History

Ajax 71

It is 50 years since Rinus Michels’ Ajax lifted the first of three straight European Champion Clubs’ Cups. The 1971 triumph against Panathinaikos introduced a new revolutionary style to a wider European audience, spearheaded by a young Dutch maestro whose vision of how football should be played still influences the game today. Here Simon Hart speaks to two members of that great Ajax side, Sjaak Swart and Arie Haan; Ajax fan Frans Groenendaal, who made the memorable trip to London aged 14; and journalist Jaap de Groot, who closely followed Johan Cruyff’s rise at Ajax then Barcelona. This is their story of a day at Wembley that left its mark on the history of European football.

INTERVIEWS Simon Hart, Rinus Michels | QUOTES UEFA'S '50 Years' Jubilee Book

“I felt that we had the better team but winning finals is not always about being the better team – you have to fight, you have to be mentally strong and you have to operate as a team.”  

Those words came from Rinus Michels, the great Dutch football coach, some time after the Wembley evening in 1971 when Ajax first lifted the European Cup. Their victory over Panathinaikos, in Michels’ final match before moving to Barcelona, was a breakthrough moment for an Ajax team that spent the early 1970s creating a legacy that endures to this day, as you would expect when you win three successive continental crowns.

It was a triumph six years in the making for Michels, who turned Ajax from the team of part-timers he had inherited from his predecessor, Englishman Vic Buckingham, in 1965 into Europe’s finest footballing side. Piet Keizer became the club’s first full professional player in that same year, with Johan Cruyff following a year later. Before long Michels and his players had added the term ‘total football’ to the sport’s lexicon.

“You have to create a football team as a machine, with all the working parts in motion,” said Michels in that same interview with UEFA in 2004, a year before his death. Acknowledging the influence of Hungary’s great team of the 1950s, he explained what total football meant to him in practical terms: “To create and use space efficiently you need 11 good players and you need cohesion. You have to use the full width and length of the pitch and play a long way from your goal. You also have to find each other in ball-passing movements and especially the long pass. This is the most difficult thing to achieve.”


They did it with a group of players including Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Keizer, their four-goal leading scorer on the road to Wembley. That said, despite an early Dick van Dijk goal, there was little total football played during a nervy final against Panathinaikos, the 50th anniversary of which falls on 2 June. It was a night when Michels, concerned by the Greeks’ attacking threat, ended up taking off the club’s record appearance- maker, Sjaak Swart, at half-time, leaving the player in tears in the Wembley dressing room. Not until the 87th minute did they make sure of victory with a goal by Swart’s replacement Arie Haan, who was making his debut in the competition that evening.

Over the following pages we reflect on the road travelled by Ajax under Michels, gathering the recollections of those who experienced that period. They include ‘Mr Ajax’ himself, Swart, who played 603 times for the club, and Arie Haan, who made that incredible dream debut as a half-time substitute under the fabled Twin Towers.

Michels replaces Vic Buckingham as manager in January 1965.

Sjaak Swart: “I’d played with Michels during his last season as a player for Ajax and he was a very good centre- forward. When he arrived he came to sit with the players and said, ‘Boys, we’re going to play total football.’ And then he said everyone had to train seven times a week, eat and sleep well to become more professional. If there were boys who couldn’t do that, they could go home. He was a fanatic. In pre-season, I remember we were in a military camp and trained five times a day. At 7am we’d start with a walk with him. Then we had breakfast, after which we had conditioning training for an hour and a half. After that came lunch and then we had tactical training. I was the outside- right so I’d get the ball out wide, control it and then run down the touchline to cross for the likes of Cruyff and Keizer. We did this for an hour. At 5pm we played five against five. At 8pm we did work with the ball and an hour later we were all in bed, sleeping until the next morning to repeat the routine for a week.”

Arie Haan: “Michels was very hard. We were numbers for him. It was the beginning for Dutch football to be professional. Before that, Holland was a good football-playing country but not with the mentality of a professional. He changed all that, he changed the whole mentality of Dutch football.”

Ajax meet Liverpool in the European Cup in December 1966, winning 5-1 on a foggy night in Amsterdam, then drawing 2-2 away.

Sjaak Swart: “Everyone in England asked, ‘Who is Ajax?’ And Liverpool’s coach, Bill Shankly, said after losing 5-1 that his team would win 7-0 at home. But it was 2-2 and afterwards he came to the dressing room to say well done. I’ll never forget that. They had a great team with the likes of Tommy Smith, Peter Thompson, Ian Callaghan and Ron Yeats and we beat them 5-1. From that moment, everything changed. Everyone talked about Ajax. In the first game we’d put pressure on Liverpool and scored four goals in the first half. Everyone in Europe then talked about total football.”

Rinus Michels: “Those two games signified the birth of Ajax at international level. I had a young team with Johan Cruyff, who was 19, up front, with Piet Keizer and Sjaak Swart. It was a side that knew how to play as a team and had good individual qualities, but they weren’t used to the pressures of playing in Europe against top opposition. They coped with it and I was impressed and encouraged by the way they handled those two games against Liverpool.”

Ajax are runners-up in the European Cup final in 1969. A year later Feyenoord beat Celtic to become the first Dutch champions.

Sjaak Swart: “In the 1969 final against AC Milan, they played their catenaccio style and their forward Pierino Prati scored three goals on the counterattack. We lost 4-1. We learned that you couldn’t only rely on your attacking ability.”

Jaap de Groot: “Nobody had expected a Dutch team to reach the European Cup final. Ajax reached the final and lost against AC Milan and then the year after, to everybody’s surprise, Feyenoord won the European Cup. It was such a sensation and it didn’t matter if it was Rotterdam or Amsterdam, everybody was for Feyenoord.”

Arie Haan: “It was Feyenoord who won the first European Cup for Holland, so Ajax more or less had to win the second final for us to be on the same level as our opponents.”

Ajax captain Velibor Vasović lifts the trophy (above), Rinus Michels was in charge of Ajax from 1965 until 1971, when he headed to Barcelona (top right), Johan Cruyff in relaxed mood on the Wembley turf ahead of kick-off (right)

Ajax overcome Celtic in the quarter- finals and then Atlético de Madrid in the semis – 3-1 on aggregate each time – to reach the 1971 final. But four days beforehand they lose a Dutch title decider against Feyenoord in torrential rain in Amsterdam.

Sjaak Swart: “In the semi-final against Atlético we lost the away leg 1-0, which made it difficult. Fortunately we won the return leg at home 3-0, which was something we were able to do regularly. We’d also beaten Celtic 3-0. I think it was because when we scored one goal we knew it was not going to be enough – two or three were needed to win the game. And we did this every time.”

Jaap de Groot: “The Saturday night prior was Ajax v Feyenoord in the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam. I was 15 at the time and used the old trick of going under the fence to get into the stadium. I went through a door and was in the dressing room area, and walked with the two teams out onto the pitch. It was raining so hard you couldn’t see the difference between a young fan, a player and a steward. My father had been a centre-forward with the Ajax first team in the early ’50s when Rinus Michels was the winger. Michels recognised me and started laughing. But Feyenoord made that game a battle – it was a complete warzone. Piet Keizer scored but got injured in a tackle. It meant that by the time they got to Wembley, half the team were still being worked on by the medical staff.”

Ajax’s players are confident in the lead- up to the final – not least because of the presence of a 24-year-old Cruyff.

Sjaak Swart: “We didn’t worry about our opponents. We knew which of their players were good – they had two or three and we knew we had to take them out with some strong tackling. We knew how good our players were, like Johan Neeskens and Cruyff. In one v one situations, they were fast. Each individual knew exactly what they were doing. When our right-back Wim Suurbier came up, for example, I knew to swap positions with him. That was something we did very well.”

Arie Haan: “When I was a young player I was living in the same area of Amsterdam as Johan Cruyff and I didn’t have a car, so he’d pick me up and drive me into the club. We were very close. He was the most ‘social’ star, because the big stars in football play more for themselves and Johan wasn’t that kind of player. He played for the team. On the pitch he was always talking – his mouth was quicker than his feet! Sometimes in games I was surprised by the moves he did – suddenly a move I’d never seen. ‘What is he doing now?’ He played with a lot of fantasy. His biggest quality was to see where the space was, play the ball into that position and get there ahead of the next defender. He wasn’t a player for a short dribble like Messi or Maradona; he played the ball into a space where the defender couldn’t get to it before him, as he was very quick over the first three or four metres.”


Tens of thousands of Ajax fans cross the North Sea to attend the final.

Frans Groenendaal: “I was 14 years old and went with friends from the ground in Amsterdam. They’d bought me the tickets in Amsterdam so I got on the train at The Hague and met my friends there. We took the train to the Hook of Holland and then the ferry to Harwich. Everybody was dressed in red and white and singing a song called We Gaan Naar Londen: We’re Going to London.”

Sjaak Swart: “I had a cigar shop and there were about three planes full of supporters to whom I sold tickets for the final from my shop. About 25 buses packed with fans came by my shop and bought cigarettes, and I said I’d see them at Wembley.”

Frans Groenendaal: “I’d only seen Wembley on television for the FA Cup final, so when I stepped out of Wembley Underground station I’ll never forget that feeling of seeing the towers of the stadium in the distance. Then you walk to the ground and you see the towers up close, and you get goosebumps. If you look on YouTube you’ll see a lot of Dutch fans with red-and-white hats sponsored by Amstel beer. They’d given them out on the boat. I had one but the wind blew it off! There were also a lot of fans who brought instruments like trumpets and horns.”

Ajax begin the final with a goal after five minutes from striker Dick van Dijk, flicking home a header from a Keizer cross.

Frans Groenendaal: “It wasn’t a spectacular game but the first goal was a beautiful goal made by Piet Keizer, my all-time favourite player. Cruyff was getting a big mouth but Keizer was quiet and did his job scoring goals and giving assists. When I was a teenager the die- hard supporters had a song for Keizer, but not for Cruyff.”

Jaap de Groot: “We’d asked ourselves how much Ajax would beat the Greeks by, as they were by far the favourites. When the early goal came it was just going the way we thought it should go. But Panathinaikos had lost 4-1 away in their semi-final against Crvena zvezda, who also thought it was easy. Yet they then lost the second leg in Athens 3-0, so this was a team that could surprise.”

Rinus Michels: “Antonis Antoniadis was a bit like [José ] Torres of Benfica, almost two metres tall. I’d also been informed that his major supplier was the left-back, who loved to overlap and send in some beautiful crosses. So I gave Sjaak Swart the responsibility of closing him down, but when we went 1-0 up he became too caught up with the excitement of the game and started to forget. The crowd was making such a din that there was no way I could get a message to Sjaak.”

“HOLLAND WAS A GOOD FOOTBALL- PLAYING COUNTRY BUT NOT WITH THE MENTALITY OF A PROFESSIONAL. MICHELS CHANGED ALL THAT”

At half-time Michels makes the controversial move of substituting Swart and sending on Haan.

Sjaak Swart: “I played all the games and was never substituted. At half- time, though, Michels took off Nico Rijnders and me and brought on Horst Blankenburg and Arie Haan to protect the 1-0 scoreline. He was afraid and wanted to win, given he knew he was headed to Barcelona. It was important that we won the competition, for his reputation. I was so disappointed. He knew that and later he talked to me. He said to me that he’d made a mistake.”

Rinus Michels: “What I didn’t realise was that the doctor had been treating one of our players while I had been focusing on Sjaak. At the end of the interval he told me that Nico Rijnders couldn’t continue because of a heart problem. So I had used up my two substitutions and Keizer was also struggling a bit.”

Arie Haan: “I was nervous when he said, ‘You go in.’ We warmed up at half-time but your knees are knocking with the nerves. I’d not played in the European trying to score, to shoot on goal. The guy touched it and the goalkeeper had no chance at all. At that moment the game was over; at 2-0 you know you’ve won and it was a beautiful feeling.”

“THE GOALKEEPER HAD NO CHANCE AT ALL. AT THAT MOMENT THE GAME WAS OVER; AT 2-0 YOU KNOW YOU’VE WON AND IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL FEELING”

Ajax celebrate with a ticker-tape tour of Amsterdam in open-top cars.

Arie Haan: “We had a party together with our wives and the next day we went through Amsterdam in open cars. It was beautiful to have the cup at the Leidseplein Square with all our supporters. It was unbelievable – people shouting and standing on the balconies.”

Sjaak Swart: “We were put in these fantastic cars and I was in the first one with Cruyff and Keizer. That was fantastic. It was an open car, a Mercedes.”

Frans Groenendaal: “I missed my boat after the game. I had to take a bus to the train station and there was so much traffic, and I was too late for the train to Harwich. I’d also lost my friends in the ground. Nowadays you have a mobile and you can call each other but 50 years ago it was difficult – we saw each other a week later in Amsterdam! Fortunately some other Dutch fans said I could sleep in their hotel room. I took the boat a day later and it was one big party – everybody drinking beer and singing. I will never forget it.”


Michels departs. But for Ajax it is the beginning of a golden three-year period of European Cup glory.

Sjaak Swart: “After that we played in one of the best European finals, against an Inter side with the likes of Sandro Mazzola and Giacinto Facchetti. We won 2-0 but we should have won by four, five or six goals. It was a very good game. The third time we beat Juventus 1-0.”

Arie Haan: “Ștefan Kovács came in and made a fantastic team. We were so disciplined by Michels and knew exactly what to do but a little bit of fantasy in our game was not there – we were too rational – and with this new coach we were allowed to show our abilities. After ’71, in the finals in ’72 and ’73 we had one of the most beautiful teams Europe ever saw.”

History
“The excitement was overwhelming”

The Panathinaikos team of 1971 are still the only Greek side to reach a European Cup final. Here captain Mimis Domazos recalls how a nation was moved by their Wembley mission

Visitors to England have long complained about the weather. The inevitable rain. The thick fog of years gone by. Overcast skies for months on end. And, of course, the biggest menace of all: hurricanes. That, in any case, is the abiding memory of Mimis Domazos from his trip to Wembley Stadium in June 1971, though this particular storm had also touched down in London from overseas.

Captain of Panathinaikos and among Greece’s finest ever players, Domazos had helped his team defeat the likes of Everton and Crvena zvezda to reach the European Cup final. But they had never faced a side like Ajax or a strategy as fluid as ‘total football’, an ever-revolving cyclone that threatened to sweep Panathinaikos away.

“A centre-back would play centre-forward, a winger would drop back,” says Domazos. “They kept switching positions, all ten outfield players. The only player who wouldn’t move was the goalkeeper; the rest played all over the pitch, like a hurricane.” And the whirlwind talent at the heart of it all was Johan Cruyff, then aged 24. “He would flow; he would pop up here and there. He was everywhere. It was a joy to watch him play.” Not that Panathinaikos were intimidated. Still the only Greek club to reach a European final, they were savouring every moment. “Greek football didn’t exist back then because we weren’t professional; we were amateurs,” says Domazos. “When we got to Wembley, to us it was like we were the winners. We were a Greek team nobody had heard of. Just being in the final was similar to having won the cup.”

They were also spurred on by massive support. “The excitement was overwhelming. Not just from Panathinaikos fans: Greek fans from all over the world came to Wembley to watch Panathinaikos, regardless of their club preference. Every Greek person was supporting Panathinaikos on the day of the final, and the final itself was a celebration. There were about 40,000 Greek fans present and almost as many Dutch. But the Greeks were the loudest.”

The Shamrocks had reasons for optimism too, not least the finishing skills of Antonis Antoniadis, who topped the competition scoring charts that season with ten goals. In the dugout, meanwhile, they boasted a coach who had seen it all before; a man synonymous with European Cup finals. Domazos and the team had been unsure what to expect when Ferenc Puskás was appointed coach the previous year but the results spoke for themselves.

“We thought he’d be hard to reach or talk to, since he’d been a world star,” explains the skipper. “Instead we met with a down-to-earth guy, very approachable, good-humoured, who shared in all the jokes. He didn’t pinpoint to us how we should play, but he conveyed both his personality as a former player and the weight his name carried. Wherever we went abroad, everybody would talk about Puskás, not us.”

A three-time European champion himself, the former Real Madrid great took the pressure off his underdogs before they stepped out beneath the Twin Towers at Wembley, a “cathedral of football” as Domazos remembers it. “He said, as always before matches, ‘There are 11 of them, there are 11 of you. If you lose, nothing will happen. But if you defeat these legends, the whole world will know about you.’”

That didn’t stop Dick van Dijk heading in after just five minutes, but Panathinaikos were still not overawed. “There wasn’t any nervousness from us, honestly. We were playing Ajax without being afraid of them. We were determined to hold our own and we managed that. We had great players and pushed for an equaliser. We weren’t lucky that day, though. Antoniadis came close with one or two opportunities but it wasn’t meant to be. The contest was tight until the 87th minute, when they scored their second.”

That was how it ended, 2-0 to Ajax, but Panathinaikos had played their part in an absorbing final – and, like their opponents, created a legacy of their own. “Even today, when I speak with my team-mates, we still can’t believe what we did in 1971 as a bunch of unknown players,” says Domazos. “It’s as if we’re speaking about a dream we had, as if we’re narrating a fairy tale. The fact that, in the 50 years since, no other Greek club has gone that far in a European competition speaks volumes about our achievement.”

“I felt that we had the better team but winning finals is not always about being the better team – you have to fight, you have to be mentally strong and you have to operate as a team.”  

Those words came from Rinus Michels, the great Dutch football coach, some time after the Wembley evening in 1971 when Ajax first lifted the European Cup. Their victory over Panathinaikos, in Michels’ final match before moving to Barcelona, was a breakthrough moment for an Ajax team that spent the early 1970s creating a legacy that endures to this day, as you would expect when you win three successive continental crowns.

It was a triumph six years in the making for Michels, who turned Ajax from the team of part-timers he had inherited from his predecessor, Englishman Vic Buckingham, in 1965 into Europe’s finest footballing side. Piet Keizer became the club’s first full professional player in that same year, with Johan Cruyff following a year later. Before long Michels and his players had added the term ‘total football’ to the sport’s lexicon.

“You have to create a football team as a machine, with all the working parts in motion,” said Michels in that same interview with UEFA in 2004, a year before his death. Acknowledging the influence of Hungary’s great team of the 1950s, he explained what total football meant to him in practical terms: “To create and use space efficiently you need 11 good players and you need cohesion. You have to use the full width and length of the pitch and play a long way from your goal. You also have to find each other in ball-passing movements and especially the long pass. This is the most difficult thing to achieve.”


They did it with a group of players including Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Keizer, their four-goal leading scorer on the road to Wembley. That said, despite an early Dick van Dijk goal, there was little total football played during a nervy final against Panathinaikos, the 50th anniversary of which falls on 2 June. It was a night when Michels, concerned by the Greeks’ attacking threat, ended up taking off the club’s record appearance- maker, Sjaak Swart, at half-time, leaving the player in tears in the Wembley dressing room. Not until the 87th minute did they make sure of victory with a goal by Swart’s replacement Arie Haan, who was making his debut in the competition that evening.

Over the following pages we reflect on the road travelled by Ajax under Michels, gathering the recollections of those who experienced that period. They include ‘Mr Ajax’ himself, Swart, who played 603 times for the club, and Arie Haan, who made that incredible dream debut as a half-time substitute under the fabled Twin Towers.

Michels replaces Vic Buckingham as manager in January 1965.

Sjaak Swart: “I’d played with Michels during his last season as a player for Ajax and he was a very good centre- forward. When he arrived he came to sit with the players and said, ‘Boys, we’re going to play total football.’ And then he said everyone had to train seven times a week, eat and sleep well to become more professional. If there were boys who couldn’t do that, they could go home. He was a fanatic. In pre-season, I remember we were in a military camp and trained five times a day. At 7am we’d start with a walk with him. Then we had breakfast, after which we had conditioning training for an hour and a half. After that came lunch and then we had tactical training. I was the outside- right so I’d get the ball out wide, control it and then run down the touchline to cross for the likes of Cruyff and Keizer. We did this for an hour. At 5pm we played five against five. At 8pm we did work with the ball and an hour later we were all in bed, sleeping until the next morning to repeat the routine for a week.”

Arie Haan: “Michels was very hard. We were numbers for him. It was the beginning for Dutch football to be professional. Before that, Holland was a good football-playing country but not with the mentality of a professional. He changed all that, he changed the whole mentality of Dutch football.”

Ajax meet Liverpool in the European Cup in December 1966, winning 5-1 on a foggy night in Amsterdam, then drawing 2-2 away.

Sjaak Swart: “Everyone in England asked, ‘Who is Ajax?’ And Liverpool’s coach, Bill Shankly, said after losing 5-1 that his team would win 7-0 at home. But it was 2-2 and afterwards he came to the dressing room to say well done. I’ll never forget that. They had a great team with the likes of Tommy Smith, Peter Thompson, Ian Callaghan and Ron Yeats and we beat them 5-1. From that moment, everything changed. Everyone talked about Ajax. In the first game we’d put pressure on Liverpool and scored four goals in the first half. Everyone in Europe then talked about total football.”

Rinus Michels: “Those two games signified the birth of Ajax at international level. I had a young team with Johan Cruyff, who was 19, up front, with Piet Keizer and Sjaak Swart. It was a side that knew how to play as a team and had good individual qualities, but they weren’t used to the pressures of playing in Europe against top opposition. They coped with it and I was impressed and encouraged by the way they handled those two games against Liverpool.”

Ajax are runners-up in the European Cup final in 1969. A year later Feyenoord beat Celtic to become the first Dutch champions.

Sjaak Swart: “In the 1969 final against AC Milan, they played their catenaccio style and their forward Pierino Prati scored three goals on the counterattack. We lost 4-1. We learned that you couldn’t only rely on your attacking ability.”

Jaap de Groot: “Nobody had expected a Dutch team to reach the European Cup final. Ajax reached the final and lost against AC Milan and then the year after, to everybody’s surprise, Feyenoord won the European Cup. It was such a sensation and it didn’t matter if it was Rotterdam or Amsterdam, everybody was for Feyenoord.”

Arie Haan: “It was Feyenoord who won the first European Cup for Holland, so Ajax more or less had to win the second final for us to be on the same level as our opponents.”

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Ajax captain Velibor Vasović lifts the trophy (above), Rinus Michels was in charge of Ajax from 1965 until 1971, when he headed to Barcelona (top right), Johan Cruyff in relaxed mood on the Wembley turf ahead of kick-off (right)

Ajax overcome Celtic in the quarter- finals and then Atlético de Madrid in the semis – 3-1 on aggregate each time – to reach the 1971 final. But four days beforehand they lose a Dutch title decider against Feyenoord in torrential rain in Amsterdam.

Sjaak Swart: “In the semi-final against Atlético we lost the away leg 1-0, which made it difficult. Fortunately we won the return leg at home 3-0, which was something we were able to do regularly. We’d also beaten Celtic 3-0. I think it was because when we scored one goal we knew it was not going to be enough – two or three were needed to win the game. And we did this every time.”

Jaap de Groot: “The Saturday night prior was Ajax v Feyenoord in the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam. I was 15 at the time and used the old trick of going under the fence to get into the stadium. I went through a door and was in the dressing room area, and walked with the two teams out onto the pitch. It was raining so hard you couldn’t see the difference between a young fan, a player and a steward. My father had been a centre-forward with the Ajax first team in the early ’50s when Rinus Michels was the winger. Michels recognised me and started laughing. But Feyenoord made that game a battle – it was a complete warzone. Piet Keizer scored but got injured in a tackle. It meant that by the time they got to Wembley, half the team were still being worked on by the medical staff.”

Ajax’s players are confident in the lead- up to the final – not least because of the presence of a 24-year-old Cruyff.

Sjaak Swart: “We didn’t worry about our opponents. We knew which of their players were good – they had two or three and we knew we had to take them out with some strong tackling. We knew how good our players were, like Johan Neeskens and Cruyff. In one v one situations, they were fast. Each individual knew exactly what they were doing. When our right-back Wim Suurbier came up, for example, I knew to swap positions with him. That was something we did very well.”

Arie Haan: “When I was a young player I was living in the same area of Amsterdam as Johan Cruyff and I didn’t have a car, so he’d pick me up and drive me into the club. We were very close. He was the most ‘social’ star, because the big stars in football play more for themselves and Johan wasn’t that kind of player. He played for the team. On the pitch he was always talking – his mouth was quicker than his feet! Sometimes in games I was surprised by the moves he did – suddenly a move I’d never seen. ‘What is he doing now?’ He played with a lot of fantasy. His biggest quality was to see where the space was, play the ball into that position and get there ahead of the next defender. He wasn’t a player for a short dribble like Messi or Maradona; he played the ball into a space where the defender couldn’t get to it before him, as he was very quick over the first three or four metres.”


Tens of thousands of Ajax fans cross the North Sea to attend the final.

Frans Groenendaal: “I was 14 years old and went with friends from the ground in Amsterdam. They’d bought me the tickets in Amsterdam so I got on the train at The Hague and met my friends there. We took the train to the Hook of Holland and then the ferry to Harwich. Everybody was dressed in red and white and singing a song called We Gaan Naar Londen: We’re Going to London.”

Sjaak Swart: “I had a cigar shop and there were about three planes full of supporters to whom I sold tickets for the final from my shop. About 25 buses packed with fans came by my shop and bought cigarettes, and I said I’d see them at Wembley.”

Frans Groenendaal: “I’d only seen Wembley on television for the FA Cup final, so when I stepped out of Wembley Underground station I’ll never forget that feeling of seeing the towers of the stadium in the distance. Then you walk to the ground and you see the towers up close, and you get goosebumps. If you look on YouTube you’ll see a lot of Dutch fans with red-and-white hats sponsored by Amstel beer. They’d given them out on the boat. I had one but the wind blew it off! There were also a lot of fans who brought instruments like trumpets and horns.”

Ajax begin the final with a goal after five minutes from striker Dick van Dijk, flicking home a header from a Keizer cross.

Frans Groenendaal: “It wasn’t a spectacular game but the first goal was a beautiful goal made by Piet Keizer, my all-time favourite player. Cruyff was getting a big mouth but Keizer was quiet and did his job scoring goals and giving assists. When I was a teenager the die- hard supporters had a song for Keizer, but not for Cruyff.”

Jaap de Groot: “We’d asked ourselves how much Ajax would beat the Greeks by, as they were by far the favourites. When the early goal came it was just going the way we thought it should go. But Panathinaikos had lost 4-1 away in their semi-final against Crvena zvezda, who also thought it was easy. Yet they then lost the second leg in Athens 3-0, so this was a team that could surprise.”

Rinus Michels: “Antonis Antoniadis was a bit like [José ] Torres of Benfica, almost two metres tall. I’d also been informed that his major supplier was the left-back, who loved to overlap and send in some beautiful crosses. So I gave Sjaak Swart the responsibility of closing him down, but when we went 1-0 up he became too caught up with the excitement of the game and started to forget. The crowd was making such a din that there was no way I could get a message to Sjaak.”

“HOLLAND WAS A GOOD FOOTBALL- PLAYING COUNTRY BUT NOT WITH THE MENTALITY OF A PROFESSIONAL. MICHELS CHANGED ALL THAT”

At half-time Michels makes the controversial move of substituting Swart and sending on Haan.

Sjaak Swart: “I played all the games and was never substituted. At half- time, though, Michels took off Nico Rijnders and me and brought on Horst Blankenburg and Arie Haan to protect the 1-0 scoreline. He was afraid and wanted to win, given he knew he was headed to Barcelona. It was important that we won the competition, for his reputation. I was so disappointed. He knew that and later he talked to me. He said to me that he’d made a mistake.”

Rinus Michels: “What I didn’t realise was that the doctor had been treating one of our players while I had been focusing on Sjaak. At the end of the interval he told me that Nico Rijnders couldn’t continue because of a heart problem. So I had used up my two substitutions and Keizer was also struggling a bit.”

Arie Haan: “I was nervous when he said, ‘You go in.’ We warmed up at half-time but your knees are knocking with the nerves. I’d not played in the European trying to score, to shoot on goal. The guy touched it and the goalkeeper had no chance at all. At that moment the game was over; at 2-0 you know you’ve won and it was a beautiful feeling.”

“THE GOALKEEPER HAD NO CHANCE AT ALL. AT THAT MOMENT THE GAME WAS OVER; AT 2-0 YOU KNOW YOU’VE WON AND IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL FEELING”

Ajax celebrate with a ticker-tape tour of Amsterdam in open-top cars.

Arie Haan: “We had a party together with our wives and the next day we went through Amsterdam in open cars. It was beautiful to have the cup at the Leidseplein Square with all our supporters. It was unbelievable – people shouting and standing on the balconies.”

Sjaak Swart: “We were put in these fantastic cars and I was in the first one with Cruyff and Keizer. That was fantastic. It was an open car, a Mercedes.”

Frans Groenendaal: “I missed my boat after the game. I had to take a bus to the train station and there was so much traffic, and I was too late for the train to Harwich. I’d also lost my friends in the ground. Nowadays you have a mobile and you can call each other but 50 years ago it was difficult – we saw each other a week later in Amsterdam! Fortunately some other Dutch fans said I could sleep in their hotel room. I took the boat a day later and it was one big party – everybody drinking beer and singing. I will never forget it.”


Michels departs. But for Ajax it is the beginning of a golden three-year period of European Cup glory.

Sjaak Swart: “After that we played in one of the best European finals, against an Inter side with the likes of Sandro Mazzola and Giacinto Facchetti. We won 2-0 but we should have won by four, five or six goals. It was a very good game. The third time we beat Juventus 1-0.”

Arie Haan: “Ștefan Kovács came in and made a fantastic team. We were so disciplined by Michels and knew exactly what to do but a little bit of fantasy in our game was not there – we were too rational – and with this new coach we were allowed to show our abilities. After ’71, in the finals in ’72 and ’73 we had one of the most beautiful teams Europe ever saw.”

History
“The excitement was overwhelming”

The Panathinaikos team of 1971 are still the only Greek side to reach a European Cup final. Here captain Mimis Domazos recalls how a nation was moved by their Wembley mission

Visitors to England have long complained about the weather. The inevitable rain. The thick fog of years gone by. Overcast skies for months on end. And, of course, the biggest menace of all: hurricanes. That, in any case, is the abiding memory of Mimis Domazos from his trip to Wembley Stadium in June 1971, though this particular storm had also touched down in London from overseas.

Captain of Panathinaikos and among Greece’s finest ever players, Domazos had helped his team defeat the likes of Everton and Crvena zvezda to reach the European Cup final. But they had never faced a side like Ajax or a strategy as fluid as ‘total football’, an ever-revolving cyclone that threatened to sweep Panathinaikos away.

“A centre-back would play centre-forward, a winger would drop back,” says Domazos. “They kept switching positions, all ten outfield players. The only player who wouldn’t move was the goalkeeper; the rest played all over the pitch, like a hurricane.” And the whirlwind talent at the heart of it all was Johan Cruyff, then aged 24. “He would flow; he would pop up here and there. He was everywhere. It was a joy to watch him play.” Not that Panathinaikos were intimidated. Still the only Greek club to reach a European final, they were savouring every moment. “Greek football didn’t exist back then because we weren’t professional; we were amateurs,” says Domazos. “When we got to Wembley, to us it was like we were the winners. We were a Greek team nobody had heard of. Just being in the final was similar to having won the cup.”

They were also spurred on by massive support. “The excitement was overwhelming. Not just from Panathinaikos fans: Greek fans from all over the world came to Wembley to watch Panathinaikos, regardless of their club preference. Every Greek person was supporting Panathinaikos on the day of the final, and the final itself was a celebration. There were about 40,000 Greek fans present and almost as many Dutch. But the Greeks were the loudest.”

The Shamrocks had reasons for optimism too, not least the finishing skills of Antonis Antoniadis, who topped the competition scoring charts that season with ten goals. In the dugout, meanwhile, they boasted a coach who had seen it all before; a man synonymous with European Cup finals. Domazos and the team had been unsure what to expect when Ferenc Puskás was appointed coach the previous year but the results spoke for themselves.

“We thought he’d be hard to reach or talk to, since he’d been a world star,” explains the skipper. “Instead we met with a down-to-earth guy, very approachable, good-humoured, who shared in all the jokes. He didn’t pinpoint to us how we should play, but he conveyed both his personality as a former player and the weight his name carried. Wherever we went abroad, everybody would talk about Puskás, not us.”

A three-time European champion himself, the former Real Madrid great took the pressure off his underdogs before they stepped out beneath the Twin Towers at Wembley, a “cathedral of football” as Domazos remembers it. “He said, as always before matches, ‘There are 11 of them, there are 11 of you. If you lose, nothing will happen. But if you defeat these legends, the whole world will know about you.’”

That didn’t stop Dick van Dijk heading in after just five minutes, but Panathinaikos were still not overawed. “There wasn’t any nervousness from us, honestly. We were playing Ajax without being afraid of them. We were determined to hold our own and we managed that. We had great players and pushed for an equaliser. We weren’t lucky that day, though. Antoniadis came close with one or two opportunities but it wasn’t meant to be. The contest was tight until the 87th minute, when they scored their second.”

That was how it ended, 2-0 to Ajax, but Panathinaikos had played their part in an absorbing final – and, like their opponents, created a legacy of their own. “Even today, when I speak with my team-mates, we still can’t believe what we did in 1971 as a bunch of unknown players,” says Domazos. “It’s as if we’re speaking about a dream we had, as if we’re narrating a fairy tale. The fact that, in the 50 years since, no other Greek club has gone that far in a European competition speaks volumes about our achievement.”

“I felt that we had the better team but winning finals is not always about being the better team – you have to fight, you have to be mentally strong and you have to operate as a team.”  

Those words came from Rinus Michels, the great Dutch football coach, some time after the Wembley evening in 1971 when Ajax first lifted the European Cup. Their victory over Panathinaikos, in Michels’ final match before moving to Barcelona, was a breakthrough moment for an Ajax team that spent the early 1970s creating a legacy that endures to this day, as you would expect when you win three successive continental crowns.

It was a triumph six years in the making for Michels, who turned Ajax from the team of part-timers he had inherited from his predecessor, Englishman Vic Buckingham, in 1965 into Europe’s finest footballing side. Piet Keizer became the club’s first full professional player in that same year, with Johan Cruyff following a year later. Before long Michels and his players had added the term ‘total football’ to the sport’s lexicon.

“You have to create a football team as a machine, with all the working parts in motion,” said Michels in that same interview with UEFA in 2004, a year before his death. Acknowledging the influence of Hungary’s great team of the 1950s, he explained what total football meant to him in practical terms: “To create and use space efficiently you need 11 good players and you need cohesion. You have to use the full width and length of the pitch and play a long way from your goal. You also have to find each other in ball-passing movements and especially the long pass. This is the most difficult thing to achieve.”


They did it with a group of players including Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Keizer, their four-goal leading scorer on the road to Wembley. That said, despite an early Dick van Dijk goal, there was little total football played during a nervy final against Panathinaikos, the 50th anniversary of which falls on 2 June. It was a night when Michels, concerned by the Greeks’ attacking threat, ended up taking off the club’s record appearance- maker, Sjaak Swart, at half-time, leaving the player in tears in the Wembley dressing room. Not until the 87th minute did they make sure of victory with a goal by Swart’s replacement Arie Haan, who was making his debut in the competition that evening.

Over the following pages we reflect on the road travelled by Ajax under Michels, gathering the recollections of those who experienced that period. They include ‘Mr Ajax’ himself, Swart, who played 603 times for the club, and Arie Haan, who made that incredible dream debut as a half-time substitute under the fabled Twin Towers.

Michels replaces Vic Buckingham as manager in January 1965.

Sjaak Swart: “I’d played with Michels during his last season as a player for Ajax and he was a very good centre- forward. When he arrived he came to sit with the players and said, ‘Boys, we’re going to play total football.’ And then he said everyone had to train seven times a week, eat and sleep well to become more professional. If there were boys who couldn’t do that, they could go home. He was a fanatic. In pre-season, I remember we were in a military camp and trained five times a day. At 7am we’d start with a walk with him. Then we had breakfast, after which we had conditioning training for an hour and a half. After that came lunch and then we had tactical training. I was the outside- right so I’d get the ball out wide, control it and then run down the touchline to cross for the likes of Cruyff and Keizer. We did this for an hour. At 5pm we played five against five. At 8pm we did work with the ball and an hour later we were all in bed, sleeping until the next morning to repeat the routine for a week.”

Arie Haan: “Michels was very hard. We were numbers for him. It was the beginning for Dutch football to be professional. Before that, Holland was a good football-playing country but not with the mentality of a professional. He changed all that, he changed the whole mentality of Dutch football.”

Ajax meet Liverpool in the European Cup in December 1966, winning 5-1 on a foggy night in Amsterdam, then drawing 2-2 away.

Sjaak Swart: “Everyone in England asked, ‘Who is Ajax?’ And Liverpool’s coach, Bill Shankly, said after losing 5-1 that his team would win 7-0 at home. But it was 2-2 and afterwards he came to the dressing room to say well done. I’ll never forget that. They had a great team with the likes of Tommy Smith, Peter Thompson, Ian Callaghan and Ron Yeats and we beat them 5-1. From that moment, everything changed. Everyone talked about Ajax. In the first game we’d put pressure on Liverpool and scored four goals in the first half. Everyone in Europe then talked about total football.”

Rinus Michels: “Those two games signified the birth of Ajax at international level. I had a young team with Johan Cruyff, who was 19, up front, with Piet Keizer and Sjaak Swart. It was a side that knew how to play as a team and had good individual qualities, but they weren’t used to the pressures of playing in Europe against top opposition. They coped with it and I was impressed and encouraged by the way they handled those two games against Liverpool.”

Ajax are runners-up in the European Cup final in 1969. A year later Feyenoord beat Celtic to become the first Dutch champions.

Sjaak Swart: “In the 1969 final against AC Milan, they played their catenaccio style and their forward Pierino Prati scored three goals on the counterattack. We lost 4-1. We learned that you couldn’t only rely on your attacking ability.”

Jaap de Groot: “Nobody had expected a Dutch team to reach the European Cup final. Ajax reached the final and lost against AC Milan and then the year after, to everybody’s surprise, Feyenoord won the European Cup. It was such a sensation and it didn’t matter if it was Rotterdam or Amsterdam, everybody was for Feyenoord.”

Arie Haan: “It was Feyenoord who won the first European Cup for Holland, so Ajax more or less had to win the second final for us to be on the same level as our opponents.”

Ajax captain Velibor Vasović lifts the trophy (above), Rinus Michels was in charge of Ajax from 1965 until 1971, when he headed to Barcelona (top right), Johan Cruyff in relaxed mood on the Wembley turf ahead of kick-off (right)

Ajax overcome Celtic in the quarter- finals and then Atlético de Madrid in the semis – 3-1 on aggregate each time – to reach the 1971 final. But four days beforehand they lose a Dutch title decider against Feyenoord in torrential rain in Amsterdam.

Sjaak Swart: “In the semi-final against Atlético we lost the away leg 1-0, which made it difficult. Fortunately we won the return leg at home 3-0, which was something we were able to do regularly. We’d also beaten Celtic 3-0. I think it was because when we scored one goal we knew it was not going to be enough – two or three were needed to win the game. And we did this every time.”

Jaap de Groot: “The Saturday night prior was Ajax v Feyenoord in the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam. I was 15 at the time and used the old trick of going under the fence to get into the stadium. I went through a door and was in the dressing room area, and walked with the two teams out onto the pitch. It was raining so hard you couldn’t see the difference between a young fan, a player and a steward. My father had been a centre-forward with the Ajax first team in the early ’50s when Rinus Michels was the winger. Michels recognised me and started laughing. But Feyenoord made that game a battle – it was a complete warzone. Piet Keizer scored but got injured in a tackle. It meant that by the time they got to Wembley, half the team were still being worked on by the medical staff.”

Ajax’s players are confident in the lead- up to the final – not least because of the presence of a 24-year-old Cruyff.

Sjaak Swart: “We didn’t worry about our opponents. We knew which of their players were good – they had two or three and we knew we had to take them out with some strong tackling. We knew how good our players were, like Johan Neeskens and Cruyff. In one v one situations, they were fast. Each individual knew exactly what they were doing. When our right-back Wim Suurbier came up, for example, I knew to swap positions with him. That was something we did very well.”

Arie Haan: “When I was a young player I was living in the same area of Amsterdam as Johan Cruyff and I didn’t have a car, so he’d pick me up and drive me into the club. We were very close. He was the most ‘social’ star, because the big stars in football play more for themselves and Johan wasn’t that kind of player. He played for the team. On the pitch he was always talking – his mouth was quicker than his feet! Sometimes in games I was surprised by the moves he did – suddenly a move I’d never seen. ‘What is he doing now?’ He played with a lot of fantasy. His biggest quality was to see where the space was, play the ball into that position and get there ahead of the next defender. He wasn’t a player for a short dribble like Messi or Maradona; he played the ball into a space where the defender couldn’t get to it before him, as he was very quick over the first three or four metres.”


Tens of thousands of Ajax fans cross the North Sea to attend the final.

Frans Groenendaal: “I was 14 years old and went with friends from the ground in Amsterdam. They’d bought me the tickets in Amsterdam so I got on the train at The Hague and met my friends there. We took the train to the Hook of Holland and then the ferry to Harwich. Everybody was dressed in red and white and singing a song called We Gaan Naar Londen: We’re Going to London.”

Sjaak Swart: “I had a cigar shop and there were about three planes full of supporters to whom I sold tickets for the final from my shop. About 25 buses packed with fans came by my shop and bought cigarettes, and I said I’d see them at Wembley.”

Frans Groenendaal: “I’d only seen Wembley on television for the FA Cup final, so when I stepped out of Wembley Underground station I’ll never forget that feeling of seeing the towers of the stadium in the distance. Then you walk to the ground and you see the towers up close, and you get goosebumps. If you look on YouTube you’ll see a lot of Dutch fans with red-and-white hats sponsored by Amstel beer. They’d given them out on the boat. I had one but the wind blew it off! There were also a lot of fans who brought instruments like trumpets and horns.”

Ajax begin the final with a goal after five minutes from striker Dick van Dijk, flicking home a header from a Keizer cross.

Frans Groenendaal: “It wasn’t a spectacular game but the first goal was a beautiful goal made by Piet Keizer, my all-time favourite player. Cruyff was getting a big mouth but Keizer was quiet and did his job scoring goals and giving assists. When I was a teenager the die- hard supporters had a song for Keizer, but not for Cruyff.”

Jaap de Groot: “We’d asked ourselves how much Ajax would beat the Greeks by, as they were by far the favourites. When the early goal came it was just going the way we thought it should go. But Panathinaikos had lost 4-1 away in their semi-final against Crvena zvezda, who also thought it was easy. Yet they then lost the second leg in Athens 3-0, so this was a team that could surprise.”

Rinus Michels: “Antonis Antoniadis was a bit like [José ] Torres of Benfica, almost two metres tall. I’d also been informed that his major supplier was the left-back, who loved to overlap and send in some beautiful crosses. So I gave Sjaak Swart the responsibility of closing him down, but when we went 1-0 up he became too caught up with the excitement of the game and started to forget. The crowd was making such a din that there was no way I could get a message to Sjaak.”

“HOLLAND WAS A GOOD FOOTBALL- PLAYING COUNTRY BUT NOT WITH THE MENTALITY OF A PROFESSIONAL. MICHELS CHANGED ALL THAT”

At half-time Michels makes the controversial move of substituting Swart and sending on Haan.

Sjaak Swart: “I played all the games and was never substituted. At half- time, though, Michels took off Nico Rijnders and me and brought on Horst Blankenburg and Arie Haan to protect the 1-0 scoreline. He was afraid and wanted to win, given he knew he was headed to Barcelona. It was important that we won the competition, for his reputation. I was so disappointed. He knew that and later he talked to me. He said to me that he’d made a mistake.”

Rinus Michels: “What I didn’t realise was that the doctor had been treating one of our players while I had been focusing on Sjaak. At the end of the interval he told me that Nico Rijnders couldn’t continue because of a heart problem. So I had used up my two substitutions and Keizer was also struggling a bit.”

Arie Haan: “I was nervous when he said, ‘You go in.’ We warmed up at half-time but your knees are knocking with the nerves. I’d not played in the European trying to score, to shoot on goal. The guy touched it and the goalkeeper had no chance at all. At that moment the game was over; at 2-0 you know you’ve won and it was a beautiful feeling.”

“THE GOALKEEPER HAD NO CHANCE AT ALL. AT THAT MOMENT THE GAME WAS OVER; AT 2-0 YOU KNOW YOU’VE WON AND IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL FEELING”

Ajax celebrate with a ticker-tape tour of Amsterdam in open-top cars.

Arie Haan: “We had a party together with our wives and the next day we went through Amsterdam in open cars. It was beautiful to have the cup at the Leidseplein Square with all our supporters. It was unbelievable – people shouting and standing on the balconies.”

Sjaak Swart: “We were put in these fantastic cars and I was in the first one with Cruyff and Keizer. That was fantastic. It was an open car, a Mercedes.”

Frans Groenendaal: “I missed my boat after the game. I had to take a bus to the train station and there was so much traffic, and I was too late for the train to Harwich. I’d also lost my friends in the ground. Nowadays you have a mobile and you can call each other but 50 years ago it was difficult – we saw each other a week later in Amsterdam! Fortunately some other Dutch fans said I could sleep in their hotel room. I took the boat a day later and it was one big party – everybody drinking beer and singing. I will never forget it.”


Michels departs. But for Ajax it is the beginning of a golden three-year period of European Cup glory.

Sjaak Swart: “After that we played in one of the best European finals, against an Inter side with the likes of Sandro Mazzola and Giacinto Facchetti. We won 2-0 but we should have won by four, five or six goals. It was a very good game. The third time we beat Juventus 1-0.”

Arie Haan: “Ștefan Kovács came in and made a fantastic team. We were so disciplined by Michels and knew exactly what to do but a little bit of fantasy in our game was not there – we were too rational – and with this new coach we were allowed to show our abilities. After ’71, in the finals in ’72 and ’73 we had one of the most beautiful teams Europe ever saw.”

History
“The excitement was overwhelming”

The Panathinaikos team of 1971 are still the only Greek side to reach a European Cup final. Here captain Mimis Domazos recalls how a nation was moved by their Wembley mission

Visitors to England have long complained about the weather. The inevitable rain. The thick fog of years gone by. Overcast skies for months on end. And, of course, the biggest menace of all: hurricanes. That, in any case, is the abiding memory of Mimis Domazos from his trip to Wembley Stadium in June 1971, though this particular storm had also touched down in London from overseas.

Captain of Panathinaikos and among Greece’s finest ever players, Domazos had helped his team defeat the likes of Everton and Crvena zvezda to reach the European Cup final. But they had never faced a side like Ajax or a strategy as fluid as ‘total football’, an ever-revolving cyclone that threatened to sweep Panathinaikos away.

“A centre-back would play centre-forward, a winger would drop back,” says Domazos. “They kept switching positions, all ten outfield players. The only player who wouldn’t move was the goalkeeper; the rest played all over the pitch, like a hurricane.” And the whirlwind talent at the heart of it all was Johan Cruyff, then aged 24. “He would flow; he would pop up here and there. He was everywhere. It was a joy to watch him play.” Not that Panathinaikos were intimidated. Still the only Greek club to reach a European final, they were savouring every moment. “Greek football didn’t exist back then because we weren’t professional; we were amateurs,” says Domazos. “When we got to Wembley, to us it was like we were the winners. We were a Greek team nobody had heard of. Just being in the final was similar to having won the cup.”

They were also spurred on by massive support. “The excitement was overwhelming. Not just from Panathinaikos fans: Greek fans from all over the world came to Wembley to watch Panathinaikos, regardless of their club preference. Every Greek person was supporting Panathinaikos on the day of the final, and the final itself was a celebration. There were about 40,000 Greek fans present and almost as many Dutch. But the Greeks were the loudest.”

The Shamrocks had reasons for optimism too, not least the finishing skills of Antonis Antoniadis, who topped the competition scoring charts that season with ten goals. In the dugout, meanwhile, they boasted a coach who had seen it all before; a man synonymous with European Cup finals. Domazos and the team had been unsure what to expect when Ferenc Puskás was appointed coach the previous year but the results spoke for themselves.

“We thought he’d be hard to reach or talk to, since he’d been a world star,” explains the skipper. “Instead we met with a down-to-earth guy, very approachable, good-humoured, who shared in all the jokes. He didn’t pinpoint to us how we should play, but he conveyed both his personality as a former player and the weight his name carried. Wherever we went abroad, everybody would talk about Puskás, not us.”

A three-time European champion himself, the former Real Madrid great took the pressure off his underdogs before they stepped out beneath the Twin Towers at Wembley, a “cathedral of football” as Domazos remembers it. “He said, as always before matches, ‘There are 11 of them, there are 11 of you. If you lose, nothing will happen. But if you defeat these legends, the whole world will know about you.’”

That didn’t stop Dick van Dijk heading in after just five minutes, but Panathinaikos were still not overawed. “There wasn’t any nervousness from us, honestly. We were playing Ajax without being afraid of them. We were determined to hold our own and we managed that. We had great players and pushed for an equaliser. We weren’t lucky that day, though. Antoniadis came close with one or two opportunities but it wasn’t meant to be. The contest was tight until the 87th minute, when they scored their second.”

That was how it ended, 2-0 to Ajax, but Panathinaikos had played their part in an absorbing final – and, like their opponents, created a legacy of their own. “Even today, when I speak with my team-mates, we still can’t believe what we did in 1971 as a bunch of unknown players,” says Domazos. “It’s as if we’re speaking about a dream we had, as if we’re narrating a fairy tale. The fact that, in the 50 years since, no other Greek club has gone that far in a European competition speaks volumes about our achievement.”

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