First non-newspaper article ever published. Written for the now-defunct Hipster Manager in 2014.
In 1995, a genuinely really flipping hip team won the Champions League, beating AC Milan in the final at Vienna’s Ernst-Happel Stadion.
In a time before Russian gas companies smeared their advertisement all over the UEFA Champions League, Europe’s premier club competition in its current form was just a toddler, three years old to be exact. It was at this time that ‘Amsterdamsche Football Club Ajax’, undoubtedly one of the world’s most hipster affiliated clubs, rose to continental glory in the coolest of styles.
A fresh-faced, ‘before he was cool’ Louis van Gaal was the manager, equipped with a squad to make football hipsters weak at their skinny-jean-covered knees, formatted into a beautiful, 3-4-3 diamond formation which is basically pornography for the Football Manager players among us.
The likeable and reliable Edwin van der Sar stood in goal, protected by a back three made up of everyone’s favourite kind of defenders, ball-playing ones. The skipper, Danny Blind, the Blind family’s coolest member as a result of Daley’s recent mainstream fame, swept up in a libero-fashion, with Michael Reiziger and Frank De Boer either side of him. Neither of whom were afraid to launch counter attacks onto the wings where one ‘Flying Dutchman’ and one ‘Flying Nigerian’ were operating the flanks – Marc Overmars and Finidi George respectively.
The two wingers’ pace can only really be justified by the football cliches of both ‘electric’ and/or ‘lightning’, and this mixed with the Youtube-montage-worthy skills of the pair make them two of the most enjoyable components of the suave squad.
But the jewel of the crown, if you’d be so kind as to pardon one’s pun, was the four-man-diamond midfield, involving each player as hip as the last. The second half of one of football’s finest double acts, Ronald de Boer, would usually hold one of the spaces, with his and others box-to-box mentality helping this side recapture the ‘Total Football’ swagger of Holland and Ajax in the 1970s, embodied by hipster community favourite, Johan Cruyff. Frank Rjikjard, a key part in Lionel Messi’s development in later years, and a man who spat in Rudi Voller’s hair in years previous was also present, alongside fellow dreadlock enthusiast and unanimously adored human, Clarence Seedorf. On occasion, a pre-glasses Edgar Davids would also feature, aiding the frequently aesthetically pleasing link up play with the attacking components of this stylish roster.
Occupying either the number ten role or the main striker position was a man whose hipster qualities are clear through his brilliantly niche title, as the ‘greatest Finnish footballer of all time.’ No, Sami Hyypia was not part of this squad, the title belongs to Jari Litmanen, whose six goals were crucial in Ajax’s ’95 Champions League campaign and include chips, half-volleys and top-corner finders a plenty.
It was Patrick Kluivert though, at the tender age of just eighteen who scored the winner in the final versus Milan (cue ‘What was I doing when I was 18?’), a fairytale story for another likeable player in this hip squad, who shared the responsibility of leading the line with another unquestionably cool forward, the ageless Nwankno Kanu, whose gangly yet co-ordinated frame proved another useful asset.
This Ajax team encapsulated everything that is cool about Dutch football, playing with heart-warming teamwork and togetherness, present both in build-up play and in celebration together, doing so in one of the most iconic kits of that decade as well, may I add.
To top this hipster tale off, how did they share the trophy on arrival back home from Vienna with their thousands of fans? The mandatory, over-used, open-top bus ride around the city centre? That would be too obvious. Instead, they took the famous trophy for a riverboat experience through Amsterdam’s canals.