The Ajax teenager who knocks on the door of the first team

Thursday, May 5, 2022 at 12:00• Jordi Tomasowa • Last update: 12:29

The Kitchen Champion Division has been a nursery for national and international talents for decades and this season too, many football players with potential are walking around on the second level. Voetbalzone, the official media partner of the Kitchen Champion Division, highlights one of these talents every week, this time focusing on Kian Fitz-Jim, who is a permanent fixture at Jong Ajax this season, where he has made the most minutes of all selection players. .

By Jordi Tomasowa

“At first I didn’t want to go to Ajax at all,” Fitz-Jim reveals, when asked about the step he made in 2019. As a fifteen-year-old, talented midfielder, he decided to leave the youth academy of AZ for that of Ajax. “I really liked it at AZ. I was really comfortable there, but at a certain point I also started talking a bit with my father, mother, family and with my agent. I also started thinking about it myself and then I thought: maybe it would be better if I go to Ajax.”

Fitz-Jim has been playing in Ajax’s youth academy since 2019, having previously played for SC Buitenveldert, AFC and AZ.

Just under three years later, Fitz-Jim still stands behind his choice. He worked his way up from the Under 17 at Sportpark de Toekomst and followed his debut in professional football on 21 December 2020 against Telstar (1-2). “When I just joined Jong Ajax, I had some trouble with the level. It was quite a tough workout. I was supposed to return to the Under 18s, but that same week I made my debut. Then I was allowed to stay at Jong Ajax and it actually got better and better. I think I played around 20 games last season.”

There is little wrong with Fitz Jim’s estimate, because in the first season the midfielder eventually played 21 matches in the Kitchen Champion Division. Despite the fact that he was frequently called upon in the first months at Jong Ajax, his first season with the U23 team was mainly dominated by acclimatization. “I don’t make friends very easily myself and I don’t feel at home anywhere very quickly, I also have that when I go to a higher team,” Fitz-Jim confesses. “I knew who those guys were who played in Jong Ajax, but I didn’t know very many of them.” The fact that he was then also allowed to train with the A-selection and suddenly was on the field with big names, on the other hand, was a small childhood dream. “That is beautiful. I’m from Amsterdam, I’ve always been a fan of Ajax. That also played a part in my choice to go to Ajax. Before I came here guys like Blind and Tadic were already playing there. If you can train with them then that’s great.”

In the Kitchen Champion Division, Fitz-Jim encounters opponents who are often physically stronger, older and more advanced than him. He himself unconsciously captured the contrast in one image via an Instagram post about his debut. The shared photo shows how he enters into a duel with the 35-year-old veteran Niels Fleuren from TOP Oss. “Playing football in the Kitchen Champion Division is just very different,” Fitz-Jim admits. “I’m not the strongest myself, but it never really bothered me when I was young. In my first weeks at Jong Ajax and still now, you notice that the difference is quite big in physical terms. There is often a different way of playing football. Making a lot of meters, fighting.” It is all the more clever that he has made the most minutes in Young Ajax of all selection players this season. “I always want to play as much as possible. I think I often enforced it, it’s just great that I made so many minutes.”

Fitz-Jim on behalf of Jong Ajax in a duel with the now 35-year-old veteran Fleuren from TOP Oss.

According to Fitz-Jim, assistant coach Mitchell van der Gaag has played an important role in the development he has been able to make over the past two seasons. “My relationship with Van der Gaag is very good. When he was the head coach of Jong Ajax last year, I could smell the Kitchen Champion Division. I am very grateful to him for the fact that I was allowed to play so much then. This allowed me to really show my own game in Jong Ajax this season.” Fitz-Jim does state, however, that Van der Gaag is a slightly different trainer than John Heitinga. “Van der Gaag mainly tries to stimulate you mentally. I think I got a lot out of that. When I see him now, I always have a chat.”

Young Ajax is having an impressive season. The team of coach John Heitinga is in seventh place with one round to go and, depending on the results of Roda JC and Excelsior, can also finish fifth. The only blemish on the victories at the start of the season was that the team failed to write a clean sheet. At the beginning of November, the Amsterdam promises against Telstar managed to keep a clean sheet for the first time in 45 games. “We were working on it, but of course it’s not really necessary to keep the zero,” says Fitz-Jim. “It’s the most important thing that you win, but we told each other that we had to win again without conceding goals. Do I have an explanation for why I couldn’t keep the zero for so long? The Kitchen Champion Division is a really crazy competition”, Fitz-Jim says with a smile. “A lot of games are eight or nine goals.”

Now that the season is over, Fitz-Jim can look back on it with a good feeling. “I think I can be satisfied in itself, but there are also matches that I have not played or duels in which I did not play well for my sake.” As a highlight, one duel really stands out for him. “Then I immediately think of NAC at home. We played really well as a team anyway and that allowed me to excel myself. We won 6-3, I think it was my best game of the season.”

And are there any important lessons he has learned this season? “Don’t settle for what you have,” says Fitz-Jim. “I wouldn’t say I’m an easy going person per se, but it’s something that can come into play with me when things go well. That doesn’t mean that my lesser periods this year were due to complacency, but it may have played a role. I have to make sure this doesn’t happen. At the end of last year, for example, I had a period when things were not going well. After that I got back on track.”

In total, Fitz-Jim has played fifteen youth internationals for the Orange so far.

The midfielder has played most of his matches as ‘number 6’ this season, with Heitinga also drafting him in the ‘number 8’ position for a few matches. They are the positions preferred by Fitz-Jim. “Then I have the game in front of me,” he explains. “I have good technique and insight and am someone who mainly takes care of the build-up, but I think I can also contribute in the third phase, in front of the goal.” Are there actually midfielders that Fitz-Jim likes to emulate? “I think Frenkie de Jong and Pedri from Barça are both very good. I like to watch those types of players and I like that. Besides Ajax, Barça is also my favorite club. It would be nice if I could eventually play there.”

Fitz Jim, however, focuses on the short term first and dares to say his goal for next season out loud. “I would like to join Ajax 1. I hope that I can train regularly, while I still play my matches with the U23 team and can be important there.” The talented midfielder may already have beautiful weeks ahead next month, as the Orange Under 19 first plays the second qualifying phase for the European Championship, after which the youth tournament itself is on the calendar two weeks later. “I think it’s always nice to play for the Dutch national team,” says Fitz-Jim. “I have never played a European Championship or any other tournament with the Orange, so that would be very special. For me it remains to be seen, because I think it clashes a bit with the preparation for the new season with Ajax. I would in any case like to be there, but the preparation with Ajax is also important. It’s a bit of a dilemma,” Fitz-Jim concludes with a laugh.

Name: Kian Fitz Jim
Date of birth: July 5, 2003
Club: Young Ajax
Position: midfielder
Strengths: technique, passing, agility

Voetbalzone is the official media partner of the Kitchen Champion Division

Click here for exclusive interviews, talent scouts, current positions and the program on our Kitchen Champion Division page.