Our resident Dutch expert, Paul Whitaker takes us on a tour of Breda.
My ‘Rough Guide to Holland’ says Breda is a pleasant market town located in the province of Noord-Brabant. What the publication does not say, is as with other towns around this southern part of Netherlands, Breda also has a well-supported football club (NAC) and I planned my visit to coincide with their Eredivisie fixture against reigning champions, Ajax.
There are hourly trains from Amsterdam Central Station to Breda via s’ Hertogenbosch. 2nd class day return were €38. There is also a direct line from Amsterdam to Breda, with ‘Fyra’. It’s a few euros more, but you will get to Breda direct in one hour. If you have access to a dutch friend with an OV chipkaart , you should get up to 40% off this ticket price.
The demands of television on modern football dictated the match would not kick off until 20.45pm local time, which meant not getting back to Amsterdam until after 1am. “Against Modern Football/Tegen Het Moderne Voetbal!”. Thankfully, the ever reliable dutch railway system came to the rescue by ensuring regular train services ran into the early hours.
On arrival at Breda train station, head down Willemstraat, picking up a map/guide book from the VVV office (no 17-19, open Saturday). Cross the Valkenberg park and you will find yourself in typical dutch old town. Here the Grote Markt and neighbouring Havermarkt are the centre of Breda life. You will find a castle and moat off Kasteelplein and several surrounding streets full of bars, cafes and restaurants. I worked out the “Het Paviljoen” (Viserstraat 6) to be the most popular football bar on matchday, mainly due to the incessant din of dutch techno music and sprinkling of Stone Island tops amongst its clientele. You will find an NAC fanshop close to the old town called ‘t feesterijke’ (haagdijk 8).
There is no better way of locating NAC’s stadium than climbing the tower of the impressive gothic church (€4.50). The stadium can be seen about a mile to the northwest. You can take the bus no2 (direction Haagse Beemden) from outside Breda train station. There are between 2-4 buses per hour and €5.50 for day ticket. I found it more convenient to miss the post-match queues and do the 20 minute walk back the train station.
NAC’s current home is called Rat Verlegh stadium. Named after one of NAC supporters most popular icon who played for the club between 1912-31, the unremarkable looking modern stadium was built in 1996. Although initial capacity began with 17000 seats, the club introduced safe standing terracing to bring capacity up to 19000. At the time of my visit, NAC was celebrating their 100th anniversary season, during which time they had won one championship in 1921 and one KNVB Cup in 1973.
On the Lunetstraat (where the bus drops you off) side of the stadium, you will find another fanshop to get your NAC souvenirs and the free matchday programme, “De Klok”. Right next door is the ticket/information desk, where you collect your match ticket. Finally, next door to that is the busy ‘Beatrixpub’, which is named after the club’s old stadium located at Beatrixstraat. Above the Beatrixpub is the NAC supporters club, which you are allowed in before the match only.
Here you will also be allowed to buy a club ‘debitcard’ (to purchase food/drinks inside the stadium) at the entrance of the Beatrixpub before the match. You simply pay 2 euro deposit and buy the amount of money you want on the card. After the match,simply hand the card back in and you get the money on the card back as well as your 2 euro deposit. This is a great idea by NAC and as with not needing a club card to purchase a match, I wish some of the ‘bigger’ dutch football clubs (you know who you are!) were as forward thinking and supporter friendly.
The inhabitants of the Beatrixpub are NACs ‘Yellow Army’ and are famous for creating one of the best atmospheres in dutch football. Budi Loonen from the excellent English language NAC fan website http://www.nacbredafc.nl/ , explained the phenomenon ‘Avondje NAC’ or ‘An evening NAC’:
“NAC are supported by two fan groups. We stand on the B-side, Vak G (Block G/G-end located next to the away-end also the hardcore firm is there located) and eretribune (F6 and F7). We’re fanatic but we don’t want to look like any other team in the entire Netherlands. No songs after scoring a goal, no drums, no mascot, no tifo-choreography (maybe a banner if you are lucky). The bottom line is we don’t like advertising stuff around it because it influences the atmopshere. Atmosphere is from the fans not from a stupid drum or whatsoever. We have an impulsive-atmosphere: when the team play some good football, the crowd picks up and take over to sing. Some german football fans say we’re similar like FC Sankt Pauli. But even we think the atmosphere is dissapointing (especially on sunday matches with a lot of hangovers) a lot of football fans don’t agree. NAC is also famous of the ‘avondje NAC’ or ‘evening NAC’.On Saturday night there is a special atmosphere in the Rat Verlegh stadium. A mix of football, fanatism of football, beer, emotion but above all bourgondic culture before a night out. True story: we have a lot of fans from different clubs like Feyenoord and Ajax, but they have a season ticket for NAC because the like the atmosphere and the fans. Even other football-fan opinion agree as well. NAC fans are Fans that do not like modern football in general”
I was pleased to read that NAC were the first dutch football club to form a supporters’ advisory council, that protects NACs culture and looks after their supporters interests. NAC also ensure a supporter representative is also on the club board.
My €15 seat ticket was in neutral section I. Right in front of the away section H and right next to ‘Vak G’ terracing, where the more boisterous elements of NACs ‘Yellow Army’ are located. This put me right in the middle of some intense atmosphere during the match, between the NAC and Ajax supporters. I had been told the best match atmospheres at NAC are against the big three of Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV. Feyenoord matches in particular have a history of violent disorder that goes back to the 1970s. NACs local rivals are Willem II from the nearby town of Tilburg and matches are referred to locally as the derby of Brabant. The best website for NAC supporter photos is http://www.f7breda.nl .
The match kicked off with NAC chasing points to keep away from the relegation scrap, whilst an Ajax win would all but secure them a 32nd Eredivisie title. NAC were the better side in a mediocre first half. Eric Botteghin headed a corner cross against the Ajax crossbar. Most of Ajax attempts were long range shots that sailed high or wide of NAC goal. The second half was a much better Ajax performance. From a Viktor Fischer rebounded shot, Kolbeinn Sigthorrsson slotted home to put the visitors 0-1 up. On 52 minutes, a Christian Eriksen corner saw Siem De Jong’s head in Ajax second goal, via NAC’s Tim Gilissen. De Jong later hit the post, but the match was effectively over. Both myself and Ajax were to leave Breda after a very enjoyable visit.
Getting a ticket
Tickets go on sale about 2/3 weeks before. You can buy tickets from the dutch
language website http://nac.voetbalticket-shop.nl/ . For matches against Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV, I would contact NAC direct. Simply ring the following number (they speak English) +31 76 521 45 00
Tell them you’re from abroad and want visit the match. Let them know your name, nationality and date of birth. The club will give you a reservation number. Take the reservation number and your passport to the Ticket and Information Desk (next to the supporterspub Beatrix and NAC Fanshop) give them the number, you pay and you got the tickets.
For other matches please contact Budi Loonen at the excellent English language NAC fan website http://www.nacbredafc.nl/ ,by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .Please add in the subject title which football match you want to visit. Maximum 4 tickets each match. Budi can only arrange tickets 2 months in advance or earlier, else it´s not possible. If you make a reservation this way, please note you are buying ticket from NAC Breda supporters. If arrange tickets that means, because of Dutch law, they are responsible for you. Tickets can be picked up 2 – 1 hours in advance in the Beatrixpub at the stadium. They only accept cash.
Thanks to Budi Loonen for kindly answering me questions and NAC for the €15 euro ticket.