Piet Keizer was described as a ‘genius winger’ who was a critical component to the Amsterdam side dominating football in the 1960’s and 70’s. In May 2016, Player Development Project was privileged to sit with late, great Keizer in an old changing room at the top of the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam. The Ajax legend was attending the NextGen Series tournament as a special guest, watching the future of top European U19 talent play. We spoke to him about the past and the future of football in Holland.
In his recently published autobiography, Johan Cruyff selected his all-time world XI. Reviewing it, leading Spanish sporting magazine MARCA summarized as follows: “a smattering of fellow Dutch teammates from his playing days are joined by household names Diego Maradona, Pele, Garrincha and Franz Beckenbauer.” Yet one of those seemingly dismissed amidst the “smattering” happened to be Piet Keizer – the brilliant Ajax winger who was labelled alongside Cruyff as the “Royal Pair”.
Indeed, Dutch writer Nico Scheepmaker once famously wrote “Cruyff is the best, but Keizer is the better one.”
As part of the incredible Ajax side of the late 1960 to early 1970s, Keizer was schooled in the Total Football system and picked up silverware both domestically and in Europe as the side exerted its dominance and wrote itself into footballing folklore.
A one-club man, he joined Ajax at age 17 in 1960 and made his debut under manager Vic Buckingham. He went on to play 365 appearances over 13 years, appearing for The Netherlands in their unsuccessful 1974 World Cup Final against West Germany and scored 11 goals in 35 international appearances before retiring.
When he retired, it is said that Keizer swore never to kick a football again. 73 at the time of the interview, whether he has kicked a football since retiring or not, it was clear that despite his brilliant career, Piet was not a man to revel in that past unnecessarily. When asked about how it felt to be part of the Total Football system and whether he knew he was part of history being made, he says simply: “You ask me how I feel years ago. But I don’t want to go back. I understand that you want to know, but for me it’s not important at all.”
Nevertheless, despite a slight reluctance to dwell on the past in a personal capacity, he is a man who knows what he likes and doesn’t like in the modern game and feels that it is important to “respect the past”. He mentions this when discussing the expectations placed on the club he served for his entire career, Ajax.
“The people want to see Ajax play in a way that they dream of: high speed, technically superb, and many goals. The club has its own philosophy. And the philosophy of the club is mainly that they respect the past. That our culture should be the leading thing.
“We developed a special way of playing football. Total football. It’s very special. It’s the best thing I can think of.”
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