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AFC Ajax's UEFA Champions League meeting with AJ Auxerre on Tuesday will have a special resonance for Urby Emanuelson – and not just because he will be unveiling a new look.
The 24-year-old cut off his trademark dreadlocks during the international break, something he had planned to do for some time. However, his mind is now turning back to 24 February 2005, when he made his Ajax debut aged 18 in a UEFA Cup last-32 trip to Auxerre. His side began 1-0 up from the first leg but lost 3-1, prompting Ronald Koeman's resignation as manager.
It is something very special for me, as it all started for me against Auxerre," Emanuelson said. "The away game in particular will bring back some special memories. It all was very hectic, it was the beginning of a turbulent period at Ajax. I made my debut and one day later the coach stepped down."
Emanuelson is not expecting Tuesday's game to spark such turmoil, even though defeat would leave Ajax bottom of Group G after following up their opening loss to Real Madrid CF with a home draw against AC Milan. "It is more stable than in previous years," the Dutch international said. "You can see that the club just tries to keep this team of players together as much as possible, and for the first time since I have been in the first team the club has managed to do so."
While primarily a winger, Emanuelson can play anywhere on the left flank and against Auxerre he is expected to remain at full-back, where he has been filling in for the injured Vurnon Anita. "I can play there as well, I have done that in recent weeks pretty well, I think – I have to be there for the team and that is what I will do," said Emanuelson.
How long the 24-year, whose contract expires next summer, remains with Ajax remains to be seen – "We have had a number of discussions and now it is up to me to take the right decision," he said – but whatever happens, he is certainly enjoying their first UEFA Champions League group campaign in five years. "We have been waiting for a long time, and now we finally have done it. We have to continue like this and at least ensure we extend our stay in Europe."
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