Photo Credit: AFC Ajax Twitter
This season, Ajax Amsterdam released their third kit which was inspired by the much beloved singer, the late Bob Marely. The black kit with the sleeves and collar lined with the rastafarian colours and three birds placed behind the collar draws attention to the strange relationship that exists between Bob Marley and the dutch club of Amsterdamsche Football Club Ajax or AFC Ajax.
All the way back in 2008, Ajax fans travelled with their club for a friendly match against Cardiff in Wales. The match itself was uneventful and ended 0-0. However, this was the night when Ajax would discover Bob Marley. As reported by the Cardiff City’s stadium announcer, Ali Yassine, for some reason, the Ajax fans were told to stay back while the Cardiff fans vacated the stadium, perhaps to minimize chances of hooliganism and general violence. Yassine was instructed to keep the Ajax fans entertained and to do so, he started playing the song “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley out loud on the speakers. To his surprise, within a short while the Ajax fans started singing along with it and chanting it out loud. And since then, they have not stopped.
The fansbase of Ajax had been looking for a tune or a song that could be their anthem for a long time; something that defined them and kept their team motivated. The lyrics of the ‘Three Little Birds’ song “Don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause every little thing, gonna be alright” really seemed to resonate with the fans and soon afterwards it was adopted as an unofficial anthem by the fans. Every fan knows the lyrics by heart and it is often blasted out loud before games for fans to sing along to as the players walk out of the tunnel. Bob Marley’s son Ky-Mani heard of the phenomenon and has even performed the song live in front of the fans twice.
“My father was a big football fan, and football and the music went hand in hand,” Ky-Mani said in a ‘B/R Football’ video “Being able to perform the song there, to feel the energy and the vibration there that day did something to me I’ll never forget. Ajax, that’s my team. From now until the day my number is gone.”
The kit released by Ajax and Adidas is absolutely gorgeous and sure to be a classic shirt. However, recently, UEFA has banned the shirts from being used in the Champions League because of the iconic three little bird logos behind the collar. As stated by the club in an official statement "[UEFA] sees it as a different expression than the club logo, logo clothing sponsor or sleeve sponsor. Other expressions are not allowed."
I find it incredulous that an organization can have such a strong stance of sponsorship and logos and can take sufficient action against the same, but claim to not be able to do anything against the racism that has almost become a mainstay in Champions League games. But that is a completely different discussion.
It might seem odd that a team from Holland has adopted and claimed an English song by a Jamaican artist as their own, but according to Ajax fans, that is what they identify with and love to sing for their team, and who are we to argue with that. In the words of Bob Marley “Football is freedom” and if his music can make people feel free and happy, I think it is a victory for the whole footballing world.