Can Ajax and Barca's renewed love affair survive a honeymoon in Madrid?
Background photo: MF Photos
If there is one god, She fancies herself a playwright. The life she scripts for us is filled with comedy and drama. Two of the funniest jokes in the world are that Donald Trump declared himself a presidential candidate and David Cameron initiated the Brexit referendum. The punchline is the same for both; no one thought either would go anywhere. Yet, here we are with two Congressional committees subpoenaing Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election to see what Trump's handpicked Attorney General William Barr considers nothing of consequence and Theresa May trying to get a Brexit deal through a Parliament that, like a deadbeat dad, thinks it should be able to just leave the EU without consequence.
God doesn’t stick to one genre. Beyond politics, She is a football fan, too. Ask the not-unpresumptuous Pep Guardiola what it feels like to reach the Champions League semifinals at the death only to see “No Goal [VAR] Offside” in bold white letters on a luminescent blue field shining down from the Etihad Stadium Jumbotron after you have just lost your head in rapture for the past sixty seconds. It’s high comedy and drama that no mortal could write, a diet rich in irony.
She isn’t stopping there either. While fitting in time to tip off Sadaf Khadem that Tehran authorities issued an arrest warrant for her because she fought without a hijab while becoming the first Iranian woman to win a boxing title, thereby preventing at least one injustice from being committed in Her name, the Almighty began messing with Ajax and Barcelona.
The two clubs are a bit like Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. They’ve been in bed with each other for decades without ever going through the formalities. When legendary Ajax and Netherlands manager Rinus Michels brought total football and Johan Cruijff to the Camp Nou in the 1970s, it began a similar longstanding relationship. Other players and coaches followed Michels and Cruijff. Frank Rijkaard. Johan Neeskens. Frank and Ronald de Boer. Patrick Kluivert. Marc Overmars. Louis van Gaal. Luis Suarez. Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Cruijff’s son, Jordi, came up through the Barca academy, La Masia. Tiki-taka eventually sprung from total football.
Recently, Catalan media outlet Sport announced the Blaugrana were finally getting down on one knee to propose a formal relationship with Ajax. Football Oranje helpfully translated that young La Masia players may be sent on loan to Amsterdam in exchange for the La Liga giants securing right of first refusal on emerging talents from the even more prolific Ajax Academy.
The deal suits both clubs. Barcelona won’t be forced to stall their cadets’ development while the team chases more La Liga and Champions League trophies. Instead, they can play in a system almost identical to Barca’s against higher quality opposition. Ajax bolster their roster with young, inexpensive players familiar with their style. They too can remain competitive on the domestic and European fronts. The marriage promises stability for both partners.
God isn’t a fan of stability, however. If She were, Adam and Eve wouldn’t be evicted from Eden. We’d all be stupid, happy vegans with pacific lions and tigers for pets. There’d be no floods or slavery. Job wouldn’t go on the lamb. Abraham wouldn’t substitute his son for one on the butcher's block. Nor would Pontius Pilate wish he was born 2,000 years later after Handi-wipes were invented. Anyone who reads the Bible understands chaos is Her thing.
It’s only natural, then, that less than a month after announcing their nuptials, Ajax and Barcelona find themselves on a collision course in the Champions League.
Admittedly there’s an equal chance that one or neither could reach Madrid as there is the two lovebirds being pitted against each other. In fact, Barcelona might be the more likely to stumble against Liverpool, whereas Ajax face a Tottenham side without Harry Kane. After dispatching Real Madrid and Juventus, who doesn’t count the Godzonen favourites in that tilt?
Maybe I shouldn’t be invoking the Dutch giants’ Sons of the Gods nickname, but after what Jesus went through, this is tame stuff.
Some may think the two will be good sports about the whole thing in the event each reaches the final. 'Some' are naïve. This is football. Maturity and professionalism are matters of convenience. Cooler heads seldom prevail.
The marital agreement between the two clubs is built on the premise Barcelona is the bigger, stronger side who can offer Ajax protection and support. We’re talking the archetypal definition of man and woman. Ajax might not be too thrilled about their emasculation. For their part, Barca might get their nose out of joint if the missus shows them who wears the pants in this family.
The Cules openly asked layaway signing Frenkie de Jong to bump their Clasico rivals and three-time-defending European Champions out of the competition. How will the Catalans feel if he doesn’t “take one for the team”? How will De Jong’s time at the Nou Camp turn out if he kicks his new teammates' arses just before arriving?
On the flip side, what if Barcelona lord it over Ajax in victory. Will the Dutch side reconsider making Matthijs de Ligt part of the dowry?
Remember Who’s writing the screenplay. This can’t end well.