September 28th, 2001


Simon Kuper - Ajax, de joden, Nederland (Hard Gras 22)

Simon Kuper is South African, Jewish and fluent in both Dutch and English. The ideal insider-outsider combination to write a book about the situation of the Jews in the Netherlands, especially around Ajax. The club has a reputation of being Jewish, as does Tottenham in England. Even though in the official records of the club, the club denies being Jewish. They never were, that's right. But the supporters always had an above average percentage Jews. Only a few of the players were Jewish, or partly Jewish. But since the seventies-eighties, the start of the crews of football fans, the fans themselves started calling them selves Jews.

Kuper discovers a lot about the Jews in the Netherlands. The Dutch weren't as brave during the Second World War as everyone seems to think. But apparently the after war p.r. has been done, nowadays Ajax is an extremely popular club in Israel. Kuper talks to old players, official people and several others around the club. And not just Ajax, but also at Sparta, the second, though eldest, team in Rotterdam.

The book isn't about football. It is just the game that made sure that this research has been done, the book tells a story about history. Even though Kuper works for the Financial Times, I doubt it if this book will ever appear in English. Abroad this book might not draw attention. Which is a shame, because the stories about Eddy Hamel, the Jewish winger of Ajax who was killed in Auschwitz, about the Jewish members of Sparta who left the club, before the Germans prohibited the Jews from playing sports, about the few survivors of the holocaust who have got incredible stories to tell. Even on a busy working day, I finished the book within 24 hours. For those who are interested, Kuper has written a good book 'Football against the enemy', about the way clubs around the world cope with (political) violence, about rivalries that grow bigger than the sport itself. Kuper shows that books about sport can be interesting, even if you do not like the sport.