Ajax, the Dutch, the War

The Strange Tale of Soccer During Europe's Darkest Hour


By Simon Kuper

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A passionate, haunting and moving work that tells the breathtaking story of how Dutch Jews survived the unspeakable and came to play a strong role in the rise of the most exciting and revolutionary style of soccer — "Total Football" — the world had ever seen.

When most people think about the Netherlands, images of tulips and peaceful pot smoking residents spring to mind. Bring up soccer, and most will think of Johan Cruyff, the Dutch player thought to rival Pele in preternatural skill, and Ajax, one of the most influential soccer clubs in the world whose academy system for young athletes has been replicated around the globe.

In Ajax, The Dutch, The War: Soccer in Europe During the Second World War, bestselling author Simon Kuper shows how the story of soccer in Holland cannot be understood without investigating what really occurred in this country during WWII. For decades, the Dutch have enjoyed the reputation of having a "good war." The myth is even resonant in Israel where Ajax is celebrated. The fact is, the Jews suffered shocking persecution at the hands of Dutch collaborators. Holland had the second largest Nazi movement in Europe outside Germany, and in no other country except Poland was so high a percentage of Jews deported.

Kuper challenges Holland's historical amnesia and uses soccer — particularly the experience of Ajax, a club long supported by Amsterdam's Jews — as a window on wartime Holland and Europe. Through interviews with Resistance fighters, survivors, wartime soccer players and more, Kuper uncovers this history that has been ignored, and also finds out why the Holocaust had a profound effect on soccer in the country.

Ajax produced Cruyff but was also built by members of the Dutch resistance and Holocaust survivors. It became a surrogate family for many who survived the war and its method for producing unparalleled talent became the envy of clubs around the world.


To Adam, Jessica, Jeremy and Hannah

Praise for Ajax, the Dutch, the War

‘His fresh-eyed survey has a familiar theme but never palls, crowded with a gallery of unlikely figures … whose stories weave through the book’

Daily Telegraph

‘I have only bought one football book recently and it’s an absolute belter … heartily recommended’

The Times

‘Gripping and brilliant’

Glasgow Herald

‘An intriguing social history, full of quirky anecdotes, written with winning geniality and the dash of a Brazilian forward … a beguiling book’

Financial Times

‘A fascinating tale, which Kuper describes particularly well’


‘Kuper’s poignant and perceptive account again proves there can be more to football writing than fanzines and pale Hornby imitations’


‘A fascinating history, full of startling facts and sobering detail’


‘Kuper has fashioned a work which brilliantly juxtaposes the everyday life of football clubs with the awful fate suffered by so many of their Jewish players, officials and supporters’

Time Out

‘An intriguing work’


Simon Kuper was born in Uganda in 1969 and spent most of his childhood in Holland. His first book, Football Against the Enemy, won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year and went on to become an international bestseller. He now writes for the Financial Times.

Orange Soldiers

In the Dutch film Soldier of Orange, the main character, Erik (played by Rutger Hauer), is canoodling with a Jewish woman in a garden one night when they are startled by the sound of aeroplanes. ‘Germans, going to England,’ Erik reassures her, and they resume canoodling. Then the planes start firing their guns. It is the early morning of 10 May 1940, and the Germans are invading the Netherlands.

The unfamiliar sound of aircraft had awoken people all over the country. Few had expected the invasion because nothing much ever happened in the Netherlands. The Dutch had avoided the First World War, pretending not to notice when the German Army took a brief short-cut over their soil on its way into Flanders, and so had had no experience of war on their own land since Napoleon. So quiet was the Netherlands that after the Armistice in 1918 the Kaiser took gardening exile on a Dutch country estate. He was still there in 1940.

If the world’s fires ever made it to the Netherlands, it was at a pretty low heat. A man named Pieter Troelstra had tried to proclaim a Dutch socialist republic in November 1918, but nobody paid much attention, and he was chastised in Parliament. Thirteen years later, while Stalin was executing hundreds of thousands of ‘Trotskyists’ in the USSR, and street battles were raging in the Weimar Republic, the leading Dutch Trotskyist Henk Sneevliet was threatened by Stalinist thugs after a public meeting in Rotterdam. But he was escorted safely to the train station. Before World War II, that was about as hot as things got in Holland.

Waking in a hotel room on the night the Germans invaded in 1940 was a journalist named Ballantijn. He was travelling home from Rotterdam, where he had collected a Belgian visa to travel with Holland’s football team to play Luxembourg on 15 May. Hearing the planes, he raced outside to find German soldiers everywhere (this story is told by the Dutch historian Chris van der Heijden). Ballantijn asked one of them if he could return to his house near the German border, where his wife would be worrying about him. The German let him go. And so Ballantijn found himself ploughing eastwards past a stream of German vehicles busy invading his country. ‘Strangely,’ he wrote later, ‘the drivers … gave all possible cooperation by making way for me.’

Much of the country experienced something of a velvet invasion. In one spot, German soldiers needing planks to build a bridge over the river (one of the hazards of invading Holland) were looking for a wood mill. ‘The local people,’ recorded the author Anton Coolen, ‘argue among each other about whether the mill is still there, yes or no, and strain themselves to give the Germans the information they are asking for … Some women have come out of their houses with trays of steaming coffee; they take these to the Germans, who fold up their maps and laugh.’

The Dutch Army put up a brief fight, but on 14 May Luftwaffe bombs demolished central Rotterdam, and the Netherlands capitulated the next day. The first years of occupation passed calmly for most Dutch people. The few thousand Germans stationed in the country behaved themselves most of the time. The Nazi terror affected only a couple of hundred thousand people in the Netherlands: Resistance fighters, gypsies and Jews. About three-quarters of the latter were murdered in the gas chambers; in all of Europe only Poland lost a larger proportion of its Jews.

On ‘Crazy Tuesday’, 5 September 1944, there were sightings of Allied troops near the southern town of Breda. Premature celebrations of the Liberation began across the Netherlands. But the Allied landings at Arnhem failed (‘a bridge too far’), and the part of the country north of the great rivers was doomed to a final winter of war. The Hongerwinter, in which people were reduced to eating tulip bulbs and about twenty thousand starved to death, remains a live memory in many Dutch families. Only on 5 May 1945 did the Germans surrender, and Allied soldiers – mostly Canadians – drove through the country throwing emaciated people cigarettes and chocolate.

My family moved to the Netherlands just over thirty years later, in 1976. This was a fluke. My parents, Jews from South Africa, had spent the previous fifteen years traversing Cambridge, the Kalahari desert, southern California, Uganda (where I was born), Jamaica, Sweden and north London. My father, an anthropologist, had been hoping for a job in Ethiopia when he was unexpectedly offered one at the ancient Dutch university of Leiden. I was nearly seven years old at the time and had never heard of the Netherlands.

We moved into what I now know to be a typical Dutch street. The tiny terraced houses were fronted by large windows, through which passers-by could peer to make sure nothing untoward was happening inside. On one of our first Dutch evenings, my brother and I ventured outside to meet the other children, who greeted us by singing what were probably the only English words they knew. ‘Crazy boys, crazy boys!’ But over the next few evenings relations improved, and soon we were regulars in the street’s daily football match.

We integrated, more or less, learning Dutch and joining the local football club. But, without wishing to sound pathetic, we were never going to become entirely local. Our parents spoke Dutch with funny accents, and we were all too dark and too small to look Dutch. Nor were there many other Jews in Leiden, because they had almost all been killed in the war. My family was not religious, but I remember visiting the Leiden synagogue, an eighteenth-century building that was always virtually empty.

While I was at school the Dutch were just beginning to rediscover World War II, and particularly their resistance to the Germans. This was a thrilling topic if you were a boy in Leiden. Soldier of Orange, made in 1977 by the director Paul Verhoeven and nominated for the foreign-film Oscar of 1979, was set in our town. Watching the film again recently, I realised how cardboard it often is. The heroes are two-dimensional, and the British characters almost all speak like members of the royal family. Yet it remains probably the most popular Dutch film ever made, and helped shape the Dutch memory of the war.

The film was based on the autobiography of Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema, nicknamed the ‘Soldier of Orange’. Born in 1917 into an upper-class Dutch family in Surabaya in the Dutch East Indies, he had hitch-hiked across the US in the late 1930s and written Rendezvous in San Francisco, a book that would become a non-fiction bestseller in the Netherlands. Then he reverted to the classic path of posh Dutchmen, moving to Leiden, joining the student fraternity Minerva and gently studying law.

The setting of Soldier of Orange was familiar to me. Leiden’s ancient and beautiful centre of brick houses along canals had barely changed since the war – in fact, it had barely changed since Rembrandt was born there in 1606. The Leiden I knew was still dominated by braying Minerva members dressed like nineteenth-century bankers, cycling from café to café and intermittently diving drunk into canals. (Paul Verhoeven, inevitably, had been a Minerva fraternity brother.) Soldier of Orange was shown at Minerva every year, and many of the members knew the film by heart. They were carrying on the student life that Hazelhoff Roelfzema had known until that night of 10 May 1940. A few of them even inhabited his old student digs above a café on the magnificent Rapenburg canal street.

The film describes the war’s effect on a group of Leiden students. One, a Jew named Jan, is executed in the dunes while birds twitter and the wind blows. Another, the half-German Alex, joins the SS and is blown up on the Eastern Front while sitting on a toilet. A third, Robbie, initially operates a radio for the Resistance, but unbeknownst to his comrades is ‘turned’ by the Germans. The Soldier of Orange himself, played by the extremely Aryan-looking Hauer, ends up fleeing with his friend Guus to England. There they meet Wilhelmina, the Dutch Queen, in exile on Eaton Square, who sends them back to Holland on a Resistance mission.

Guus shoots the traitor Robbie and is then caught and executed, but the Soldier of Orange survives to escort the Queen back to Holland for the Liberation. In the final scene, he toasts the Liberation in the Leiden student digs of a friend who has sat out the war secretly taking exams. But the general impression the film gives is that half of Leiden was in the Resistance.

Today Hazelhoff Roelfzema lives in Hawaii. Soldier of Orange catapulted Verhoeven and Hauer into Hollywood where the latter would build a career playing Russian and Nazi villains. For me it confirmed Leiden as the home of the mighty Dutch Resistance.

Our town’s other great Resistance story featured a dour law professor named Rudolf Cleveringa. In the first winter of the occupation, Cleveringa’s former mentor, a brilliant professor named E. M. Meijers, received a standard stencilled letter informing him that as a Jew he was banned from teaching. On the morning of 26 November 1940 Cleveringa said farewell to his wife, and walked down the Rapenburg to the faculty building where Meijers had been scheduled to lecture. Cleveringa took his place.

The Great Auditorium was packed, and so the lecture was relayed by microphone to a second hall. Cleveringa delivered a eulogy to Meijers’s brilliance. Each time the audience tried to break into applause, he silenced it with a wave of his hand. The German dismissal of Meijers was illegal, he said. However, he advised his listeners against committing ‘pointless follies’ (this was undoubtedly said to strengthen his case before the Germans after his inevitable arrest). Instead, they must ‘always keep in our thoughts and our hearts the image of the figure and the personality of whom we cannot cease to believe ought to be standing here and, if God wills it, will return here’.

There was silence, then a long ovation, and then a student began singing the national anthem. The audience took it up, many people in tears. Cleveringa handed the text of his speech to a colleague who had requested it, and walked home.

That evening a student named Koch assembled some other students in his rooms, sat them down at typewriters, and made them type endless copies of Cleveringa’s speech. ‘There were chaps there,’ Koch said later, ‘who could barely type. Many bottles of beer were pressed into use.’ By five the next morning he had nearly fifty copies. He then assembled ten girl students, ‘to whom I gave tea’, and set them typing too. The copies were posted around the country, creating the impetus for the Dutch Resistance (or so the popular Leiden version had it). Leiden students went on strike, and in 1942 the Germans closed the university, which is why the Soldier of Orange’s friend had to take his exams in secret.

Cleveringa had been arrested two days after his speech. After eight months in jail he was released unhurt. He and Meijers would both survive the war. Discussing Cleveringa in the mid-1980s with a friend of my mother’s, a local nurse, I asked her whether she knew if he was still alive. ‘He’s dead,’ she said.

‘Are you sure?’ I asked peskily.

‘He died in my arms,’ she said.

Even forty years on, the war was still all around us. I played football and cricket with a gangling, friendly boy whose grandfather, proprietor of a cigar shop, was known to have run the local Resistance. A colleague of my father’s was the only survivor of a wartime raid by his Resistance group. Our Jewish next-door neighbour’s father had lost his first family in the gas chambers. Everyone of the right age had a war story.

I got the sense that people had never forgiven the Germans, who, in those days before they began heading off to Mallorca, took their beach holidays in the chilly Dutch coastal villages a few miles from Leiden. The villagers hung signs in German in their front windows saying ROOM FREE WITH BREAKFAST, and people in Leiden mocked them. One of our neighbours said that if he met a German asking directions he still sent him the wrong way, just as people had done in the war.

One reason the occupation remained such an obsession was that no other great event had hit the Netherlands in living memory. ‘If the world comes to an end, I want to move to Holland, because everything happens there twenty years later,’ the German poet Heinrich Heine is supposed to have said (though no one can find the reference).

If Holland was a backwater of Europe, Leiden was a backwater of Holland. I remember spending many Sundays in the early 1980s looking out of my window (by now we had moved to a large house on a main road) and marvelling whenever a car drove past. On Heine’s analogy, everything in Leiden happened about forty years later. Albert Einstein, a visiting professor at the university for more than a decade, had once considered moving there permanently. But while he was in Leiden agonising over the decision, an expat German baroness told him: ‘If you move here you’ll have a very pleasant life and no one will ever hear of you again.’ So he never came.

Half the Dutch novels I had to read at school were about the war (many of the others were about the main character’s struggle to unshackle himself from the Calvinism of his parents, and a few combined both themes). Of course I read Anne Frank, who apart from everything else was a Jewish teenager of about my age living as a foreigner in the same country and writing better Dutch than most of the professional novelists. And in 1985, when I was fifteen, a flood of popular histories appeared to mark the fortieth anniversary of the Liberation. The general theme was of Dutch resistance to the Nazis.

At the time it was customary to use the words ‘goed’ (‘good’) or ‘fout’ (‘wrong’) to classify the behaviour of almost everybody in the war. Quite naturally, I came to believe that the vast majority of Dutch people had been ‘goed’. I can see now that this belief was an emotional necessity. My family did not belong in the Netherlands. I wanted to belong, and I also wanted my parents (who belonged less than I did) to feel they belonged, and so the thought that the Dutch had been good to the Jews was particularly attractive to me. (Once again, though, I do not want to imply a tortured childhood lived under the shadow of the war. It was not like that.)

Most of my generation, educated by the same films and books and war stories, reached the same conclusion about Dutch goodness. In my first book, Football Against the Enemy, I described the explosion of these feelings when Holland beat West Germany 2–1 in the semi-final of the European Championships of 1988. By one estimate nine million Dutch people, or more than 60 per cent of the population, went on to the streets that night to celebrate. Though a Tuesday, it was the largest public gathering since the Liberation. ‘When Holland scores I dance through the room,’ revealed Professor Lou de Jong, the historian who had spent the previous forty years writing the official history of the Netherlands in World War II in umpteen volumes. ‘Of course it has to do with the war. Strange that people deny that.’

The general sentiment was best expressed in a book that appeared a few months later called Holland–Germany: Football Poetry. I quote a few representative extracts:

Ever since I can remember

And before that

The Germans wanted to be world champions

(A. J. Heerma van Vos)

Dumb generalisations about a people

Or a nation, I despise.

A sense of proportion is very

Dear to me.

Sweet revenge, I thought, does not exist

Or lasts only briefly

And then there was that unbelievably beautiful

Tuesday evening in Hamburg.

(Hans Boskamp)

Those who fell

Rose cheering from their graves.

(Jules Deelder, in a poem titled ‘21–6–88’)

(In Football Against the Enemy I also discussed the poems in the collection that were attributed to footballers (‘Jan Wouters’ effort is the most sophisticated: blank verse with enjambements …’ etc., etc.), but when I later met the editor of the collection and said how good some of them were, he replied, ‘Thank you. I wrote them.’)

The point is that the general Dutch feeling was that we were ‘goed’ and the Germans were ‘fout’ and that our football victory proved it. For the next few years football matches between Holland and Germany remained ferocious affairs. Then, gradually, the feeling waned.

In part this was because the Dutch were starting to accept that they had not been so ‘goed’ in the war after all. An Amsterdam historian named Hans Blom had been arguing since the late 1970s that the terms ‘goed’ and ‘fout’ were too simplistic to encapsulate the years of occupation. Most Dutch people, he said, had never made great moral choices. They had just gone on with their lives (like the student in the film taking his exams), and late in the war, when the occupation became more brutal, their main preoccupation had been ‘the question of how to incur as little damage as possible’. They ‘retreated into a small familiar circle’, going to the cinema, for instance, rather then engaging with the war.

Blom’s view was very much a minority one, and only became at all widely known in the early 1980s. But gradually more histories came to be written about the other side of the Dutch war: the worst survival rate among Jews outside Poland, the betrayal of Anne Frank, the second largest Nazi movement in Europe outside Germany.

This is not to say the Dutch were actively anti-Semitic. They had welcomed Jews across the centuries, never showing the slighest impulse to kill them. A Dutch Jewish survivor of the Holocaust once told me that whatever else one says about the Dutch, one must always remember that it was the Germans who invaded Holland and deported the Jews, and not the Dutch who deported them from Germany. The Dutch could never have conceived of the Holocaust. (In Holland, if you really want to punish people you review their social-security benefits.)

I left Leiden for London in 1986, when I was sixteen. I visited Holland often in the years that followed, but never lived there again until November 1999, when I moved to Amsterdam to write a short book about Dutch football in World War II.

Although I was press-ganged into it by a friend and editor named Henk Spaan, I had various motives. Partly, I just wanted to live in Holland again and see what it was like, whether it was different from the country I remembered. I particularly wanted to get to know Amsterdam, a lovely city. (Whenever foreigners tell me it is ‘tacky’ I want to say, ‘Try leaving the red-light district.’)

At the time, Ajax Amsterdam, Holland’s biggest football club and probably the country’s most popular institution after the royal family, was approaching its centenary. I was curious about the rumour (hotly denied by Ajax) that the club had been ‘Jewish’ until the war. I had also heard fascinating snippets of other wartime football stories.

More than that, I have always thought that football is a good way into the daily life of a country. This is particularly true in the Netherlands, where joining a football club is almost as fundamental a rite of male life as anything to do with girls. Most nations are described by their inhabitants as ‘football mad’, but for much of the latter part of the twentieth century the country with the highest proportion of registered footballers was the Netherlands. Those Holland teams of 1974, 1978, 1988 and 1998 were the product of a culture.

A book about football and World War II would go to the heart of Holland. Football was a place where the Holocaust met daily life. What had happened in Dutch football clubs during the war would be a microcosm of what happened in the country. It might even produce wider truths about the war in the rest of occupied western Europe. So I moved across and spent a winter lodging with various old schoolfriends who had escaped Leiden for Amsterdam.

Even before beginning my research I had grasped that the Dutch had not been as ‘goed’ in the war as I had once thought. In 1999 this realisation was dawning on the whole country. The newspapers (many of them former Resistance news-sheets) were full of official reports revealing how the Dutch had used the deportations to steal Jewish property. The Groene Amsterdammer magazine discovered that in the late 1960s civil servants at the Finance Ministry had held a sort of bring-and-buy at which jewels, gold and silver belonging to dead Jews were sold. One former civil servant recalled: ‘My colleagues showed each other what they had bought. Someone came up to me with beautiful earrings. She was happy as I don’t know what.’ I had long since ceased to be a starry-eyed schoolboy, but when I began researching the book I was still shocked by what I found. This was not the country I had imagined it to be.

My book (Ajax, de Joden, Nederland, or Ajax, the Jews, the Netherlands) appeared in March 2000, in the week of Ajax’s centenary. It told lots of stories about football in the war that I hope were new. The book’s argument, however, was not. It read like a J’accuse against the Dutch nation. Soon after the book appeared a Dutch friend told me she had found it ridiculously naïve, as everyone already knew that the country had not been ‘goed’ in the war. I had wasted my time restating a case made by many people before me. (The Dutch tend to be frank.)

She was exaggerating, but she had a point. All historians of the war in the Netherlands know that Dutch collaboration was at least as significant as Dutch resistance. This is not a country that hushes up its past. None of the reviews of my book objected to my criticism of the nation, and nor did anyone I meet rebuke me for spilling the family secrets. Only my schoolfriends became a bit irritated at being told every day how grey and cowardly their country had been.

Yet the Dutch seemed to know they had been grey and cowardly without wanting to think about it. There was a highbrow debate about the war full of breast-beating and remorse, and simultaneously a public sense that ‘we’ had been ‘goed’ regardless. Many people still consumed the war as a Resistance tale, like Soldier of Orange. Even at the Dutch Institute for War Documentation in Amsterdam, I found six and a half shelves of books on ‘Dutch Resistance’ and just half a shelf on ‘Dutch Collaboration’.

A year after finishing the book, driving through California with an English photographer, I told him about my discovery that Holland had not been ‘goed’ in the war.

‘Doesn’t surprise me at all,’ he said.

‘Why not?’

‘It’s always that way. All countries have myths about having been good and they always turn out to be lies. I’m not shocked.’

‘It’s probably more shocking if you grew up with the myth,’ I countered.

‘Yeah, probably.’

Meanwhile, I had decided that I wanted to rewrite my book. I had written the Dutch version too quickly ( just under four months from start to finish including all the research; is this a record?) and wanted to expand and deepen the material. I wanted to write a book that did more than just accuse the Dutch of having been ‘fout’. I also wanted to reach foreign readers, because the myth of a tolerant country that was ‘goed’ in the war is today believed most strongly outside the Netherlands.

I also wanted to examine football in the war in other European countries: it astonished me that even while Stalingrad and Auschwitz were taking place, the ball had rolled on. World War II instantly takes on a different aspect when you know, for instance, that on 22 June 1941, the day the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, the decisive act of the entire conflict, ninety thousand spectators watched the German league final in Berlin. What were they thinking of? It recalled Kafka’s famous diary entry for 2 August 1914: ‘Germany has declared war on Russia. Swimming in the afternoon.’

And I wanted to go back to the years before the Second World War. The 1930s, root of all evil, had been a fascinating decade in football. There were the Nazis with their knack for propaganda, Mussolini’s Italy winning two World Cups and the Berlin Olympics, and England still regarded as the untouchable masters. This was the epoch when the game became a political item.


  • “I have only bought one football book recently and it's an absolute belter…heartily recommended.” Glasgow Herald“Gripping and brilliant.” Financial Times“An intriguing social history, full of quirky anecdotes, written with a winning geniality and the dash of a Brazilian forward…a beguiling book.” Spectator“A fascinating tale, which Kuper describes particularly well.” GQ“Kuper's poignant and perceptive account again proves there can be more to football writing than fanzines and pale Hornby imitations.” Telegraph“A fascinating history, full of startling facts and sobering detail.” Time Out“Kuper has fashioned a work which brilliantly juxtaposes the everyday life of football clubs with the awful fate suffered by so many of their Jewish players, officials, and supporters.” Independent
    “An intriguing work.”

    The Forward“[Kuper] is the world expert on the intersection of soccer, culture and politics.”
    World Football Commentaries
  • “[Kuper] is a tenacious digger….his work is indispensable today.” Kirkus Reviews“Though Kuper's book promises to explore the history of Ajax and other soccer clubs, it goes much deeper….[Kuper] kicks topics around the way Maradona smacks a ball, sometimes with a great roundabout curve to it—but always hitting the goal….fascinating.” Franklin Foer, author of How Soccer Explains the World“This book is filled with reporting that will break your heart and analysis that will change the way you watch the game.” Daily Telegraph“His fresh-eyed survey has a familiar theme but never palls, crowded with a gallery of unlikely figures…whose stories weave through the book.” The Times
  • “[W]orthy (and decidedly different) nonfiction…. Simon Kuper's Ajax, The Dutch, The War: The Strange Tale of Soccer During Europe's Darkest Hour is a smart, sometimes horrifying look at soccer in the 1930s and 1940s, primarily in nations occupied by the Nazis. I've read a couple of Kuper's other books, and as with them, I was impressed with his ability to place compelling sports narratives into a larger geopolitical context.” International Soccer Network“Another masterpiece from Simon Kuper….Kuper, one of the most prominent writers in the soccer business, tackles the difficult task of finding out the truth behind what the Dutch did and didn't do in WWII and the role soccer may have played in the grand scheme of things. Kuper becomes historian, investigative journalist, and storyteller all wrapped into one….Simply put this text is extremely powerful….It is impossible to truly understand Dutch soccer without first reading this book. If you liked David Winner's Brilliant Orange, you will absolutely fall in love with Kuper's Ajax, the Dutch, the War. It's that good.” The Volunteer
  • Booklist(Published in the UK by Orion)“Kuper's journalism is always about more than just the game itself….It's a fascinating exploration by a journalist who holds no truths to be self-evident but wants the facts behind the national myths we so eagerly embrace. Likely to interest WWII and Holocaust scholars as much as—if not more than—soccer fans.” The Classical“Ajax is an absorbing, thoughtful read, driven by a moral intelligence not typically found in sports books…. The resulting book is not about 4-4-2 formations, transfers, or sporting glory—Kuper instead uses the game as a lever to open up a serious but engaging discussion of collective memory, group identity, the legacy of the Holocaust and the war, and what games can stand for beyond the pitch. Any intelligent sports fan not familiar with Kuper's work is missing out, and Ajax more than lives up to his high standard.” Tobias Carroll, Vol. 1 Brooklyn

On Sale
Sep 11, 2012
Page Count
288 pages
Bold Type Books

Simon Kuper

About the Author

Simon Kuper is one of the world's leading writers on soccer. The winner of the William Hill Prize for sports book of the year in Britain, Kuper writes a weekly column for the Financial Times. He lives in Paris, France.

Stefan Szymanski is the Stephen J. Galetti Collegiate Professor of Sport Management at the University of Michigan's School of Kinesiology. Tim Harford has called him "one of the world's leading sports economists." He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Learn more about this author