Heitinga allows Feyenoord to win in Europe, but ‘after extension’
Heitinga allows Feyenoord to win in Europe, but ‘via extension’
Ajax coach John Heitinga says Feyenoord may well win tonight in the Europa League. But preferably “after extension,” with an eye on next Sunday’s Klassieker in Amsterdam.
Heitinga said it with a small wink at Sunday’s press conference, but the already seven premiership matches unbeaten head coach will not switch gears on Thursday night until Feyenoord begin an eventual extension against Shachtar Donetsk. A duel in which Ajax still has quite an interest, by the way.
A European win by Feyenoord would also suit Ajax given the battle for the coefficients. It would increase the chances of two Champions League tickets for premier league clubs.
“It would be nice for Dutch soccer if Feyenoord wins, but after extension.” Heitinga also sees the importance of a win. “We are Dutch too, and I think it would be good for the development and the Dutch team.”
But no, an Ajax coach does not cheer for Feyenoord. Certainly not when the Klassieker takes place in three days, a match Heitinga has many memories of, by the way.
“August 26, 2001, my debut, in De Kuip, under Co Adriaanse, red card. I think I had a yellow card within thirty seconds. But we won that match 1-2, a brilliant goal by Van der Vaart.”
Heitinga has no shortage of experience in classics. “I played the Merseyside derby, the Madrid derby. For a classic you don’t need to recharge the battery. Then there are no excuses, then you are not tired. Then you have to be mentally strong, whether you have a match in your legs or not, you have to win that match.”
One statistic Heitinga does have ready: he has never lost a Klassieker. And he is trying to pass that experience on to his players this week.
Heitinga: “We know Feyenoord have put up a good series. We know how strong they are as a collective. We know how they put pressure and sprint back. We experienced that at the Kuip.”
“It’s very cliché, but whoever we play against, you have to put the same labor on the mat as the opponent. We know what they do and we will have to do at least the same. Then I assume that with our individual qualities we can decide the game.”
Even if Feyenoord wins on Sunday, which Heitinga says he does not assume, the Ajax coach is adamant: “The league is not yet played.”