In football, sometimes rivalries are less about geography and more about cultural and regional differences. That is the case with Netherlands giants Ajax and Feyenoord. The Ajax-Feyenoord rivalry is among the most passionate in Dutch football, captivating fans and creating a tense atmosphere whenever the two teams meet.
The game between the two teams is commonly called ‘De Klassiker’ or ‘The Classic’ in English and is fiercely contested on the pitch.
Ajax and Feyenoord are based in the two biggest cities of the Netherlands, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, respectively. These cities have a long-standing rivalry dating back to the Middle Ages. Amsterdam, the capital city, represents the economic and cultural centre of the country, while Rotterdam, a major port city, symbolises the industrious working-class culture. This regional divide contributes to the rivalry between the clubs.
The clubs have historically represented different ideologies and fan bases. Ajax is often associated with an open, cosmopolitan, and liberal image, while Feyenoord has had closer ties to a working-class identity. These ideological differences have further divided the fan bases and added to the rivalry.
The early history of the fixture
The first official match between Ajax and Feyenoord took place on October 9th 1921. This first meeting took place in the Dutch top tier in a game that ended 2-2 at Feyenoord’s home ground, De Kuip.
This first encounter between Ajax and Feyenoord marked the beginning of their fierce rivalry, which has since become one of the most intense rivalries in Dutch football, both on and off the pitch.
Who has had the better head-to-head record?
Since that fateful first meeting in Rotterdam in 1921, the pair have clashed regularly in competitive action, with Ajax enjoying the better ‘De Klassiker’ record. Here is a breakdown of those head-to-head meetings:
|Dutch top flight
|Dutch top flight play-offs
|Dutch Super Cup
The highest scorers in De Klassiker
Over the years, many players have thrived in arguably the biggest games of the Dutch football season. The player who has scored the most goals in the big games between the pair was Ajax winger and icon Sjaak Swart, who scored 18 De Klassiker goals in his 17-year career with the capital giants.
The second most prolific player in the fixture was forward Cor van der Gijp, who scored 14 times for Feyenoord against their rivals from 1955 until 1964.
Ajax star Jari Litmanen was just a little behind, as the former Finland international scored 12 times in De Klassiker matches. Another Ajax forward, Piet van Reenen, matched Litmanen’s goals tally in the feisty clashes.
Next on the list are two players who represented both clubs, as Ruud Geels scored 11 goals in De Klassiker, ten for Ajax and one for Feyenoord. Henk Groot also netted 11 times in the games, scoring nine goals for the team from Amsterdam and once for the Rotterdam outfit.
Who is the more successful of the two teams?
When it comes to winning trophies, the club from the Dutch capital have a far superior record to their Rotterdam rivals, as the team from Amsterdam has won 75 trophies overall in all competitions, which rather dwarfs Feyenoord’s tally of 37 trophies. Ajax have won the national title on 36 occasions, compared to their rival’s 16 titles.
Ajax has also been more successful in the KNVB Cup, lifting the trophy 20 times, with Feyenoord winning it on 13 occasions.
Ajax has outdone their rivals in the European game, too, claiming four European Cup/Champions League trophies, with Feyenoord winning the competition just once. However, Feyenoord has won the Europa League in its various guises twice compared to Ajax’s one win. That is more down to Ajax participating in European football’s elite competition than anything else, though.
Players who have represented both teams
There is a relatively long list of players who have represented both Dutch giants, including the likes of Wim Jansen, Ronald Koeman and Johnny Rep. However, one name stands above all when it comes to players who have featured for both Dutch giants, and that is superstar Johan Cruyff.
Having starred for Ajax in two separate spells during his playing career, Cruyff was allowed to leave the club in 1983, and Feyenoord quickly snapped him up. The veteran forward played for Feyenoord for just one season, ending his playing career by guiding the team to the double of the Dutch top flight and the KNVB Cup. It was the ultimate two fingers to the club who he felt had betrayed him.
The rivalry continues
Like most intense rivalries in football, this one will likely live forever, as it’s not just a clash of football teams but a cultural clash, which only intensifies rivalries. The rivalry on the pitch has often spread to the terraces and surrounding areas during games, which has led to heated encounters between both sets of fans.
However, for all the talk of trouble off the pitch when we talk about De Klassiker, it’s the football on the pitch that makes the Ajax-Feyenoord so unique and a rivalry that is hard to match in the European game when it comes to passion and ferocity.