Three clubs have generally dominated the Dutch league since the beginning of professional football there in the 1950’s: Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven. But it is clear where the main rivalry in Holland is when Ajax, who come from the capital Amsterdam and Feyenoord, who hail from the port city of Rotterdam, both face each other in a fixture that has become known as ‘De Klassieker’ (The Classic).
The two clubs’ rivalries extend right up to both boardrooms and they very rarely transfer players with one another (the last being Greek international Charisteas in 2006). Though Holland’s most famous player has played for both clubs and yet both sets of fans still applaud him. Johan Cruyff‘s second stint at Ajax finished in 1983 (after some remarkable years at Barcelona and in the now defunct NASL) when the powers that be didn’t offer him a new contract. Cruyff responded by signing for arch-rivals Feyenoord. Though Ajax claim him as their “hero son”, the Feyenoord faithful are grateful to Cruyff for his contribution to the Rotterdam club in his one-and-only season by winning the double in 1984. Only Cruyff would get equal respect from both fans.
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With most rivalries comes violence with the fans sadly. And after the death of one fan in 1997 in Beverwijk, the mayors of Amsterdam and Rotterdam took measures to stamp out hooliganism in Dutch football. Away supporters, under the watchful eye of the police, can only travel by train to the match (they can only buy a match ticket if they buy a train ticket). There an underground tunnel will bring them straight to the away end thus giving potential hooligans zero opportunity to fight one another. Not a bad system.
Again, with all the intense rivalry and violence aside, the fixture has produced some epic games. Even some of Europe’s finest stars (past & present) such as Ibrahimovic, Gullit, Kalou, Bergkamp, Suarez, Laudrup, Kuyt, Koeman and more have all played in De Klassieker making it one of football’s greatest rivalries.