Neil Fuller, father of our very own Bradley Dobson, introduces us to the Green Gully Ajax and the reasons why he first fell in love with the “other” Ajax from Melbourne, instead of the Dutch giants we all know, on a search through the decades for a love lost in time.
The very first overseas team I supported was Ajax. Not the one from Amsterdam though but one from Australia. Never heard of them? Well you probably won’t have because the football club with that name ceased to exist in the mid 1960’s. In any case they weren’t exactly famous.
So how did I end up supporting the Australian Ajax rather than the Dutch one? Well you have to remember this was the 1960’s and I was growing up on a council estate in Lincoln, a city in the East Midlands of England. There was no internet and no live TV coverage of any European leagues. In fact the only live club football on TV was the FA and European Cup Finals. The only European team I really knew of back then were Real Madrid. In the 1960’s I had simply not heard of Ajax of Amsterdam.
So once again, how and why the Australian Ajax? Well in those days in the summer, when there were no English league fixtures, the football betting companies used Australian league fixtures to keep some form of income. Australian football didn’t have a professional national league then as they do today but rather a number of amateur State leagues. To be frank, no one had a clue about Australian football so trying to pick out the draws was pure guesswork. Anyway, because the betting companies used Australian fixtures the Sunday newspapers used to publish the Australian football results.
One Sunday, while scanning through the Australian results, I came across a team called Ajax who played in one of the Victorian state divisions. I was immediately attracted to this team because of their name. As I said I had never heard of the Dutch Ajax so it had nothing to do with that. No, it was because there was, and still is I believe, a cleaning product on the British market called Ajax. In my naivety I thought it was really strange to name a football team after the powder my mum used to clean the sink. Still, so what I thought, if people can support a team because it’s where their granddad came from I can support a team named after my mum’s favourite cleaning product. And so I did!
Now it was hard work supporting a team thousands of miles away in the 1960’s, never mind an amateur team playing in a league that was probably akin to the Lincoln Sunday league. There was no internet so I couldn’t even find some basic information about the team. I didn’t even know where they finished in the league, as the Sunday papers did publish the results but neglected to publish the league tables, probably because they couldn’t get them either! So every summer I would start to look out for the Ajax results but then one summer in the mid 1960’s their results suddenly stopped appearing. I was devastated. I had no idea what had happened. Had they gone out of business? Had they been relegated or moved to a league not covered by the betting companies? I had no idea or any way of finding out. Gradually, the despair relented and the Australian Ajax slipped out of my mind completely until I was asked to write a piece on my favourite club.
Then it all came back to me. And off I went on my search through Google. I was hoping that I would find that the Australian Ajax was founded by Dutch immigrants in homage to Ajax of Amsterdam and played in the famous red and white. But no. Apparently Ajax Soccer Club, God I hate the word ‘soccer’, was founded in Melbourne in 1955 by Maltese immigrants and played in green and white. The name I guess had more to do with Greek mythology than Ajax of Amsterdam or cleaning products. Ajax ceased to exist in 1966 when they moved ground and were renamed Green Gully Ajax. The Ajax part of the name was dropped in 1982 but they continue to play in the Victoria Premier league. At least now I know what happened. Unfortunately I couldn’t find nothing about their exploits between 1955 and the name change in 1966. There is still an Ajax FC in Australia but they play a strange game called Australian Rules Football, which is as far away from proper football as you can get.
Of course, I finally heard of and fell in love with the real Ajax in the early 1970’s, as did almost all previously neutral football fans who watched that team win 3 European Cups. But that is of course a story for another day.