‘The best and most complete shirt book ever made’

Ajax has a shirt that is widely known all over the world and the history of the shirt of the illustrious Amsterdam club is now forever stored in the book ‘The Ajax Shirt – The Glory Of Red And White† The book presentation took place on the eighteenth floor of the A’dam Toren on Thursday afternoon.

You can hardly imagine a more beautiful location for this book presentation. The book was presented with a view over the whole of Amsterdam – the A’dam Toren is located across the street from Central Station. Some well-known names, who have been proud to wear the Ajax shirt in the past, were present: Sjaak Swart, Jari Litmanen, Dick Schoenaker and Tarik Oulida. In addition, Michael van Praag, Pim van Dord and Mohammed Nouri, Abdelhak Nouri’s father, were also present.

A few years ago, four avid collectors of Ajax shirts came up with the idea that there should be a book about the Ajax shirt. And so it happened. The book, published by Kick Publishers, was previously available to order online and will be in stores from Friday. Jaap Visser, the writer of the stories in the book, tells his story about the book during the official book presentation.

From 1970 the collection is almost complete

The author says, among other things, that more than four hundred shirts are exhibited in the book. All these shirts are official competition shirts and therefore not shirts that you buy in the fan shop. In the book, the shirts worn since 1970 are taken as a point of departure. Many shirts of the period before that have perished, although a single shirt has survived. For example, there is room in the book for the shirt that was worn by Wim Volkers in the 1930s.

From 1970, the book is almost complete. Of all the shirts that Ajax has ever worn – and sometimes the Amsterdam club only played one match in a certain shirt – three are missed. Because the four collectors collectively do not have every shirt, they regularly scoured abroad for the sake of completeness.

Some iconic Ajax shirts in a row.

Swart sees final shirt after 53 years

And for club legend Swart, that meant that after 53 years he saw his worn shirt from the 1969 European Cup-1 final – against AC Milan – up close. Swart had exchanged his shirt with AC MIlan defender Angelo Anquiletti after the final. The shirt was ‘found’ a few years ago via relatives of the Italian defender. A collector from Hong Kong could have obtained the shirt. The shirt could be borrowed especially for the book presentation, so that it could be exhibited. And so there were more special Ajax shirts that were exhibited.

At the end of the official presentation, Swart received the first book from the hands of the former Ajax chairman of Prague. Swart in turn then presented the special Litmanen edition to the still beloved Finn. In addition to the Litmanen edition, there are two special editions of the book: a Stanley Menzo edition and a Dennis Bergkamp edition. Menzo is on the road with the national team of Suriname, although his brother and sister are present. Bergkamp was unable to attend, as he is in England with his newborn granddaughter.

Ajax book 'The Ajax Shirt' presented: 'The best and most complete shirt book ever made'
Sjaak Swart hands over the book ‘The Ajax Shirt’ to Jari Litmanen.

‘The TDK shirt with Le Coq Sportif as shirt sponsor is the most beautiful Ajax shirt’

Ronald de Boer, who himself was allowed to play more than four hundred matches in the Ajax shirt, has his favorite Ajax shirt. ‘Yes, that is the TDK shirt with Le Coq Sportif as sponsor. We were allowed to wear that when we were young. I thought Le Coq Sportif was such a beautiful brand. They had real style, a French brand. You could tell the French culture had a say in, it was a bit more chic with the collar. You know the pictures of the tracksuits that Van Basten and Vanenburg wore, which every youth player had in his wardrobe. I actually liked this shirt the most.’

De Boer’s favorite shirt also has the old logo. ‘Ultimately you have to keep up with the times (he means the new logo, ed.). The same goes for shirts and logos. I also enjoy the Three Little Birds shirt’, said De Boer, who initially did not like the green-yellow shirt. ‘But in the end it’s also a legendary shirt. We made ABN-AMRO great, haha. I thought the shirt was hideous at the time, I thought: should we play in it?’

De Boer himself has already given away his shirts, he finally says. ‘I prefer to make people happy who are die-hard. I myself throw it in a bag and I don’t look at it anymore. Those people probably frame it. I have nothing left. Do I regret that? Perhaps I would have liked to have had the shirt of the Champions League final.”

Ajax book 'The Ajax Shirt' presented: 'The best and most complete shirt book ever made'
Jari Litmanen recalls beautiful memories during the book presentation.

Ajax shirts may be on display soon

Brian Borghardt, one of the collectors of the Ajax shirt, is proud of the fact that many former Ajax players came to the book presentation. ‘It is an honor, although I have often visited them. It’s a certain kind of appreciation for what you’ve created. We were able to get Swart’s shirt here with the book presentation. Sjaak knew nothing about it. How nice is it that we can reunite him with the shirt after 53 years. And that we can get Mr. Nouri to attend the book launch. We wrote a piece about Abdelhak. About the fact that number 34 is no longer used.’

Ajax book 'The Ajax Shirt' presented: 'The best and most complete shirt book ever made'
Michael van Praag hands the book to Mister Ajax Sjaak Swart.

Borghardt already has a new challenge ready: he wants to display the shirts. Where in the past actors were the pop stars, they are now the football players. ‘How nice would it be to be able to go to an exhibition with several generations – a grandfather with, for example, his son and grandson -‘, says the collector, who says that many books have already been sold. ‘If you pile up all the books that we have already sold, you will rise above the Amsterdam Tower, haha.’

‘I wrote my first letter to Litmanen, now the circle is complete’

It is also special for Borghardt that his childhood hero Jari Litmanen came over from Finland especially. ‘That says something about him, doesn’t it. As I’ve come to know Jari, it’s not the guy who’s very active on social media. He wanted to go to Amsterdam more often in recent years, but the corona virus and the war between Russia and Ukraine made that more difficult. How much respect do I have to have for him to be here?’

For Borghardt, Litmanen has always been a hero. The collector himself also has Finnish roots. ‘My mother was born in Helsinki. I wrote my first letter to Jari. At that time he didn’t even have a mailbox at Ajax. My grandmother wrote that letter in Finnish. The letter reached Jari via André Ooijer, who came from the same neighborhood as me. Finally I got a letter back in which Jari wrote that he was going to do his best for a contract. Now, thirty years later, we are standing in the Amsterdam Toren and we have made a book together. The circle is complete and that gives me goosebumps.’

Ajax book 'The Ajax Shirt' presented: 'The best and most complete shirt book ever made'
Jari Litmanen will sign the book in the Stadsschouwburg on Friday afternoon (June 10) between 3 and 6 pm. The book is available in the bookshop of the Stadsschouwburg.

Visser was convinced: ‘We have to go into business with this’

Jaap Visser, the author of the stories in the book, remembers well that Borghardt came to him with the idea for a book. ‘I found it attractive, but they had to convince me how serious they are as collectors and what they have to offer. Brian was the first one with me and really convinced me that they are seasoned collectors. They have almost everything complete from 1970, while they also have very old shirts. Then I thought: we should go into business with this.’

In the end it resulted in a wonderful book, says Visser. ‘The texts in this book are, as you often see in books about shirts, not only about the shirts, but also about the emotion of a shirt. Wins, losses, drama. The shirts can tell the stories. Certain shirts that are really ugly can have a great story. As the collectors themselves say: it is the best and most complete shirt book ever made.’

Bart Veenstra (Twitter: @Bart_Veenstra † email: b.veenstra@ajaxshowtime.com)
Bas Velzel (Twitter: @BasVelzel † email: b.velzel@ajaxshowtime.com)