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A Look Inside the Ajax Academy

We visit De Toekomst to find out more about AFC Ajax's world famous youth academy, speaking to some of the famous names who once played at the club before becoming coaches, including Danny Blind and Bryan Roy, while also getting an insight from business and facilities manager Ed Lefeber.

The AFC Ajax academy continues to be one of the most famous football education institutions in Europe and "the lifeblood" of the club according to former star Danny Blind.

Part I

The AFC Ajax youth academy is one of the most famous football education systems in the world, nurturing a galaxy of young Dutch stars down the years, all trained to play the Ajax way.

The base for grooming this burgeoning talent is De Toekomst, which translates as 'The Future'. An impressive facility, its 14 hectares feature seven pitches, 14 dressing rooms and a sports hall. Some 200 youth players, aged between seven and 19, are students at the Amsterdam club's academy, playing in 13 different teams.

"The Ajax youth academy is the lifeblood of this club," former Ajax player and current assistant coach Danny Blind told "On the one hand, that has to do with the financial structure. We are not capable of spending large amounts of money on players, which means that you have to develop them yourself.

"Secondly, we try to develop players through a specific culture, a specific philosophy, and to show them in general terms how Ajax want to play football. It is an advantage if players have already played in the same system for many years. So yes, in that sense, it is very important for Ajax."

Players to have come through that system include Johan Cruyff, Dennis Bergkamp and current first-team coach Frank de Boer. While over more recent years Wesley Sneijder, Klass-Jan Huntelaar and Maarten Stekelenberg have all graduated from Ajax.

"The real success of the youth academy is measured by the amount of players who really added value to the first team," said the club's business and facilities manager, Ed Lefeber. "We also look at how many players play for national teams. When the Netherlands played Finland recently, nine out of the 11 players in the starting lineup were developed by Ajax.

"If we, the Netherlands, are second in the FIFA rankings, then that is a criteria you can use. But you are always comparing. You can say that we didn't develop a player like Lionel Messi in the last ten years, but we did develop Sneijder and Van der Vaart. So you constantly want to develop those types of players."

Part II


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