Posted: 4/14/2008


     I have sat on some famous seats in my soccer travels. Probably the greatest was straight after the World Cup Final in 1966 at Wembley Stadium, when I took a photo of Bobby Moore receiving the Jules Rimet from Queen Elizabeth II as I watched from 5 yards away. After the Royal Box emptied I climbed over the velvet front and sat in Her Majesty's seat and picked up the 1 foot long white cardboard sign still lying there and printed 'H.M. QUEEN' and walked away with the souvenir.

    Last year I was in the World Cup to-be stadium Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, at a SA Premier Soccer League match "Mandela sat there", I was told. What  a thrill.

     Well I was at the historic Bramall Lane yesterday afternoon for Sheffield FC vs Ajax Amsterdam, part of the 150th anniversary season for CLUB, as the oldest football team in the world is nicknamed.  I was given seat 5J in the Directors Box and sat there. It was the seat at the end of a short row used for dozens of years by one of my boyhood heroes, Derek Dooley,former President of United  who had an artificial leg after his soccer accident as a 19 year old star striker for Sheffield Wednesday at Preston's Deepdale in 1953.  What an honour.  I was told that they were going to preserve it as some sort of a shrine to the great man who passed away a few weeks ago, so I moved to seat J4 to preserve the legendary padded seat for posterity.

   Ajax brought their 18 year old youth team to play the amateurs as their first team was supposedly battling for an Erdevisie league position in Groningen, at the same time. Unfortunately Dutch hooliganism raised its nasty head once more. Some visiting Ajax fans set light to seats in the Euroborg Stadium,only opened 4 years ago, and a few were burned. The stadium was evacuated and the match called off.  CLUB managed to tame the Dutch masters 2-0 with sublime goals either side of half time from Jamie Smith and Vill Powell.and it could have been more in front of an appreciaitive crowd.

    The young Dutchmen had been guests at The Premiership match Derby County v Aston Villa the previous day and could not believe the passion and enthousiasm of the capacity crowd at Pride Park even after the 4th of six goals went into the net past goalkeeper Roy Carroll, according to their host Dave Cartwright of Sheffield FC.  The Rams only have 11 points, are already relegated, and will probably finish up with the lowest ever points total.

     Ajax are a world famous club and I have often visited Amsterdam Arena, just 3 local train stops from Schiphol Airport, the world' biggest duty free and most convenient airport to transit through. It opened in 1996 and succeeded the old De Meer Stadion in East Amsterdam. I watched its construction over the years and it has a museum, club shop and player owned cafe, with the first team training pitch next door. Half a mile away is a smaller stadium for their many successful youth teams.  It was during the 1960's and 1970's that they came from nowhere to world fame with such players as Johan Cruyff, Sjaak Swart, Co Prins, Bennie Muller, Piet Kaizer Johann Neeskens, Wim Surbier as coach Rinus Michels introduced the world to TOTAL FOOTBALL. Many league titles were won after professionalism was introduced into Holland in 1956 plus European Cup, Cup Winners Cup, UEFA Inter Cities Cup and Intercontinental Cup triumphs. and the national team's World Cup Final appearances in 1974 and 1978 and European Natiions Cup triumph in 1988.

Suggested reading: Ajax,the Dutch,the War, by Simon Kuper, and Brilliant Orange by David Winner.