Paul Whitaker continues his tour of football in the Netherlands with a visit to Zwolle.
Zwolle is a picturesque market town and also the provincial capital of Overijssel. Their football club PEC Zwolle, ply their trade in the Eredivisie and I had pencilled in the visit of FC Utrecht, to explore this part of Eastern Netherlands. From Amsterdam Central Station, there are trains every 25 minutes to Zwolle Station. Journey times are about 1 hour 10 minutes and 2nd class day returns are approximately €35. To reach Zwolle, you travel through the flat polder landscape of Flevoland , which seemed to consist only of wind turbines, farmland and bland Milton Keynes-type ‘new towns’.
Thankfully, Zwolle town reassured me that there are some attractive old towns in this part of Holland. The ten minute walk from Zwolle train station to the charming old centre, was a mix of fountains playing in a moat, narrow medieval streets and modern apartments incorporated into the town’s fortifications. You will find Zwolle’s VVV tourist office beside the Grote Markt (Grote Kerkplein 15. Closed Sunday). There were some busy bars and restaurants dotted around Zwolle old centre. Café het Fluitje (Koningsplein 6) is Zwolle’s football café for pre-match beers.
PEC Zwolle’s Ijsseldelta stadium is located about a mile to the east of the town’s train/bus station. Jump on the No3 bus (€2 return) for the 15 minute journey that takes you back through the centre of town and get off at the ‘Stadion’ stop.
If I had not latched onto a group of Zwolle supporters, whom had got off the bus with me, I would have had trouble locating the Ijsseldelta stadium. Their current home is suffering from blandmoderndutchfootball stadiumarchitectureitis and reminded me why Simon Inglis never updated up his classic ‘Football Grounds of Europe’ book. Built in 2009, the Ijsseldelta stadium is an 11,300 capacity ‘office block’ complete with casino, restaurant, hotel and artificial pitch. OK it will never win any football stadium architecture awards, but at least the non-match day revenue tops up the club coffers. When you read about the clubs history and financial problems later, you can perhaps understand why they picked this design.
The away section is section 23 in South Stand and there is section of safe standing terracing for home supporters in the Marten Eibrink Tribune (Noord). Here you will find the supporters groups including ‘Groep Z-038’ and ‘FEU (Far East Ultras) Zwolle’. The best websites to see their choreography photos are www.peczwolle.org , www.groepz-038.nl and www.feuzwolle.nl (this website is still under construction). I understand there are also a couple of hooligan groups: the older ones who should know better are called ‘Vandas’ () and the younger ones are called ‘JOET’.
These groups will be most active and noisiest for the visit of the (Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV) and local rivals Go Ahead Eagles. The latter reside in Deventer, a town near the Ijssel river and hence why fixtures are called ‘Ijseelderby’. With Go Ahead Eagles promoted to Eredivisie this season, the rivalry will be renewed and worth a visit if you are in Holland those weekends.
PEC supporters have a number of friendships with other clubs. Matches with FC Volendam are well attended and the excellent dutch football website ‘footballculture.nl’ have a report on recent fixture . The FEU Zwolle supporters group have a friendship with ‘Los Aliadios’, a supporters group of a German 3rd division (Regionalliga) club called SV Lippstadt.
My pre-match walk around the Ijsseldelta found the PEC Zwolle fanshop and Informatiekassa under the Henk Timmer Tribune (West). The Zwolle supporters café was under the Marten Eibrink Tribune (North). What I did not find was the club name and emblem on any part of the stadium. This was the first time I has seen this on my football travels, but their financially troubled club history may explain why.
PEC (Prince Henry, Ende Desespereert Nimmer, Combinatie) was founded in 1910 and their supporters were to experience more name changes than league/cup successes. In 1971, the club changed its name to PEC Zwolle and enjoyed their best period, losing KNVB Cup finalists in 1977 and reaching the heady heights of eighth in the Eredivisie in 1978. Success on the pitch came at a financial cost to the club owners and they were forced to change club name to PEC Zwolle’82 in, yes you guessed it 1982. Despite buying in famous players like Johnny Rep, the club eventually went bankrupt in 1990. Now clear of debts, a new club called FC Zwolle was formed, complete with new club colours of blue-white shirts/white shorts. Their most famous player Jaap Stam played for the club during 1992/93 season. PEC Zwolle supporter Friso Schotanus explained the most recent history and why the club announced that their name would change to PEC Zwolle.
“FC Zwolle stayed in the 2nd division for 22 years, except from 2002 to 2004. Most people started to forget about PEC. But in 2010, when PEC celebrated its 100 years anniversary, the attention for the past grew. An unoffical biography of the club, titled “Desespereert Nimmer” (written by Friso), stimulated this. At the same time the club made a sportive comeback, with positive, attacking football, they won the championship in the Eerste Divisie in 2012. To celebrate this, the club returned to the highest level under the name PEC Zwolle. This is of course a far more distinctive name than former name. There was some criticism about the name change in the beginning, but now everybody seems to be happy about it”.
After picking up tickets at the Informatiekkassa, I tracked down the 24 page match programme (€0.50) and complimentary ‘opstellingsformulier’ ( photocopy team sheet). The club operates a token scheme inside the stadium. If you want to buy a beer (non alcoholic only) you have to have to buy a minimum of five (€1) tokens from a machine and I do not think you can get refunds. I would advise getting pre-match alcoholic beer outside, at the supporters café under Marten Eibrink Tribune (North). Also take time to admire the impressive supporter murals that have been painted on walls under the stands. You are left in no doubt that you are in the home of PEC Zwolle.
After some impressive pre-match watering of the artificial pitch, the match kicked off and the 11,000 + crowd enjoyed an entertaining afternoon. Utrecht took the lead under less than 2 minutes when a long ball from Mike Van der Hoorn found Nana Asare running down the centre, who coolly slipped the ball under PEC goalie Diederik Boer. PEC equalized in 18 minutes when the ball pinged around Utrecht penalty box before eventually falling to to Joost Broerse who smacked the ball into Utrecht net. Utrecht then scored the winner in the 54th minute with the best goal of the match. Jens Toornstra picked up a loose ball just in Utrecht half and found Elroy Pappot running towards the PEC penalty area on the left hand side, who slotted the ball home. Despite a frantic late psurge by PEC, Utrecht held on for three points and place in Europa League play-off spot. PEC Zwolle supporters went home knowing they will certainly be playing Eredivisie football next season, although less certain if they will get a club emblem outside the Ijsseldelta stadium.
Getting a ticket
Tickets go on sale about 2/3 weeks before. Tickets can be bought by contacting the club by email. After no replies from my English language emails, the club eventually replied to a dutch language email, a template of which can be found below:
Ik ben een Engelse voetbal toerist dat op bezoek is in Zwolle. Ik zou graag xxx kaarten (volwassenen) kopen voor de wedstrijd van PEC Zwolle tegen xxx op xx/xx/xx.
Wat is de prijs en is het mogelijk om de kaarten te reserveren en te komen halen aan de stadion kassa op de wedstrijddag?
Dank bij voorbaat voor jullie antwoord
Met sportieve groeten.”
Reserved tickets can then be collected at the Informatiekassa office at Ijsseldelta stadium. Prices are cheaper behind the goals. No tickets are sold in the Henk Timmer tribune, as this is reserved for corporates. Adult prices in the Fred Patrick tribune are €22.50 and a rather steep €18.50 for kids under 16. I understand prices are increased for visit of Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV and Twente. Also expect a price rise for visit of local rivals Go Ahead Eagles, this season
Thanks to Graeme Holmes for ticket contact and Stephane Lievens for collecting tickets, translations and supplying photo of Zwolle mural. Also thanks to Mike at www.footballculture.nl for putting me in touch with PEC Zwolle supporters. Finally thanks to Zwolle supporters Friso Schontanus, Bryan Pieterson , Kevin Buter and Olaf Hoornstra for kindly replying to my questions.