere in Berlin Köpenick. It is a cauldron with a unique atmosphere. It will be two tough matches in which anything can happen.’

Jesse Ter Haar (Twitter: @jesseterhaar | E-mail: [email protected])

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