After my cousin Nicky picked us up in Venray, we headed a bit more south in the Netherlands to where Nicky lives in Heythuysen. He let us know the plans for the next day and that he had tried to get us an interview with two of the top firms here in Amsterdam. (For those of you that don’t know a firm is it’s kind of like a supporters group of people who stand up for there team not quite like a gang but with the violence yes, they have been known to cause a lot of violence pre, during, and post games). He also told us that because where we were going (Amsterdam and the high crime rate that this place is known for. Also going into the fan club where the supporter group already told us they didn’t want to see us) he didn’t think that it was a good idea for me to bring my big camera. This kind of changed the episode and I think you’ll see that. We didn’t want every episode to be the same, so this will just be a bit more unique. I think it adds to the episode. What Nicky said widened our eyes about what we were getting ourselves into. We always felt safe, but it was just the history of the violence that kept us on our toes.
That night we watched Green Street Holigans one of the main reasons I’m interested in the fans and firms over here. Not for the violence mainly, but just to see some of the passion for football and some for violence just interesting to see. In the morning we knew it was football day from the moment we woke up as my cousin who is a big fan of that movie walked in and shouted Its Football Day! (this is a part of the movie)
After breakfast the next day we headed down to Nicky’s local bar. He introduced us to his friends who were going to be going down with us and also people who couldn’t make the game. They were already ready for the day and began to sing some of the Ajax songs! Now Nicky knows I’m a big PSV fan, but he knew that nobody in Amsterdam could no this for some of the rivalries that these teams have had in the past. It didn’t last long though for his close friends to find out my true allegiances. They explained to me though that the only reason PSV is a kind of big rivialry for Ajax is because there usually fighting them for the title, not because there firm is any good. According to them there’s four big firms in the Netherlands; Ajax, Feynoord, Utrecht, and Den Haag. Ajax and Feynoord have always had really good football and firms. Utrecht depending on the season can have a decent team but usually not fighting for the title and Den Haag don’t have a chance at winning the league lately, but they have a top notch firm.
For Nicky though it wasn’t about trying to convince me to become an Ajax supporter it was showing me and Its Football Day what a typical match day would look like for him and his mates. He also wanted to confirm Eric to be an Ajax supporter at least in the Netherlands at least. Sadly I think it worked.
We missed the first bus on our way to Amsterdam due to the local festival in his hometown. The festival messed up the normal bus route so back to the bar we went for another hour finally we caught the bus and then took a train that took about 1 1/2 hours. It was a good journey as we were able to interview my cousins close friends and ask all of them some interesting questions about there adventures of touring as a supporter of Ajax. Watch the episode to hear what they had to say.
After taking the train to Amsterdam we headed to the pub for the traditional pre game drinks. The boys told me the similar experience I had during my visit to the Phillips stadium. The minute we left the train station they told me they were finally home!
After the pub we headed to the Amsterdam Arena. We took a cab and if we thought cabs in Toronto were crazy than this guy just reached a new limit of crazy. We probably yelled at every driver we past and were on the rear end of every driver on the road. He was crazy, but it was fun maybe a little more so after we got there safely. Nicky told us they usually take the metro to the stadium with thousands of Ajax supporters singing the songs and everything, but it was closed for some reason. He was disappointed that we missed this experience, but the stadium would reunite us with the singing that we were looking forward too.
Arriving at the stadium we headed to the fan shop for our traditional scarfs, but Eric got a jersey instead. This is when I finally lost my friend to Ajax Amsterdam. When we first saw the stadium it was quite odd to be honest for me and I’m really not trying to biased here. The stadium looked layered to me. On the innermost layer looked like a great stadium. The Amsterdam arena is the biggest stadium in the Netherlands and is a fairly new stadium relative to some of the other stadiums in the Netherlands. The outermost layer though is what I was quite confused with. It was a colorful structure, take a look at our pictures of the stadium to understand what I’m taking about. Inside the colorful structure was home to all kinds of stores none Ajax Amsterdam related. When I said in the Eindhoven blog that the Phillips stadium had a place for coffee and a cafeteria they did. However, it fit in well with the stadium it didn’t change the appearance of the stadium. The other thing we both noticed was that in Dortmund and Eindhoven the stadium was built around the city. This incorporated all the fans together so that they would be united for football day. In Munich the Allianz is in the middle of nowhere and that worked for that stadium well. What we found for the Amsterdam Arena was that it was built kind of like the Allianz as it was built and nothing was around it and then the big buildings were built up around it. Nicky also said he liked the way it used to be better. Before this trip I never stopped to think that the surrounding area would have such a big impact on a stadium but it truly does.
After waiting in line which felt like forever, we headed to the Ajax supporters home. This was a very cool place, you could feel the passion and fear rival teams would feel going past. This is home to the 410 firm and the F side firm. While the 410 is quite loud during games the F side is more known for the violence in previous years. Nicky advised us not to film or take pictures within the place. Like I said above, Nicky had asked via Facebook of the firms if anyone would be interested in giving us an interview. They said no we are not but enjoy the game. Short and simple we were outsiders and a lot of them don’t want to be on camera. We saw a movie after the match of an interview with 4 people from the F firm and they were all hooded up so you couldn’t see any of them. Quite sketchy but from a good distance very cool. Nicky told us that all of the profits from the beer that everyone was drinking goes into affording the place as well as away games that they organize which is nice because its volunteer only there… We have found out this happens a lot here and it’s great to see!
After touring the fan base for Ajax we headed to the game. Because we were located in tier 2 they had escalators to bring us up its kind of like a tube going around the escalators which allows for people to sing in them going into the match and others to follow and it carrying to the stadium allowing for that sound volume to go ballistic.
We had cut it a bit close for kick of because the fan shop took longer then we expected and we wanted to go to the fan base but just as we walked into the entrance to the field kick off began. We weren’t in the supporters section but Nicky having been in himself and knowing all of the songs gave us a good feeling of where we were. We were right beside the small section of away supporters and Nicky informed us on the opposite side next to us was a new firm that was just starting. The game was fantastic again, however unless we were in the 5,000 410 firm spot there wasn’t as much jumping up and down for 90 minutes like in Dortmund. A lot of fans around just loved to watch the flowing play of Ajax occasionally we’d here the odd Ajax Amsterdam especially from Nicky!
After the game was done Nicky’s friends who were in a different section than us told us that they had been checked if they were on the blacklist which just kinda gave us a bit of an aftershock I guess. Also we made predictions before the game about the score one of nickys friends was actually right so his other friend gave him 10 euros, proper.
We got back on the train and someone mentioned, very softly, as a joke that I was a PSV fan. I laughed and joked around, but that didn’t last long as 8 big huge Ajax supporters turn there heads at the mention of PSV and we kind of all went silent. No trouble but you just got that feeling that something could have happened and if it had been 5-10 years ago it might just have. The minute we got into Eindhoven I was able to breath a bit better and able to take off my Ajax scarf!
Something I haven’t actually mentioned is the day before match day. I had some dodgy Macaroni from the microwave. I reckon that it gave me a bit of food poisoning. It just goes to show you though how a great day I actually had being sick and still able to go from the bar to the train to the games and still thoroughly enjoying myself along the way. When we got back the boys went to the after party I myself though had a date with the bathroom.