Nearly eighteen months after the debacle in Amsterdam, Hakim Ziyech is able to reflect on Spurs’ miracle comeback with cold, factual detachment.
“For a child’s dream you just stole it down to the ground. It is hard, it is painful. It’s crazy what happened at that time, it’s hard to accept. You don’t always get what you deserve; you have to take that as a lesson and I did. Now I know always that the game is not over until the referee whistles.”
Ajax had taken a 2-0 half-time lead in the second leg of the Champions League semifinal on Ziyech’s goal, putting them up 3-0 on aggregate, only to throw it all away to a Lucas Moura hat-trick in the second half, his third coming in the sixth minute of stoppage time. Everyone’s favorite second team had just been knocked out in the cruelest of ways.
That hole may never be filled in his heart, but following his move to Chelsea, Ziyech will at least get a chance to exact a bit of revenge of Spurs on the pitch.
“Even in Holland, they say: ‘Now you can take good revenge on Tottenham,’ but as a player you always want to win, even if it is Tottenham or whoever.”
The 27-year-old unfortunately missed our game against Spurs in the League Cup, which they won on penalties, due to the preseason injury from which he’s still not quite fully recovered. But the season’s long, and he’ll have at least a couple more chances to do so, especially if Chelsea continue to grow and improve as a team, which he believes we’re fully capable of. In fact, he sees a lot of similarities between this young Chelsea team and that young Ajax side that captured European football’s imagination (again).
“Hopefully we are, and that is a process we are in right now. In the beginning when I came to Ajax it was like good and bad, in the way of playing, so it is a process of building. We just have to be patient and everything will work out.”
Patience is, as ever, in short supply of course, but for the players, it’s all about staying concentrated, keeping focus, working hard, and having a strong mentality. Ziyech, as one of the older players on the team, has already been used by the head coach as an example of precisely the sort of mentality we need in the rest of the squad.
For Ziyech himself, that comes from not only his development at Ajax and before then at Twente and Heerenveen, but also from growing up in a small town and getting his first football education from the streets, just like in the classic tales.
“Things that happened when I was younger, all this stuff when you’re playing on the streets, it makes you hard as a person. [It means that] when you get older you can play that hard as well, because when I was young and playing on the streets I always played against older guys and they didn’t back down. Even when you were too good for them they were just kicking, and those things make you hard. It helps you grow, and that mentality only helps you.”
-Hakim Ziyech; source: Guardian
Hopefully we’ll get to see Ziyech at his best very soon!