As the North Sea Ferry pulled out of Hull and over an excellent on-board meal one had to wonder how King James’s and its PE Department could live up to the many years of highly successful football trips ran hitherto. Yet this trip to Amsterdam truly topped the lot.
After a long night on the ferry the group was to be without any respite as the first day took the form of a whirlwind. The coach took us straight to the Ajax training facilities which presented a tantalising spectacle for the boys deprived of football. The facilities themselves were complemented by a beautifully kept full-size pitch and swanky changing rooms, all (quite literally when the sun rises) in the shadow of Amsterdam´s spaceship-like stadium - the Amsterdam arena. It was at the training ground that we met the wonderful Ajax coaches who took us for one hour of training (mostly, as it turned out, in the rain) before we headed back to the coach to the hotel where we were told to leave our bags and return to reception after getting changed to go back out again. We headed back out to the stadium whereupon we collected our tickets and made our way to our seats following a complex arrangement of passages and stairs. As the stadium filled up we sat back and admired the sight of a theatre soaked in historical drama. It was a game to withhold such a reputation, after an extremely dodgy start to the game Ajax managed to come from behind against SC Heerenveen to win emphatically 5-1. We then set off into the outer city of Amsterdam and all had a great end to a busy day with bowling. How about that for a first day?
The second day began early after a comfortable night and also heralded our first game in Holland. Following a good breakfast the weather thankfully held out for our second training session with the coaches, and we spent the rest of the day finding lunch in the streets surrounding the Amsterdam arena and relaxing ahead of the games in the late afternoon. Both matches (Year 8 and Year 9/10) were played very well though it´s fair to say the Year 9/10 match didn´t hold much competition as the team strolled home 9-0. Elsewhere the year 8s didn´t have to deal with much more of a fight and their Ajax training payed off winning the match 4-2. All in all convincing displays on both counts but we were warned against complacency lest we come across wholesomely tougher opposition tomorrow (which is what happened).
The morning was once again started by the now familiar trip down the road toward the Ajax training complex but instead of turning to the outdoor pitches we were dropped off outside a large indoor futsal building. Both teams proceeded to spend their morning half playing exciting games of football-squash on the squash courts (much like regular squash but with a football) and 5-a-side football tournaments. Following the two hours we felt better futsal players (and better squash players). We then travelled to our usual lunch spot and travelled right back to the complex to partake in the more customary outdoor training. After an enjoyable session we were then led back again to the arena as we would be receiving an exclusive stadium tour. On the tour the players learnt about the greats of Ajax football club, the European Cup winning side and it´s Total Football 4-3-3. The changing rooms had recently been done up to allow international games to be played there (so they were very nice) and coming out the tunnel to the pitch one felt as though one was actually in the iconic red and white shirt of the Son´s of Gods (one of Ajax´s nicknames). The stands seemed even vaster down on the pitch than in them and it was truly awe-inspiring. Afterwards we were given the opportunity to contribute to seat heaters for the high-paying fans by visiting the club shop. After that invigorating experience we were transferred back to the hotel to have a nutritious meal (the coaches hoped) before heading back out again for our evening matches. Under the dying Dutch Sun the Year 8s ran out 8-3 winners and the year 9/10s were denied by a late (*offside*) goal to be frustrated 1-1. After an extremely cheerful coach journey home, courtesy of the ever-loyal driver Tony, we were told to change into our best clothes to be ready for the awards presentation with a wide array of awards across the board (the undoubted highlight being the best shirt award). Following this we went upstairs to be soundly asleep (soon enough).
The final day dawned and after breakfast in the hotel and lunch in Amsterdam we found ourselves saying goodbye to the Ajax coaches after a fun final session. They had been fantastic all trip. Having received relative closure with certificates we went on our way out of Holland. Before we could leave though we had to sample some Dutch culture from the Amsterdam city centre and the trip was rounded off happily with a fruitful but costly shopping trip around the Inner City. We were then transferred sadly back to the ferry whereupon we were treated to a lovely Sunday-worthy roast before having an altogether better night´s sleep than on the incoming journey.
After another beautiful breakfast we found ourselves on the home stretch to King James’s after docking in Hull (European City Of Culture) and had chance to reflect on an excellent trip.
Thank you to all the teachers that took us, it wouldn´t have been the same without your wit and charisma and especially Mr Atkinson who painstakingly organised the trip. Another big thank you to the parents too because we certainly couldn´t have gone on the trip without you. Everything came together to give thirty footballers the time of their lives!