Continuing the tour of the global influence of the Eredivisie, we move on to Denmark and its players that have shaken up, passed through, and currently playing in Dutch football.

  • By Ale Miranda
  • Follow @GeograFOOT on twitter

henning jensenDenmark is not known for for being a global force in the world of football. The national team is currently ranked at 25 by FIFA trailing Mali and Bosnia-Herzegovina and just in front of Japan and Czech Republic. The only trophy their national team were able to obtain was the well known 1992 European Championship beating Germany in the final (and knocking out Netherlands in the semis on penalties). Most football fans were asking themselves “Where could this surprising surge of quality come from?”. Well many argue that the Eredivisie had much to do with it.

Denmark is a Nordic country and was rated as one of the happiest countries in the world due to the dependency and lack of corruption of their government. Geographers and politicians have drawn many similarities between Denmark and the Netherlands when it comes to government structure, culture, and geneology. Some even go further to, at times, include the Netherlands as a honorary Nordic country. Because of the similarities these two countries have seen an exchange of citizens throughout the latter part of the 20th century as gloablization became more of a relevant topic.

Given its similarities, football began to be claimed a victim of the cultural exchange and the Eredivisie began to have more and more of a Danish presence. The 70s could be considered the beginning as Dutch football began create its own identity from Ajax’s and the Oranje’s Total football innovation, which was probably the attraction for Danes.

One of the first Danes to arrive in Eredivisie was Ole Madsen when he signed for Sparta Rotterdam in 1965. A year prior he was offered a contract to play for FC Barcelona but declined because the move did not appeal to him, some would laugh at this decision today. Ole’s career was one that is a bit sad because of the potential he possessed but was never able to live up to mainly due to his poor decision making on his moves. He enjoyed success with Sparta appearing in 72 matches and scoring 22 goals, helping win the KNVB Cup in his first season and reach a rare Eredivisie 3rd place which both were the last great achievements for the club’s history. He was a mainstay for his National team because of his frequent scoring, 42 goals out of 50 caps. In 1968, Madsen decided to return to being the striker for his hometown 3rd division team Hellerup IK in an attempt to build up the club for the top tier of Danish football but failed when he was forced to retire in ’69 because of an serious injury in a Denmark international match, ultimately never seeing his peak years.

In the late 70s after the Johan Crujff era, Ajax had an influx of Danes join the squad. The first were midfielders Frank Arnesen and Søren Lerby who brought Ajax much success during their stays in the Eredivisie. They were later joined by Henning Jensen in ’79 and Jesper Olsen in ’81. With the Danish presence from ’75-’84, Ajax were able to continue their dominance after Crujff by winning 5 League titles and 2 League Cups. Arnesen, Lerby, and Dick Shoenaker played just behind the striker forming a wonderful partnership and understanding making them hard to beat in European matches and when Arnesen fell injured Jensen would fill the position with zero difficulty. When Johan Crujff returned to Ajax in ’81, he formed a formidable partnership with Jesper Olsen most known for creating the “passed penalty” where Crujff would pass from the spot to Olsen who would pass it back to Crujff and then slotting it home to a perplexed goalkeeper. Olsen was known as “De Vlo” (The Flea) because of his ability to twist, jump, turn, etc. to avoid tackles.

This side could be the footprint for the Danish presence in 2013’s Ajax squad which have 6 players in the main squad. Danish players have served as important players in Dutch football history and seem to be a give and take relationship. The Eredivisie has raised the level of competition while the best Danish players are emerging from the Dutch academies.

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