VVV-Venlo’s players and coaching staff have not re-watched Saturday’s record 13-0 defeat to Ajax. “It’s not worth analysing all the goals,” manager Hans de Koning told ESPN. “We know what happened.” And so does the world.
On Monday morning, 48 hours after their humiliation at their home stadium, they met at their training ground and tried to switch focus to Tuesday’s KNVB Cup match against Den Bosch.
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“We have had good games before against Ajax and that is what we need to focus on, where we need to get confidence from,” De Koning said. “We need to dig a hole, throw this match in it, pour concrete over it and then probably in 10 years it will come up again.”
Eredivisie side VVV-Venlo were navigating their start to the season as they prepared for the visit of Dutch giants Ajax to the Covebo Stadion. Although they began their campaign with a 5-3 win at FC Emmen and had drawn 2-2 at AZ Alkmaar in the game before facing Ajax , their goal difference in the league table was zero and they had five points from a possible 15. Ajax headed two hours south from Amsterdam to the small 16th-Century Dutch-German border city still smarting from their 1-0 Champions League defeat to Liverpool in midweek.
VVV-Venlo felt the full force of an Ajax backlash. By half-time on Saturday afternoon, Ajax were 4-0 up and coasting. They were in a ruthless mood and did not relent. In the second half, VVV-Venlo had Christian Kum sent off and capitulated as Ajax scored a further nine goals — all from inside the penalty box, either buried into the corner of the net or powerfully finished at close range. Goalkeeper Delano van Crooij watched helplessly as the ball flew past him 13 times.
74. Penalty Huntelaar.#VVVAJA | 0-10 pic.twitter.com/carD4uU5SW
— VVV-Venlo (@VVVVenlo) October 24, 2020
It was at about 8-0 that, like a shark smelling blood, social media users outside of the Netherlands began to latch on to what was happening. With one team floundering and the other scoring almost at will, speculation on the final total began to mount. The memes and gifs started. VVV-Venlo’s Twitter account reacted in good humour, but you could sense they were laughing through tears. The Ajax faithful wanted 14 — the number forever linked with legend Johan Cruyff. In the end they managed 13 goals from 45 shots. Lassina Traore scored five, Jurgen Ekkelenkamp and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar grabbed two each and Dusan Tadic, Antony, Daley Blind and Lisandro Martinez also scoring.
87. We hebben een record te pakken… #VVVAJA | 0-13 pic.twitter.com/bKuCdWMpwq
— VVV-Venlo (@VVVVenlo) October 24, 2020
VVV-Venlo goalkeeper Van Crooij said he was eager to move the narrative on past what they hope is an anomaly: “We talk about it now and from then on we move on to the next game. It is unbelievable what happened and of course we need to talk about this. But it is so much now. It is s—, it is what it is.
“You don’t really live these days. We will never forget this match, but we need to forget it. We need to wash this away as fast as possible. It is s— to be world news like this. But we are big boys, we can’t cry. And feeling pity is useless.”
Captain Danny Post received messages ranging from support to schadenfreude. “This is such a big blow,” he told ESPN. “Everyone needs to take his own responsibility. Every one of us has had s— coming them, from friends, family… the whole world saw this. That’s no fun. I am the captain and this really hurts. But we need to move on and we can’t keep mourning this loss.
“We’ve read all the comments. We’ve made the bed and now we must lie in it. It is a scandal and it hurts. But what I said to the players is, we must try to get out stronger. We all know this will stick with us for the next 10, 20 years.”
They have tried their best to ignore the postmatch fallout. Van Crooij was consoled by Andre Onana at full-time, but can’t remember what was said. “I don’t know, I was in a bubble,” Van Crooij said. “I didn’t really live the moment.” Later there were reports Onana was keen to take the penalty they were awarded when the score was already 9-0. “If that is the case then it is not very collegial,” Van Crooij said of Onana. “But you need to ask him what he wanted. I really don’t know. For me it is not an issue.” In the end it was Huntelaar who stuck the ball in the opposite corner past Van Crooij.
Van Crooij was the centre of attention at training on Monday. But he was stoic. He knows his name will forever be linked with the 13 goals he conceded, but he is trying to tap into that age-old footballing mentality of compartmentalising each game. This will be something that truly hits home, and hurts, when the distractions are gone. “I don’t really have the time to pick myself up. I think the real blow will coming in the winter break when I sit back and relax. No, we don’t have time to mourn and we need to go on.”
Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens discuss Ajax’s 13-0 thrashing of VVV-Venlo.
Luckily for VVV-Venlo, the fixtures are coming thick and fast. On Tuesday evening they host Den Bosch at the same ground where they shipped 13 goals just three days before. They are aware the second-division side will be looking to heap misery on their wounded hosts. “Den Bosch will think they can get something from us,” Van Crooij said. “But we must make sure they will get nothing. Head up, chest out and do our thing.
“Our talk on Monday was not special or something. We have just said we need to continue. We laughed as well during training, if we were still crying all day we might as well not go out on the pitch tomorrow.”
It was admirable of VVV-Venlo to front up. They could have circled the wagons and only spoken after the Den Bosch game. But that’s not their way. They’re wounded, but they are ready to bounce back.
“For me the glass is always half-full,” De Koning said. “Yeah, we have had a really bad Sunday. That is normal. And now we to move on. It is in the history books for the next 40 years probably, but it is what it is. It goes as far as here and no further.
“We must be happy and proud that we have a good life as football players, and we must cherish that. And at the end we need to get revenge against Den Bosch — for ourselves, the people in the club and the fans.”