Hato (16) knocks on door at Ajax: ‘Boy with huge sense of responsibility’

Hato (16) knocks on door at Ajax: ‘Boy with huge sense of responsibility’
Jorrel Hato

NOS Football

Only Clarence Seedorf and Ryan Gravenberch made their debuts in Ajax’s first team at a younger age than Jorrel Hato. The defender, he turns seventeen next week, seems to be getting closer and closer to a starting place under coach John Heitinga.

The Rotterdam-born Hato seems to have come out of nowhere, but was already making a big impact after his switch from Sparta to Ajax in 2018. Alfred Schreuder already took him on a training camp to Marbella. He pretty much skipped Jong Ajax; Hato only played ten games in the promising team.

A year ago he signed his first Ajax contract.


Now he is increasingly popping up as left back in Ajax 1. He often fills in for Owen Wijndal, who transferred from AZ for ten million euros, but is not yet in his best form under Heitinga either.

A tad shy, Hato spoke to the press Thursday evening after his starting debut for Ajax, in the cup at De Graafschap. In a soft voice, he told how happy he was with his first steps in the first team.

Jorrel Hato

But shy, timid or shy he is actually not at all. At least, that’s not how Pjotr van der Marel got to know him as youth coach of Sparta under 10. “At Sparta, Jorrel was a kid with a very big sense of responsibility. Someone with leadership qualities, who took things in tow.”

When he had just joined Sparta, from the amateurs of De Zwervers, the very young Hato had to get used to it. “He was a head taller than the other guys. So physically he was the best, but in terms of technique he sometimes struggled. You could see it was there, but his body got in the way. He was struggling with that: it made him angry and sad sometimes.”

The turnaround came a few years later. “Then we saw the stoic Jorrel you see now in Ajax 1. He then developed leadership qualities: he became captain and behaved accordingly.”

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    Jorrel Hato as a player of Sparta
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    Jorrel Hato (third from left back) and Pjotr van der Marel (right back)

Hato was often put in midfield and up front by Van der Marel and colleagues, which improved his technique quickly. He himself insisted on being at the back: there he had the game in front of him and his impact on the team was greatest.

In 2018, Ajax knocked on the door of Het Kasteel. Hato was more than welcome in Amsterdam. Sparta and Ajax had just entered into a partnership at the time. It facilitated the move of Spartan top talents to Amsterdam.

Switch not obvious

“The Hato family had doubts. Jorrel was really enjoying himself at Sparta, so a transfer was not obvious. It is also difficult to let go of your child so early. But he had already come a long way as a player and needed a challenge. We granted it to him enormously.”

Now Van der Marel enjoys the rapid development of his former pupil from a distance. With Hato’s parents he is still in contact from time to time. And Jorrel himself he recently ran into in Amsterdam. “I got a hug. He is an incredibly sweet boy, who has all the conditions – both character and physical – to make it very far.”

Kayleigh Williams