AFC Ajax is a professional soccer team based in the Netherlands. They play in the Eredivisie league and holds the record for the most Dutch title.

Ajax is the most famous club in the Netherlands. The Amsterdam based team has a massive 35 Eredivisie titles, 19 KNVB Cups, and 9 Johan Cruyff Shields. On the international level, Ajax has achieved everything. They have won 4 European Cups/Champions League, 1 European Cup Winners Cup, 1 UEFA Cup, and 2 UEFA Super Cups. They also have 2 Intercontinental Cups to their names.

Their home stadium is the 55,000 seater Johan Cruyff Arena, named after the legendary Johan Cruyff. In this article, we dive into the history of one of the finest clubs in European history and know more about what made them so unique in the world game.

Full NameAmsterdamsche Football Club Ajax
FoundedMarch 18, 1900
Nicknamede Godenzonen
StadiumJohan Cruyff Arena
OwnerAFC Ajax N.V.
ManagerErik ten Hag

The Foundation Of AFC Ajax

The inception of Ajax FC happened in March 1900. Its initial name was Football Club Ajax. The owners decided to call the club by this name as a tribute to a Greek soldier ‘Ajax’, who fought the Trojan war bravely and was known for his bravery, intellect and courage. One aspect of the Greek character was that he was invincible in battles.

The kit of Ajax featured a red and white shirt and black shorts and socks.
They were later forced to change their kit as it clashed with that of Sparta Rotterdam. It gave rise to Ajax’s famous jersey with the white shirt and the red stripe in the middle.

For eleven years, Ajax played in the second tier of Dutch soccer. But In 1911, Ajax successfully got promoted to the first division under their first-ever coach, Jack Kirwan. However, they could not do anything meaningful and got demoted in 1914. It remains the only relegation in the long and bright history of Ajax.

In the next three years, Ajax had a roller coaster regarding Dutch soccer divisions as they were continuously moving up and down in the divisions. Things changed for the better as the legendary Jack Reynolds replaced Jack Kirwan as the new Ajax trainer. Under him, Ajax returned to the first division again.

In Reynold’s three spells at the club from 1915 to 1947, he achieved enormous success for the Amsterdam club. He won Ajax their first-ever national trophy, winning the KNVB Cup in 1917. Just one year later, in 1918, they won their first-ever league title. They retained their crown the following season. The 1920s were a slow period for the club as they could not win anything notable on a national level.

The 1930s proved to be a prolific decade for the club as they won as many as five Dutch League titles in the decade. The 1930s were also memorable for Ajax as they moved to De Meeren, a stadium where they enjoyed much of their success. They played there for around sixty years before moving to their current home ground.

In the 1940s, the club slowed down. It is believed that Jack Reynolds’ retirement had a lot to do with it as he was heavily involved with the ins and outs of the soccer team, staying at the helm for around 30 years. They won another KNVB Cup in 1942. Their next trophy came in the 1946-47 season when they won the league title. From 1950-55, they added two more league trophies to their trophy collection.

The Transition Period

Professional soccer got announced in the Netherlands in 1954, and the Eredivisie league was established just two years later. Ajax got off to a running start in the new format winning the first-ever Eredivisie title in the 1956-57 campaign.

However, Ajax was nowhere near the top European teams as they constantly suffered from European failures. In 1960, Ajax got dumped out of the European Cup by an Amateur team, Fredrikstad FK. However, they won the league title in the same year after finishing level on points with Feyenoord. The league was decided in a playoff where Ajax convincingly defeated Feyenoord by 5-1. Ajax also won their third National Cup under the management of Vic Buckingham, the Englishman.

The years that followed were not the best as Ajax escaped relegation following a dreadful season in 1965. As a consequence, Buckingham lost his job.

The Glory Years Of Ajax

Things were about to change in 1965 when a former player, Rinus Michels, got appointed as the new manager. After his appointment, he made it clear that he wanted to implement “Total Football” within his team. Total Football” meant that every player on the field could become the attacker, midfielder, or defender, and every player should be technically gifted enough to play soccer.

Under Michels, Ajax reached unprecedented heights on the domestic and European stages. They won three European Cups and 11 domestic trophies. Within those 11 trophies, seven were the Dutch titles. Michels’ men won four of the five leagues between 1965-1970. After losing in the final to Milan in 1969, Ajax won the European Cup just two years later by overcoming Panathinaikos by two goals. After this win, Michels left the club to join Barca.

Steven Kovacs became the new manager of the European champions. Under him, Ajax reached further heights by winning the treble in 1972. In the following season, they did the double by defending the Dutch League and the European Cup.

Consequently, they became only the second club after Real Madrid to win three consecutive European Cups. Interestingly, they got to keep the original European Cup trophy for winning it thrice in a row. Only five other clubs have ever had this privilege.

After a barren period in which the club couldn’t win any of the big prizes, regular service resumed in 1977 as Ajax won the Dutch League title again. They improved on this feat by winning the double just two years later. The local domination continued as they won consecutive leagues in 1982 and 1983.

The Era Of Johan Cruyff

In 1985, Stevan Kovacs left the club and was replaced by Ajax’s club legend, Johan Cruyff. Under his tenure, Ajax broke the Dutch record of most goals in a single season (120). However, they could not land the Dutch League for Ajax as they finished eight points adrift of eventual champions PSV Eindhoven. However, they did win the KNVB Cup in 1985-86 and 1986-87.

In the following season, Ajax finished runners-up to PSV in the Dutch league again. However, they did end up winning the European Cup Winners Cup. Despite this trophy, Cruyff’s fate got sealed as he couldn’t land a league title in 1988. Therefore, he left the club and joined FC Barcelona.

The Era Of Louis Van Gaal And The Crisis

Ajax was finally successful in landing the league title in 1990. After Louis Van Gaal got appointed as the manager, Ajax had the objective to reclaim their throne on the European stage. The Dutchman did precisely that by claiming the UEFA Cup in 1992. As a consequence, Ajax became one of the few clubs to win all the European trophies possible.

In 1993, Van Gaal integrated various youth players within the team, most notably Frank Rijkaard. According to the Ajax president, they wanted to continue with the legacy of their academy players’ evolution. Ajax won three consecutive Dutch league titles with their young side. They also revived the idea of “Total Football”.

In 1995, they went the entire campaign unbeaten. A dominating victory against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, followed by a victory over AC Milan in the Champions League final, sealed the deal for an outstanding superstars generation. They finished runners-up to Juventus a year later.

Ajax could not maintain their status as the European elite as Louis Van Gaal abruptly left the club and several other staff members. The club went through a crisis of managerial changes. From 2000 till 2010, Ajax could only land two more league titles. Ronald Koeman and Danny Blind were appointed as managers, but both had little success.

The Era Of Frank de Booer

In 2010, Frank de Boer got appointed as the club manager. With his appointment, Ajax believed they could regain the status of the best club in the Netherlands set by Johan Cruyff and Rinus Michels. Little did they know that he would do something that not even the previous historic regimes did.

Under de Boer, Ajax won an unprecedented four consecutive Dutch League titles, surpassing both Rinus Michels and Louis Van Gaal domestically. As a result of their domestic performances, they were able to enjoy Champions League soccer consistently. After finishing runners-up to PSV in 2015 and 2016 Dutch League Standings, Frank de Boer left the club.

European Resurgence

In June 2016, Frank de Boer left the club and was replaced by Peter Bosz. They could not progress to the Champions League. However, they made significant progress in the Europa League. They made it to the final by beating Olympique Lyon in the semi-finals. However, they finished runners-up to Manchester United.

While they did secure Champions League qualification, Bosz left his position and went to Borussia Dortmund. Marcel Keizer replaced him. In one of the most painful moments in Ajax’s history, academy player Abdelhak Nouri collapsed during an on-going match. He was urgently transported to the hospital. He is currently still recovering from permanent brain damage. There are chances that we may never see him back on the pitch again.

Ajax performance did not change with the appointment of Keizer as manager. They even failed to make it for the Champions League group stages. In December 2017, Keizer was replaced by Erik ten Hag as Ajax manager. After his appointment, the results improved, and Ajax finished four points adrift of PSV to the Dutch league title.

The 2018-19 season was a memorable but heartbreaking season for the Dutch club. As both Ajax and PSV were equal on points going into Gameweek 37, both were yet to play against each other. This decisive match resulted in Ajax beating PSV 4-1. In the last game of the season, Ajax defeated De Graafschap 4-1 to secure their 34th dutch league. The most memorable time of Ajax’s season came in the Champions League.

They qualified for the last 16, where they had to play the three-time defending champions, Real Madrid. After losing the first leg 2-1 at home, they produced one of their best games of the season by destroying the champions 4-1 at Santiago Bernabeu. That broke a three-year hold of the Los Blancos in the Champions League.

Ajax met Juventus in the quarter-finals. After drawing the first leg 1-1 at home, they once again produced an incredible away performance by winning the tie 3-2 on aggregate. In the semi-finals, they met Tottenham Hotspur. Despite being 3-0 up by the end of the first half of the second leg, they completely wilted in the second half and bowed out of the competition on away goals. Many drew comparisons of Ajax’s 2018-19 season with AS Monaco’s 2016-17 season.

Since then, most of their star players left for other clubs. Ajax is still trying to rebuild their team. With the arrival of many youngsters in the first-team, that should not be a massive task for the current Dutch champions.

End Of The Line

When you mention Ajax to any soccer fan, the two things that have to come up are their attractive soccer style and their remarkable youth academy program. Many soccer clubs have created their academy setup based on Ajax’s principles.

The club has won numerous accolades in its illustrious history, winning 74 trophies in total. They will remain as one of the most-loved team worldwide.