AFC Ajax Amsterdam are spending their winter break at the Aspire Zone, where they can prepare in serenity for the second half of the season. Football Qatar’s Samindra Kunti spoke to AFC Ajax’s Lasse Schöne after this morning’s training session. Schöne has more than a 100 games under his belt for the Dutch champions. At the age of 28 the Dane is one of the key players of Frank de Boer’s squad.
What do you expect of the friendly against Schalke tomorrow?
Schalke are a fun opponent. It’s a big team and it’s a good way to conclude this week. It’s good to have such an opponent and to gauge how much progress we have made. I am looking forward to it.
The Eredivisie will restart soon. What are your thoughts on the first half of the season?
I have mixed feelings of course. We are a few points behind PSV. That’s doable and in that sense we are okay. We wanted to survive the winter in the Champions League, but we didn’t succeed. That is disappointing but third place was a good achievement given the clubs in our group [FC Barcelona, PSG and Apoel Nicosia]. The elimination by Vitesse in the Dutch cup was a big disappointment. So mixed feelings, but this year we are aiming for our fifth consecutive title. That’s our ambition. We also have the Europa League and are competing to get as far as possible. There are plenty of possibilities in the next six months.
Legia Warsaw is a doable opponent. What are Ajax’s aims in the Europa League?
I am always of the opinion – if you are competing, you want to win. That is not always achievable. Winning the Champions League would be a bit unrealistic, but in the Europa League everything is possible. We had a lot of bad luck in the Champions League draw, so let’s have some luck in the Europa League. We will try to progress as far as possible.
You have been working with Frank de Boer for the past seasons. Describe him as a coach.
It’s my third year at Ajax. If you look how involved [with football] he is…players develop and the results are self-explanatory. Ajax have won the title four times in a row and he has been head coach for four years. That’s a pretty achievement. He is a good coach and you can learn a lot from him. He forms a good coaching staff with his assistants. It is nice to work with him. You can see that the squad is enjoying it and that we want to fight for each other.
You are one of the more experienced players at Ajax. Can Ajax cope without you if you go at the end of the season?
Yes, I think so, but it’s clear that you need a good mix. Then it doesn’t matter who the experienced players are, but it is true that experience adds value. You can stimulate the younger players and help them. Ajax have a very young squad and experienced players can only make it better, but this group has a lot of potential and talent.
One of the younger players is Danish Kasper Kolberg, a recent signing. Tell us about the Danish tradition at Ajax.
I don’t know him personally but it’s obvious that there is an influx of Danish players. Ajax achieve successes with them so they are bringing more Danish players and I think the club will continue to do this in the future.
Finally, how do you assess your stay in Qatar so far?
It’s very good. The hotel is excellent and the food is good. The pitches are in perfect shape. Every day we wake up to blue skies and about 25 degrees. We have trained well. We are on the right track. So far it’s been a successful training camp.
On Wednesday you went to visit the port of Doha..
We went on a boat – a wooden one, a bit of a traditional one I think. We sailed for about an hour. It was fun to get out of the hotel and to see something different. As I said, it’s been a success so far.