By Walter Broeckx
As Untold Arsenal is a site that talks about football in general and not only about Arsenal I would like to talk about the cup final in Holland. And there are a few links with Arsenal in this. And with articles written on Untold in the last months. And the Hull – Arsenal match wasn’t the only one that had to be stopped for a while because of some strange events happening.
Let us start with setting the scene. The final was played between Ajax v PEC Zwolle. Probably a team you never heard of before. Don’t worry, most people will never have heard about this club. Well, it is a club from the Dutch city Zwolle. As you could expect by the name. And their list of honour up to this weekend was as empty as can be.
They were founded in 1910 and in their 104 years of existence they had won nothing. They had been to the Dutch cup final twice but lost on both occasions. And that was in 1928 and in 1977. So a long, long time ago.
I don’t really need to say a lot about Ajax. If you don’t know Ajax you probably have never seen a football match in your life. The best Dutch club. The biggest list of honours of them all. 32 times champions of Holland, 18 times cup winners and four CL winners in Europe. But that was before the oil man stepped in.
The thought of Ajax even losing this final or even going to extra time was ridiculous before the match. The final started and within seconds the Ajax supporters began throwing smoke bombs and fireworks on the pitch. And the crazy thing was that it was towards the penalty area where their own goal keeper was standing! Completely crazy. The game was stopped so the fire brigade could do their job.
The game restarted and Ajax scored the opening goal within the first 2 minutes. Oh well game over most thought. And probably the same idiots from Ajax started another fireworks attack. Again a real bombardment was started at the Ajax penalty area. The ref couldn’t do anything else but call both teams back in the dressing room.
Edwin Van der Sar now director at Ajax came out on the pitch and said in no uncertain ways that the idiots had to stop what they were doing or they would risk Ajax losing the cup final with 0-3 and handing the cup to Zwolle. That seemed to help or they had run out of fireworks by then.
After an interruption of almost half an hour the cup final could restart. And what happened then will be minutes that will be remembered for all who feel something for Pec Zwolle.
In an amazing few minutes after the restart Pec Zwolle scored 3 goals in 13 minutes and took a 3-1 advantage. And just after the half hour mark they scored a 4th goal. Ajax being down 4-1 against Zwolle was unprecedented, unheard, unseen, unthinkable and even untold.
And shortly after half time Pec Zwolle added a fifth goal and went on to win the Dutch cup final with an historic 5-1 win over Ajax, the big favourites.
On the Ajax bench you saw Dennis Bergkamp sitting next to Frank de Boer the Ajax manager and thinking what was this all about. It was as if the fireworks had ignited the Zwolle players to an amazing fight back against a team that looked to be certain to win the cup.
As you know Untold has warned about fireworks, smoke bombs and flares before and has complained that the Emirates stewards seemed to be unable to prevent fireworks and smoke bombs being used by visiting fans. In this case the use of smoke bombs and fireworks worked against the team whose supporters had used them.
And apart from the link we have with Ajax because of Bergkamp it also is a reminder about never taking a cup final for granted. No matter who the opposition is and no matter how much you have won against them in the league. It counts for nothing once you enter the pitch on cup final day.
So let us not just think that we will win it just because we won twice in the league. No, it will not be that easy. Although of course I hope it will be an easy win for us in Wembley. But I’m not counting on easy wins in a cup final. And I hope the players will be as focused as needed on that day. And remember what happened to Ajax and prepare themselves with the needed respect.
And let us hope that our fans never behave like the idiots from Ajax. The questions to ask are how much it affected the Ajax players and how much it helped Zwolle to set out a different tactics after having gone down after just 2 minutes. We never know of course but it sure didn’t help Ajax to keep their focus. Maybe the players thought the match was in the bag and lost their concentration in the dressing room? Maybe they were angry with their own fans?
In a way this shows how unpredictable football is and certainly in cup finals. Let us not take anything for granted. And let us hope that the misery caused by a part of the Ajax fans will not be followed up by other fans from other teams.
Untold has written strongly against the use of fireworks and smoke bombs. There just is no place for this in football stadiums and certainly not on the football pitch. We’ve seen they can seriously damage people’s health. Now we see they can affect entire games.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal
- The full anniversary file is published on the Arsenal History Society blog