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Kids inspire Alkmaar to Ajax success

Published: Thursday 19 January 2012, 18.14CET
"A strange atmosphere, but also a nice one," is how AZ Alkmaar coach Gertjan Verbeek described the experience of entertaining a children-only crowd in their 3-2 win at AFC Ajax.
by Berend Scholten
Kids inspire Alkmaar to Ajax success
Young Ajax fans watch the Amsterdam side's 3-2 Dutch Cup defeat against AZ ©Getty Images
Published: Thursday 19 January 2012, 18.14CET

Kids inspire Alkmaar to Ajax success

"A strange atmosphere, but also a nice one," is how AZ Alkmaar coach Gertjan Verbeek described the experience of entertaining a children-only crowd in their 3-2 win at AFC Ajax.

Gertjan Verbeek's AZ Alkmaar won 3-2 at AFC Ajax in front of a children-only crowd on Thursday, with the coach saying it was "a strange atmosphere, but also a nice one".

At the Olympics in Beijing, we played in front of Chinese supporters who had different kinds of chants and yells. It was like that here, but with kids
Maarten Martens

The Dutch Cup game was initially scheduled to be played behind closed doors, after the initial fixture on 21 December was abandoned after a pitch invader attacked AZ goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado midway through the match. However, the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) agreed that the game could be replayed in front of a kids-only crowd.

A crowd of around 20,000 attended the match, with the only adults the few permitted to chaperone the young supporters. AZ's Belgian captain Maarten Martens said: "At the Olympics in Beijing, we played in front of Chinese supporters who had different kinds of chants and yells. It was like that here, but with kids. A very strange atmosphere."

Strange as it may have been, AZ clearly found the youthful backing at the Amsterdam ArenA to their liking. Ajax took an early lead through Siem de Jong, but Martens levelled and Charlison Benshop then put the visitors ahead before De Jong hit his second of the day. Rasmus Elm had the final word, though, winning the match with a 55th-minute penalty.

Ajax will have a chance to make amends when the teams meet again in Alkmaar on 22 January in their first league fixture of 2012. "We will have to do better on Sunday, and that is what I told my players," said Ajax boss Frank de Boer, whose side are fourth in the Eredivisie, five points adrift of league leaders AZ.

Last updated: 19/01/12 18.29CET

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