‘People always start talking about the 2-3’
The confrontation between PSV and Ajax in 2013, like today’s, was full of tension. The stakes were high. The lead in the premier league was at stake.
It was to be the day of Derk Boerrigter, who gave Ajax the win as a substitute. “I’ve stopped playing soccer for seven years now. But when people recognize me, especially in Amsterdam, they always start talking about that 2-3. That one is on everyone’s mind.”
Burned on golden edge
The Eindhoven encounter more than kept spirits up at the time. Things were rumbling at PSV. Dick Advocaat’s team was eager to give the centennial anniversary a golden edge by taking the national title.
But the Eindhoven star ensemble, including Mark van Bommel, Memphis Depay, Dries Mertens, Ola Toivonen and Jeremain Lens, could not live up to the high expectations and irritations ran high at times.
They were three points behind leader Ajax. The goal difference, however, was in Eindhoven’s favor. A victory over the Amsterdam rival, and the future would suddenly look bright again.
Although Ajax cherished a lead, there was also a realization in Amsterdam that it could well be a crucial match. “It was a very fraught duel,” Boerrigter recalled. “The whole week with us was dominated by that important match. There was a lot at stake. We realized that very well.”
Boerrigter himself was anything but certain of a starting place at the time. He had returned to Ajax in 2011, after detours via FC Zwolle and RKC Waalwijk. But physical problems made it difficult to fulfill the promise.
“I broke a vertebra in my back twice. After the second time, I had trouble picking up my old level again. You do feel just a little less fast and explosive, less powerful. You don’t feel like your old you then.”
Boerrigter eventually regained his old level, but he also noticed the competition at his position. “On the flanks we had Viktor Fischer and Lasse Schöne. And Isaac Cuenca, who was rented from Barcelona. So it was a season for me where I started occasionally, but also sat on the bench occasionally.”
Also on that sunny April 14, Boerrigter was benched by coach Frank de Boer. There he saw a game in which Ajax did take the lead twice, but also came up against a resilient PSV. At a 2-2 interval, a quarter of an hour before time, he got the sign he had been waiting for.
“Secretly you are still hoping for a raid, in which you could make the difference with your speed, your shot and your scoring ability. So you keep an eye on the coach and think: hello, I’m here too, put me in!”
Two minutes into the game Boerrigter was on the pitch when he was played on by Christian Eriksen. The pass wasn’t even perfect. “It didn’t have to be. In fact, I was lurking there. If I saw a lot of space behind the opponent, I always thought: put it behind, I’ll run. And that’s how it was now.”
Boerrigter won the sprint duel from PSV defender Erik Pieters and saw that goalkeeper Boy Waterman had gone too far out of his goal. It was a breeze to get around the keeper and shoot in the 2-3. “That I was able to score the decisive goal at that moment is special. Nobody takes that moment away from you anymore.”
2013: Ajax beats PSV 3-2 thanks to Boerrigter and takes advance on title
With his goal, Boerrigter gave Ajax the win and indirectly the third championship in a row under coach De Boer. However, it turned out to be the striker’s last months in Amsterdam service. That summer he left for Celtic.
“I still had a year’s contract but some things had happened and I wasn’t so happy with how they were treating me at Ajax. That’s why I started looking further anyway.”
Not happy in Scotland
However, the period in Scotland did not turn out to be the happiest in Boerrigter’s career. “I already came in there with an injury. Because Celtic did pretty little with that, that injury got worse. From pain in my ankle to eventually a broken bone. That kept me sidelined for six months.”
“That bone fracture caused me to walk differently and unconsciously put more pressure on my right leg. That caused symptoms in my right knee. I had to have surgery on that. So you start with an injury to your ankle and you end up with an injury to your knee. That was a pretty false start.”
When he was finally fit again, other problems presented themselves for Boerrigter. “I got a coach who wanted me to play soccer in a certain way, which I did not support. He didn’t want me to play from my strengths, and then you have no use for me.”
End of career
Boerrigter was allowed by Celtic to look for another club. But it didn’t come. “I did want it and tried, but in the end the salary at Celtic was too good to part with it. I still tried to get out with a deal, but they wouldn’t go along with that. Then it stops.”
Thus, at the age of 30, Derk Boerrigter put a stop to his professional career and started a new life as an entrepreneur. Old hurt toward Ajax he certainly does not feel.
Indeed, Boerrigter now plays with Lucky Ajax, the illustrious company of former Ajax players brought together by Sjaak Swart. “I also sit in the stands at almost every home game. Ajacied you are and remain. That doesn’t go away.”