He is footballs forgotten hero, Piet Keizer made 365 appearances for Ajax, playing in 4 European Cup finals and being victorious 3 consecutive times. He scored 146 goals and also reached the World Cup final with Holland in 1974, all this over a prestigious 15 year career. 

  • By Harry Taylor
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kiezerPiet Keizer is a man whose name doesn’t regularly come into the minds of people when thinking of great Dutch players. This should not be the case considering he played a vital role on the left-wing in one of the greatest teams the world’s ever witnessed, however history has somehow managed to deceive him from being seen as one of the greatest players the Netherlands has ever produced.

Keizer started his career where he finished it, at Ajax. He joined the club when he was seventeen in 1960 but had to wait a year until he could make his debut for the club. Vic Buckingham was the man who gave him his chance in 1961 and the world has been thanking him ever since.

In Keizer’s early years he showed true glimpses of individual brilliance, he became renowned for perfecting the ‘scissor’ often using it on the wing to beat his marker and put in a dangerous delivery into the box. However in 1964 Keizer suffered a serious injury, he cracked his skull by colliding into Dutch defender André Pijlman. Keizer ended up being taken to hospital to have surgery. This lead to Keizer being out of the game for a considerable amount of time.

However when he returned Rinus Michels was the coach and a young man called Johan Cruyff was beginning to emerge from behind the scenes. The two became known as the ‘royal pair’ and they were the most deadly duo in the world at that time. They would rip the opposition to pieces with their innovative attacking flair, through interchanging and combining with one-twos; the opposition could not get near them.

In 1968 Ajax won the Eredivisie thanks to Keizer and Cruyff’s dominance, and then in 1969 they managed to reach the European Cup final for the first time in the clubs history. Unfortunately the final was not a day to remember, AC Milan’s catenaccio prevailed Ajax’s total voetbal; Keizer though, was determined not to ever have to walk past that elusive trophy without touching it again.

In 1971 Ajax returned to the competition and Keizer & Co. reached the final once more, this time they faced Greek side Panathinaikos. The result would be a different story this time, Keizer played on the left and he had no troubles beating the Greek right back Tomaras.  Keizer put in a tremendous cross for Van Dijk to head into the net after only 5 minutes of play. The game finished 2-0 and Keizer had won his first European Cup.

In 1972 Ajax retained the cup with another 2-0 win but this time over Internazionale, Keizer again got an assist, in one of the greatest European cup performances ever seen. 1973 was the year when Ajax managed to win their third consecutive European cup. They beat Juventus 1-0 thanks to a Johnny Rep goal.

However in the summer of 73’ the great Ajax side would disband, new manager George Knobel decided to let the player’s vote for whom they wished to be captain. They chose Keizer. This though was the end of Cruyff as he felt he was betrayed by his teammates and so he went to Barcelona along with many of his team mates who also departed for other clubs.

Keizer later fell out with Coach Hans Kraay  because Keizer wanted to move into midfield in his later years but the coach disagreed. Keizer then quit football and swore to never kick a football again, it is famously believed that three decades later when watching his son’s football match the ball rolled to him but he stepped to the side and let the ball roll.

So Keizer’s brilliant career was brought to an end. A career that saw Piet Keizer achieve everything possible to achieve in the club game, doing it with style and flamboyance with arguably the finest team to ever play the game. The best way to define Keizer comes from the words of Dutch writer, Nico Scheepmaker:

“Cruyff is the best, but Keizer is the better one.”

Harry Taylor (30 Posts)