Welcome to the Gelredome

One of the reasons why I love European football Weekenders in Dusseldorf is that the excellent German train transport network means I am merely an Inter City Express (ICE) train journey away from Dutch football. With Vitesse Arnhem riding high in the Eredivisie, their home fixture against Roda JC Kerkrade was an ideal opportunity to cross Vitesse off my Dutch ground hopping list.

Arnhem is located in Gelderland, a province of Holland that stretches from Utrecht east to the German border. With Arnhem being a major transport junction there are direct trains from both Dusseldorf Hbf, every 2 hours and journey lasts 1 hour 10 mins (2nd class day return from €43) and Amsterdam Central Station, every 20 minutes and journey lasts 1hour 10 mins (2nd class day return from €31). On arrival, you will find VVV tourist office (Stationsplein 13) located right next to the train and bus station. As I arrived on a Sunday, the office was closed.

1 Arnhem wallpaperInstead, I jumped on the city bus line 1 for a 20 minute journey to Oosterbeek. Today it is a well-heeled suburb of Arnhem, but in September 1944 was the scene of Operation Market Garden, the failed World War II Allied Airborne operation to capture key river crossings in southeast Gelderland. Getting off the bus at the last stop of Oosterbeek train station, it was a short 5 minute walk to Oosterbeek War Cemetery where nearly 2,000 British and Polish paratroopers are buried. From there it was another 10 minutes walk south , following the many signposts to the Airborne Museum  (Utrechtseweg 232). The museum is actually the former Hotel Hartenstein where British 1st Airborne Division withstood superior German forces for 4 days before retreating across the river. Recently refurbished, the museum vivdly recalls the Battle for Arnhem from the perspective of both sides and the Dutch civilians caught in between. Amongst the artefacts was a section of wallpaper salvaged from an Arnhem house, containing the graffiti and a cricket score card tally of Germans killed or wounded, written by an unknown British paratrooper.

The fighting and its aftermath has not surprisingly left an indelible mark with the people of Arnhem, even after all this time. This year, Vitesse were asked by their Supporters Club to change from their usual yellow and black striped home kit, to claret and blue that were the colours of the British 1st Airborne Division. The shirts also bore their ‘winged horse’ logo and the slogan ‘ No Bridge to Far’. The limited edition strip was then worn by the Vitesse players against Heracles Almelo at the weekend to commemorate the 68th Anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem.

2 Arnhem shirtReturning to Arnhem bus station, it was a 10 minute walk through its postwar reconstructed centre to the church of St Eusabius. For a couple of euros you can catch a lift to the top of its tower where to the south you can see the modern looking bridge that was the title of the famous war film “A Bridge Too Far”. Today the bridge is named ‘John Frostbrug’  , after the British commander that defended it . Further south you will be able to make out the Gelredome, home to Vitesse Arnhem.

Returning to the bus station via the centre you will be spolit for choice for restaurants, café and bars on and around Korenmarkt and Jansplein. The best football bar in Arnhem is Murphy’s (Varkenstraat 48) and you can pick up Vitesse souvenirs at the fanshop (Jansbinnensingel 19).

From the bus station there is free transport to Gelredome with ‘Breng’ busservice. This service operates from 2 hours prior to kick-off until 1 hour after the match. The journey last 10 minutes and drops you right outside the main entrance to Gelredome. Just to the left you will find the ticket office and fan shop.3 gelredomeVitesse Arnhem (Stichting Betaald Voetbal Vitesse) was founded in 1892 and famous players to have donned the Vitesse colours include Sander Westerveld , Pierre van Hooijdonk and Philip Cocu. In 2010, Georgian businessman and former football Merab Jordania purchased Vitesse, making them the first dutch club to be owned by a foreigner. This caused much controversy in Holland, with some commentators arguing this would open floodgates to English Premier league style foreign ownership of Dutch football clubs and all the problems that come with it. Results on the pitch have silenced the critics for now and in 2012/13 season, Vitesse seem to have a team to finally challenge the big guns of Eredivisie: Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV and Twente. Jordania’s money has attracted some great young players including Wilifred Bony, who is currently the Eredivisie leading goal scorer. Bony and other team players hav inevitably drawn interest from bigger clubs and it will be interesting to see if they leave the Gelredome during transfer window.

Vitesse moved from Nieuw Monnikenhuize to the Gelredome in 1998 and its current home was a template for modern football stadium design across Europe. Its retractable roof (Cardiff’s Millennium stadium), retractable pitch that could be moved outside the stadium (Schalke) and proximity card access (Manchester City) have all been used. The Gelredome capacity is nearly 30,000 but even riding high in Eredivisie there was only 16,000 in attendance for visit of Roda J C. Attendances and match atmospheres increase for visit of Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV, Twente and local rivals NEC Nijmegen in “de Gelderse derby.”To see the Vitesse Arnhem supporter choreography, visit www.Vitesse.org and search for ‘Vitesse in beeld’

4 supporters barAs I had been warned the club operates a token system for buying food/drink inside the Gelredome, I picked up the wafer thin 16 page free match programme, ‘Vitesse Vandag’ and retired to their supporters bar, called Supportershome Monnikenhuize. It is located between Oost and Zuid stands. Opening hours are 2 hours prior to kick-off and after the match.

Inside the Gelredome I took my seat in was entertained by some unusual pre-match entertainment, in the form of some falconry display. Shortly before kick-off, an Amercian bald eagle called ‘De Hertog’ (The Duke) is released by its owner to fly a circle over each of the four stands in Gelredome . I am not sure what is dutch for “never work with children or animals”, but sometimes ‘De Hertog’ has a mind of his own and has been known to land amongst supporters.

6 Vitesse v Roda JCThe match itself was very one sided, with the much stronger Vitesse beating Roda JC 3-0. On 10 minutes Marco van Ginkel’s impeccable shot from just outside the penalty area made it 1-0. Then 3 minutes before half time, a pinpoint pass from Jan-Arie van der Heijden found Jonathan Reis perfectly. The Brazilian striker played around Roda keeper Kurto and simply slid the ball into the net. The second half continued as the first with Vitesse still controlling the match. Although Roda’s Nemeth hit the post in 52nd minute, Vitesse made it 3-0. Patrick van Aanholt’s shot on goal was saved initially by Kurto, but the ball rebounded to Wilfried Bony who hit the bar. Thankfully, Reis put Roda out of their misery by easily sliding the ball in for his second of the afternoon. Vitesse hit the crossbar with a long shot by Van Ginkel and the one-way traffic continued until the final whistle. Vitesse’s victory took them to second place in Eredevisie.

Club Basics
Name: Vitesse Arnhem(Stichting Betaald Voetbal Vitesse)
Address:B.V. Vitesse, Batavierenweg 25, 6841 HN Arnhem,
Email: fanservice@vitesse.nl , info@vitesse.org , supportersvereniging@vitesse.org
Website: www.vitesse.nl
Supporters website: www.vitesse.org

Vitesse Arnhem is a very football tourist friendly club when it comes to ticketing and I wish other Eredivisie clubs were as hospitable. You do not need to apply for a club members card or expensive tourist package to watch Vitesse. Simply email the club a few weeks in advance and they will confirm that you can buy a ticket on the day of the match. You do not even need to show ID. For the visit of the top clubs, you may well be restricted to four tickets. Tickets go on sale about 2 weeks ahead of match. Tickets can also be purchased at fanshop in Arnhem and online. My ticket for lower tier of Oost stand was €25 and the views were excellent.

Many thanks to Henk Parren at Supportervereniging Vitesse.

Paul Whitaker, Maracana Manor

 

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