Soccer-Ajax decline invitation to honour women's team

(Reuters) - Ajax Amsterdam's women's team will not be honoured with a public celebration in the Dutch capital on Monday despite claiming the Eredivisie title, as club officials fear the poor performance of the men's team this season will solicit a lukewarm response.

Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema had invited the triumphant women's team for a customary balcony ceremony in the city's famous Leidseplein square, but Ajax declined the offer, leading to a significant backlash.

The Ajax women's team secured their third league title almost three weeks ago, and club officials believe the moment to mark the achievement has passed.

"We do not support the timing or the place," a club spokesperson told the Dutch website

Ajax are concerned any public celebrations would be muted given the poor performance of the men's side, "which would not be good for the image of women’s football".

The men's team are third in the league with one fixture to play this season, and look likely to miss out on a Champions League place for the first time since 2009.

"The lack of a celebratory mood around Ajax in general, which is linked to the performance of the men’s team this season, played a part in the decision," the Ajax spokesman continued.

Officials in Amsterdam's municipality are not happy with the stance.

"Unfortunately, without the cooperation of the club, the mayor and the alderman see no possibility to organise a successful ceremony this season," city officials said in a statement.

It has divided opinion in the Dutch capital, with one Ajax fanclub voicing strong opposition to the idea of honouring the women's team, though for a different reason.

"In our opinion, a public tribute in Amsterdam should only be reserved for Ajax 1 (the men's team)," supporter's club AFCASC said in a statement.

But the decision to cancel the ceremony received criticism too.

"With friends like that, you don't need enemies. Very disappointed in what should feel like 'my' club," former Ajax defender Merel Van Dongen said.

(Reporting by Tommy Lund in Gdansk, Bart Meijer in Amsterdam and Nick Said, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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