Ajax Amsterdam crashed out of the Dutch Cup on Thursday, sending more than 20,000 schoolchildren home in misery. The Guardian reports the game was played in front of a crowd of spectators age 12 and under, after a hooligan ruined the first attempt at playing it on Dec. 21.
Visiting AZ Alkmaar downed Ajax 3-2 in the fourth round of the competition. The thrilling contest saw two first-half lead changes, before AZ scored the winner in the second half.
The game was a replay of last month’s abandoned contest. A drunk fan ran onto the field and attacked AZ goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado. Alvarado defended himself and kicked the attacker, but the referee showed him a red card for violent conduct. AZ manager Gertjan Verbeek pulled his team off the field in the 38th minute in protest, and the game was abandoned.
The Dutch FA rescinded Alvarado’s red card and ordered Ajax to replay the game in an empty Amsterdam Arena. But Ajax had another idea in mind.
“Ajax were initially ordered to replay the game in an empty stadium, but the club appealed, asking the Dutch FA to allow women and children to attend,” the Guardian report says. “The ruling body decided that only the latter would be allowed in because of a national law of comparable treatment for men and women.
“Ajax handed out free tickets to clubs and primary schools for children aged under 13, with one adult supervisor allowed in to look after every six of them.”
The Dutch giants’ novel response to crowd trouble was well received, and the kids loudly supported their heroes. It’s unknown if any of the disappointed spectators caused problems on Amsterdam’s buses or trains later on.
Between Ajax and Turkish club Fenerbache — which played in front of a “women and children only” crowd in September — we are seeing good-faith attempts to discourage crowd trouble. And that is a good thing.