AFC Ajax won the European Champion Clubs' Cup three years running in the early 1970s, the first of those victories coming at a Wembley that was kind to Johan Cruyff, as he tells UEFA.com.
Two years after losing the European Champion Clubs' Cup final against AC Milan, AFC Ajax reached the final again, banishing the woes of that 4-1 reverse against the Rossoneri with a triumph against Panathinaikos FC at Wembley.
Johan Cruyff was the inspiration behind that 2-0 success, pulling the strings to help Ajax complete their first triumph in the competition thanks to Dick van Dijk's early strike and Arie Haan's effort three minutes from time. It was reward the 'totaal voetbal' employed by coach Rinus Michels and embodied in Cruyff, whose side would go on to win the coveted trophy three years in succession. Here the Dutch legend recalls that memorable breakthrough victory beneath the twin towers.
In 1969 we were the newcomers, and AC Milan had already won so much, but when came up against Panathinaikos, we were the older heads, and they were the new ones, so going on the pitch, talking to the press, dealing with the build-up to the game – the way we behaved, we were already professional. It was their first experience of it, and I think often that's what makes the big difference.
Playing at Wembley was something totally special because Wembley has always been different. I've played there a few times with the national team too, and it's always been something different. Every country has one stadium they think is special, of course, but Wembley has always been very special and it has been always good to me.
Winning [the European Cup] is so big, it's very difficult to understand when you win it; you know it's big, but it's much bigger than you realise. And that's what you find out, not at the time, but later. When you travel the world, and play here and there, people still talk about it.
Winning that first one, people start to get to know you, not only in Holland, not only in Europe, but even further abroad, and that's when you realise what football is in the world; it's huge, it's so big that you can't imagine. There are so many children living it, so many children who have their idols, and that's one of the things that always hurts me, that ten years after [they finish] playing football, the idols just disappear. That was the reason I started the schools. I say: "Hey, they've got so much knowledge, you can't just let this knowledge go away."