‘Leo Beenhakker should listen to former football players a little more'

Mister Ajax Sjaak Swart follows his Ajax closely

Sjaak Swart, the legendary right winger of the great Ajax, is succeeded as a businessman in the mean time. Together with the former Blauw Wit-football player Bram Haverkamp he runs the restaurant in the Jaap Edenhal and three restaurants in swimming pools in Amsterdam. Besides that Sjaak Swart is still dealing with football. He is guiding Ajax-players and he is following players in name of Ajax. A meeting with a still popular football die-hard. Everywhere Sjaak Swart appears, he has to talk about football. It already begins early in the morning in his restaurant in the Jaap Edenhal, where he is drinking a cup of coffee in a cosy atmosphere with some Ajax-supporters. Sjaak: „It is not going all too well with Ajax, but things are also going against us. I do not believe that Leo Beenhakker is the right trainer for Ajax, a trainer should have played at the top, he has got to be able to kick the ball into the top corner of the goal, Michels, Happel and Ivic can do that. Chairman Harmsen gets the blame, but when you are in a conversation with him, and get to know him a little better, he isn´t that bad, at the moment he is having a difficult time. Still I know for certain that Ajax will come back again. Leo Beenhakker should listen to former football players a little more, guys who know what they are talking about”.

It is friday morning, before Sjaak Swart visits the restaurants in the swimming pools, he lets himself be treated by Salo Muller. On the road he is telling why he is currently driving in a very expansive Citroen. Sjaak: „I am extremely scared of flying. Because I do want to come along with Ajax as much as possible I have bought a good car, for those long distances. The first trip I made with the National team went to Mexico. Above Mexico there were two motors catching fire, so we had to make an emergency landing. This is our last trip guys, said Elek Schwartz. We made a few bumps unbelievable, but the pilot did get the plane safe on the ground. Since then I am terrified in an airplane, just like Velibor Vasovic. In Prague Vasco has stepped of the plane once. We had to wait for an hour there, because the plane was being fixed. When we got on again the engines stopped. Vasco became deathly pale, and got of the plane. Mister Michels goodbye, he called out from the stairs. It wasn't until two days later that he arrived in the training camp, then he also got a fine of a thousand guilders. Gerrie Mühren was also very scared in a plane. Vasco and Gerrie were always sitting on the first seats, looking pale and braking along when the plane was descending. I was always allowed to sit with the pilots in the cockpit, else I could not deal with it. I was jalous on a guy like Johan Neeskens, who was always calmly asleep during flights”.

Sjaak Swart won all of the Cups with Ajax

Despite the fact that Sjaak Swart is by now already not playing football at the top anymore, he kept on visiting Salo Muller weekly for the „weekly patch up". Salo Muller: „Sjaak is standing a lot, still plays a lot and makes long days. Because of that the circulation isn´t optimal. Every week I take him on, as a football player he was used to this. When he stopped he kept on doing this. He is careful with his body, he is now only two kilograms heavier than in his Ajax-days. Actually I am still treating a lot of sports people, many judoists and wrestlers. Further I have almost all of the artists. Those people are standing on stage daily and also got troubles with their muscles, also an artist should have a good condition. Sports people and artists are very sensitive, because they always want and have to deliver top performances. I regularly get players here, who are treated at their clubs, but keep on having difficulties. That man may only treat healthy people, but when we look at the matters realistically, we know that he is attracted to treat injuries. When I read in the paper that there are so many injured players walking around at Ajax, my hands are itching. Then I get the impulse to grab the phone, then I want to do something about it. When there are a lot of injuries at a club, I have question marks about the trainer. Then the condition isn´t optimal or there is worked with the wrong practise material. With Michels there were never troubles. Every evening Michels, doctor Rolink and I discussed the matters. I wanted to do everything right, I am a real fanatasist about my profession. Every year I renew all of my equipment and buy new stuff. It is getting crazier and crazier, weekly I am confronted to new injuries, the sport is getting more and more agressive. I don´t know how long it can go on like this".

In the Sloterpark magazine everything is going smooth. Sjaak is dealing with the personel very friendly and is absolutely not acting like the boss. Sjaak: „Bram and me are very careful with attracting personel. We have called in a lot of family members. Then at least you know what you are dealing with. We are good for our people, everything is going amiable. Bram and I have started the restaurant in the Jaap Edenhall, at the moment we have four establishments and I think that is enough. Now we still have overview and we have some time left for our hobbies. Cause Bram and me are crazy about football, we are still playing and love to watch. I mainly take care of the matters in the Jaap Edenhall and Bram is daily going by the swimming pools.

When it is busy we are working along very hard ourselves, we really do not feel too good for this, I do not hate it, it is nice work, always people around you - Sjaak Swart is one of the few former football players who has stayed popular. He is still 'owned' by the public, for young and old he is still called Sjakie. Sjaak: ”When I quit, I held it into account that everyone would have forgotten about me in half a year, but that is absolutely not the case. In the streets I am still called at and I also regularly need to take more pictures. Cause one keeps on asking me for pictures with autographes. Now I am already gone at Ajax for seven years, can you believe that. Football still means a lot to me. I am playing at VVGA, at the ex-Internationals, at ex-Ajax and I am regularly playing in the hall. Specially at the former Internationals it is going nice because there are some physically fit guys there. Charly Bosveld, Piet de Vries, Klaas Nuninga and Jan Mulder are guys you can still play a nice game of football with”.

Many former football players are irritated to the mentality of the current generation of professionals, Sjaak: "When it was bad weather at Saturday, I was in a very bad mood. I wanted to play football the next day. Now they are glad, when it is cancelled. The clubs should involve a lot more former players in the whole happening. I regularly take a look at players for Ajax and daily I go to the training to talk to players. I see way too few former players at Ajax. Those guys can do so much useful work. Only Tonnie Pronk, Piet Keizer, Theo van Duivenbode and I are regularly coming there. When Dick van Dijk comes, he has huge trouble getting in. This is taken care of a lot better abbroad. There one appreciates it when former players are coming by. By involving former players at the club you get a good football atmosphere in the club. But many boardmembers are scared that certain players will be getting too much influence, then they aren't important anymore themselves".

Sjaak Swart is eating a fish at the fish stand of his brother-in-law


During the talent days Swart is dealing with the potential Ajax-youth

Sjaak Swart is a real Ajax player. Sjaak: „As a guy of fifteen I already went to Ajax with my dad, Guus Drager was my idol, I still see him regularly. It hurts me when it is going bad at Ajax. A lot of former players like it when it is going bad after they have left. I don't, when Ajax loses, I think this is worse than most players that are now playing at Ajax". At his daily ride past the restaurants Sjaak Swart always stops at the Confection Centre, where his brother-in-law has a fish stand, and according to Sjaak he sells the best buns of Amsterdam. Sjaak Swart is complaining about the fact that you hardly see any real wingers anymore while eating the indeed very tasty buns with salmon salad and herring. Sjaak: „René van de Kerkhof is actually the only winger, who goes on to the touch line. You hardly see that anymore and still it is then that you get the most dangerous situations for the opponent. You also see too little passes at the second post, it is mostly there where the chances are. I used to have a good sense for this, I was always there at exactly the right time. As a game to watch football has become a lot less attractive without wingers. At the wings there is space, you used to see individual actions there. Currently there is not a lot to enjoy on the wings anymore. I do try to talk about this with Leo Beenhakker, but he doesn't listen, while I would listen in his position. Leo really is a nice guy, but he has never played football. I could talk about footbaal a lot better with Ivic, he did listen to me, we used to talk for hours. I also had long conversations about football with Michels, Michels always says very smart things about football. I used to have a difference of opinion about Lerby with Ivic. He did not like the idea, I have then given him the advice to put Lerby in the midfield. I have then predicted that Lerby would then score at least twenty goals. That Lerby is a big guy, he has the same mentality as Johan Neeskens”.

The lovely Miranda bath is merely crowded by some children. From the neat but sobre decorated restaurant you have a nice view over the pool. Sjaak: „It is getting harder and harder to invest. First you need to have strong chairs and tables and I demand from my crew that it is nice and clean. There is really trashed a lot, this is getting worse and worse. When you buy nice cups, they are gone in a month, they are just taken. You should not try to put a nice ashtray on the table, are also being taken away. During an icehockey match in the Jaap Edenhal there are always taken about fourty ashtrays. We never have any other real trouble. When things aren´t going as Bram and I want, we gather the four managers and then we solve it immediately. When it is needed, I can really get angry, but forget about it quite soon after”. Sjaak Swart once succeeded to get his B-diploma at a special course, but he does not make use of it, Sjaak: „I was at this course with Thijs Libregts, Hans Dorjee, Piet de Zoete and Theo Laseroms. I have kept this up, but it was tough. Every Monday morning there was a condition training scheduled. Then we had to run our lungs out for two hours from Siem Plooyer. Piet Keizer has quit doing it. He thought it was bullshit that he had to do a condition training at this course as a top player. I have learned nothing there when it comes to football, technique and tactics. You had to listen and make no remarks, cause the teachers did not like that. When it comes to teaching I did learn a thing or two. I thought the lessons of the doctor were the worst. I understand that you have to know some things about the body as a trainer, but when you come from the course, you are almost allowed to operate. You do not benifit a bit from that knowledge”.

„I have never used my diploma, I am even still playing at VVGA and I am going to watch Ajax, then you do not have the time to also train a club. One is addicted to booze, I am addicted to football. I still think it is lovely to play football myself and when I am in the field, I am playing to win. Then I am fanatical, but I will never kick anyone”. As a football player Sjaak Swart had a sigar shop, but he has the opinion that as a top-class player you can actually not do something on the side. Sjaak: “My wife has always helped me, else you could not keep it up. That establishment is now gone, recently there came a guy to me, if I wanted to open his shop, he had made a third world shop from it. He better look for someone else for that, it has become quite a mess there. I did end up at the Jaap Edenhal through my sigar shop. Cause I always delivered sigars here and like that I came into contact with mister Pil, the director. He asked me if I wanted to run the restaurant. Bram was the director of a coffee- and tea business and he also wanted to do something else. Then we have started for ourselves and we have never regret this”.

Icehockey in the Jaap Edenhall

Sjaak Swart with Frank Arnesen and Sören Lerby

After his farewell match Sjaak Swart has never played professional football again, while he did get a few profitable offers. Sjaak: „I had hardly quit or George Knobel wanted to take me back. Later I ran into those Molenaar brothers during my vacation and they offered me a two year contract, I could earn a lot of money at AZ. I have also recieved a couple of good offers from America, but there you are almost daily on planes. I have never admitted to them, because my farewell match was the absolute highlight of my carreer. I did have a tough time with it, cause I still loved to play football so much. Afterwards I am glad I haven't started over again. I kept on playing football for fun, I am still doing that. Else I would have already been youth trainer at Ajax, they have asked me many times already. I would only want to train at Ajax though, you never see me as a trainer of a first-division team. I think working with the youth will be lovely". Back in the Jaap Edenhal Sjaak Swart has to take care of everything for an icehockey match which is scheduled. Sjaak: „I have become a real icehockey enthusiast here. It looks a bit like football, you see a lot of people here you see at Ajax on Sundays. The nice thing here is that you keep on meeting other people. You have fairs, meetings of religous groups, Holiday on Ice, classic and pop concerts here. We have never had trouble, it is always fun. The crowds of Status Quo is the best audience, they are tough guys, but a lot of fun. They are listening a bit have a beer, very nice. Bram and me think this is important, it has to stay fun. That is why we won't add another establishment. I could get the Ajax restaurant. One can make a good business from this, but it would really become too busy so Bram and I had decided not to do it. We are really cooperating very well, we are a golden couple. Our wives were friends, that is how we got into contact with each other. We are working with each other daily, we are playing football together and we are going to Ajax together, we are even going on vacation together, but we have never had an argument".

When you start a conversation about referees with Sjaak Swart, he gets a little fanatical. Those people get on his nerves. Sjaak: „I think guiding a match is really easy, Bep Thomas and Henk van Ettekoven have feeling for it, but further it isn't all that good. Take such a Gerard Geurds for example, that man is already walking wrong. A football man does not walk like that and recently I saw a certain George Oetelmans, that was really unbelievable and what do you think about Egbert Mulder. Now that I am playing at the amatures, I have got to deal with very strange referees. You are allowed to give each other a viscious kick, but as soon as I give a little comment I get a warning. I always thought Lou van Ravens was the biggest scumbag, that man has always bothered me, first at Ajax and later at the minifootball. If you ask me he is the cause that we have not been invited for the minifootball anymore. He is a real suck-up. All of those men can learn a lot from Leo Horn, that was a real referee. Leo van der Kroft should be taking former football players, those guys know what it is to walk around in full stadiums, they do not get impressed that easily". Sjaak Swart is big friends with Frank Arnesen and Sören Lerby. The single Sören Lerby is even regularly eating at his place, Sjaak: „Sören is living alone and then you know how it goes, then he just fetches a bag of fries. That's why he regularly eats at my place and in the evening he comes to play some cards or watch television, he thinks that is cosy. Ajax has to contract those two Danish as soon as possible, cause it are some star players. Last year I once played with Old-Ajax in Beerta, somewhere in Groningen. At that club from Beerta there was playing a blond bloke, I immediately saw it, that guy had it. It turned out that he was already playing at SC Veendam, Jurrie Koolhof. I have already looked at him in name of Ajax a couple of times, he kept on playing weak, but I believe in that guy. With some good guidance he will become a top player. I dare to guarantee you that. I really have an eye for it by now. I have worked under thirteen top trainers, of which Vic Buckingham and Rinus Michels were the best. What should I still learn about football. My favourites were Matthews and Garrincha, I also see something in Jurrie Koolhof, he goes past his opponent on the inside and on the outside”.

At Ajax Sjaak Swart is also dealing with guys that aren't functioning at Ajax. Peter Boeve is a patient of him. Sjaak: „I regularly talk to Peter, a guy with a great mentality. He is too serious, thinking about football way too much. He is just sitting there in his appartment and only thinks about the match. He should once really relax. It is also tough to be put at Ajax coming from a village. He is way too nervous. I think that another trainer would get a lot more out of him. In the Netherlands the right atmosphere around the field is lacking. In England this is better, there you have a great atmosphere for ninety minutes, here you only have atmosphere when it is going good for a while. Maybe our type of football is the problem, in the Netherlands there isn't a single club which can really play pressure. We used to do that, we put every club with the back against the wall. Now it is happening that the keeper of the opponents gets the first shot on goal after half an hour”.

Sjaak Swart with Wim Jansen and Johan Cruijff on the stands at Ajax - FC Twente 5-3 at November 1980

„The atmosphere among the players is also different than it was. I have still played with Rinus Michels, he had humor. Specially before the match he always took care of atmosphere. During the training he was incredibly lazy, he hated it. He was the life and soul, when he came in the door it was fun”. The icehockey international Corky de Graauw arrives, a good friend of Sjaak Swart. Sjaak: „Those guys have character, every morning at eight o'clock they are standing on the ice here and then there is worked hard. Training every day again and three matches a week. After the training they come to my place to eat bacon and eggs, they aren't eating anything else. Those guys are eating no less than thirty eggs a week, that can never be healthy”. In the mean time Sören Lerby and Frank Arnesen have also arrived. Sören Lerby is eating along out of the exellent kitchen of the restaurant and Frank Arnesen comes for the icehockey match. Sjaak: "Frank is the best player on the Dutch fields, but he wants to do too much. He should not be getting the balls in the back. That costs way too much strength. Now he misses that strength in the deciding moments. Sören is another type of player, but also a player of class, he is extremely strong, at least as strong as Johan Neeskens. For these guys one can only hope that Ivic comes back. I know for certain that Ivic would rather work at Ajax for two hundred thousand guilders than at Anderlecht for three hundred thousand”. After the first period of the icehockey match we suddenly lost Sjaak Swart. It turns out he stands behind the beer pump, cause after all those years everyone still likes to drink a beer at Sjakie.

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