Netherlands

A weekend double header as Stuart Fuller heads off to watch Fortuna Sittard and Willem II Tilburg
“The rain falls hard on a humdrum town
this town has dragged you down
oh the rain falls hard on a humdrum town
this town has dragged you down

And everybody’s got to live their life
and God knows I’ve got to live mine
God knows I’ve got to live mine”

There’s not many places more depressing than a Dutch town centre at 10am on a Sunday morning.  That is unless it is also a National Holiday.  The excesses of the previous night’s hi-jinx were slowly wearing off, thanks to the cold rain as we wandered the streets of Eindhoven looking for somewhere, anywhere to get some breakfast.  We’d declined the €17 “all you could eat Continental” offering at the hotel,

Finally, we came up trumps.  The Restaurant De Volder was not only open, but the lovely waitresses were almost begging us to come into the warm, flashing their hot Dutch muffins at us.  We all remember the De Volder, right?  Well, perhaps not the restaurant itself, but its outside tables and chairs made a number of appearances across global media channels in June 2000 when England fans decided to use them to launch at the Dutch fans and police prior to the European Championship game against Portugal.  Dave was tempted to re-create the scene but we pointed out that he simply didn’t have enough Stone Island on to be taken credibly.

I can see a hand up at the back. Yes?  Ah, why were we in Eindhoven on a National Holiday I hear you ask.  Well, pull up a seat and let me explain.  Danny said it was what we had to do.  “Stu, do you know Holland has gone craft beer crazy?”  I assumed he had just discovered that Heineken also made Amstel, but no, he was right.  His book “Which countries have gone craft beer crazy” list The Netherlands as a new entry in the top five, pop-pickers.  So that was it, I was sold.  So too was Kenny Legg, hot-footing it from Berlin and a new addition to our gang, Dave who coming from Manchester, had grown up from a teet-filled with Boddingtons.

Oh, and there was the small matter of some football too.  The original plan involved seeing the holy trinity of Dutch football.  PSV, Ajax and Feyenoord.  But then pesky TV coverage got in the way and we had to make some difficult choices with conflicting priorities.  But there was still going to be beer, so it was all right.

16599055966_cfb0bb8745_zSaturday morning and Danny & I met our advance party, who had arrived 24 hours earlier and taken in the Eindhoven FC game, in a bar obviously.  Nothing unusual about that, nor was drinking 9% beer at 2pm.  Seemed a strange choice from Kenny and Dave.  Then we saw the attraction.  A steady stream of young ladies coming through the doors and making their way to “the back room”.  Our minds were racing, Kenny was already pulling on his “hot fireman’s outfit” (his words, not ours) and grabbing a bottle of baby oil.  Alas, the steamiest thing happening in the room was the teapot in the middle of the table.  Ladies who luck, Dutch style.

Our first destination for the weekend was Sittard, a 45 minute (2 can strategy) train ride away, home of Wim Hof or “Iceman” as he is known as, not because of his cool composure under pressure, or the fact he is a look-a-like from Top Gun.  But because he once walked to within 7km of the summit of Mount Everest wearing a small pair of shorts.  It is also the home of Francine Houben, creator of Mecano.  Sittard is a rocking place I can tell you.  Danny had done his research and our first pre-match warm-up location promised a craft beer list as long as your arm.  For sake of brevity, below is an edited conversation that took place between Danny and said landlord:-

“Do you have any of these beers?” Danny shows a list on his phone

“Yes”

“Which ones?”

“Which ones do you want to try?”

“Well, if I know which ones you have then I can let you have them”

Enter Stuart – “Danny, they have Maximus on draft.  That’s on the list”

“We don’t have any Maximus.  The beer pump is just for display”

Danny, sighing..“Do you have a beer list?”

“No….you really do not understand how craft beer works, do you?”

Enter Kenny with a beer list that was on every table “Can I have four Le Trapp Blonde’s?”

“Yes”

As we speak, world-famous playwright and good friend of this website, Patrick Marber, is writing a script for a play that will be put on at the Domnar Warehouse based on the very scene in Sittard.

16434882400_07987e219f_zA few other craft beers later, all of which were on the beer menu, we headed to the Offermans Joosten Stadion, a significantly better name than its previous identity of the Trendwork Arena.  I may not be selling it very well by saying it is an out-of-town, out of the box, identikit stadium with no soul or character.  The club, having survived numerous financial problems seem rooted in the Eereste Division, the second tier of Dutch football, having been relegated from the top tier in 2002 – the Sheffield Wednesday of the league if you like.  The fans, wrapped up warm on a cold and wet night in the far corner of The Netherlands made their way to the stadium, with hope rather than expectation, of a win against the visitors FC Almere City.

Fortuna Sittard 1 FC Almere City 2 – Offermans Joosten Stadion – Saturday 21st February 2015
The Fortuna Sittard website summed up this game perfectly when they said “Op uiterst onfortuinlijke wijze heeft Fortuna Sittard de thuiswedstrijd tegen Almere City FC verloren.” Or, we were robbed.  An 88th minute winner for the away team was rough justice perhaps, but Fortuna paid the price of not putting their chances away.

16414595207_b709b20dfe_zBeing a Dutch ground, we had to get munted up before we could indulge in some traditional refreshments.  These strange plastic coins almost serve no purpose when you think about it. 2 munts cost €1.  A beer costs 2 munts, therefore why not simply charge €2 for a beer?  Logic?  We didn’t complain though, although the walk to the top of the stand holding four of them, plus a couple of Frikadelle in each pocket was problematic.

The home fans tried to raise the team’s performance but ultimately they fell short (the team not the fans).  Almere took a 24th minute lead when Bode Wine (brother of Red and White) scored from close range. Somewhere in the stadium a few away fans made some noise, but that was drowned out three minutes later when Connech equalised, following up like all good strikers should when a shot hit the post.

Alas, there was (almost) last-minute heartache for the 2,000 fans when Ahannach scored from close range and sent the away coach, Fred Grim into frenzied delight that his name suggests.

Despite it only being 9.30pm, Sittard was officially shut.  The only source of heat was a Dominos pizza.  Saturday night appears to be a non-event in these parts.  Our only option was a train back to Eindhoven.

Of course, Eindhoven delivered in large dollops, with the hedonistic delights of Stratumseind delivering on every level.  We turned our back on the ear-splitting Europop bars, taking solace in the 100+ different beers in the BierProfessor and The Jack.  Heck, we even indulged in the Dutch’s third most popular past time, football being the first, the second being….well, we’ve all seen the window displays in Amsterdam.

So back to the future on Sunday morning in the cafe.  Our original plan for the weekend was PSV at home Saturday, then a trip to see Willem II v Ajax on Sunday lunchtime then Feyenoord on Sunday evening.  The reality was essentially all three ending up playing at the same time.  Logic would have seen us make the 10 minute walk through the city centre to the PSV Stadion, but we don’t do logic so we were heading to Tilburg to watch Ajax play on and off the pitch.

16434816068_621aca3d46_zIf Eindhoven was dead, then Tilburg at midday was in Rigor Mortis.  We knocked up a bar owner, not in THAT way – he was in his mid-fifties and well passed his child-bearing years) before heading down to Koning II Stadion.  Ajax’s fearsome reputation seemed to have been lost on the locals who were happily going about their Sunday afternoon, cycling and eating pancakes. But the closer you got to the stadium, the more the atmosphere built.  In the club bar, with the obligatory Europop playing, fans were discussing the recent revelations about match fixing (well, that’s what it sounded like over a soundtrack of Melissa Tkatz and Franky Gee).  In early 2015, journalists from the publication Volkskrant revealed that Willem II had been involved in games that appeared to have been influenced by an “Asian gambling syndicate” in regard to games against Ajax and Feyenoord, played over five years previous. Not much the current owners, players and officials of the club can do about that now.

Willem II Tilburg 1 Ajax 1 – Koning II Stadion – Sunday 22nd February 2015
This was certainly the hottest ticket in town, with the game sold out.  The sun was shining, the fans were singing and the beer was flowing.  You can’t beat a day out like this.  A draw was a fair result as both teams seemed to struggle to break down each other’s midfield.  Champions Ajax came into the game off the back of a tricky Europa League tie in Poland just three days previous and took the lead in the first half when Milik’s low shot found the corner of the net.

16621235692_d41fdf74cc_zAfter the break Tilburg upped their game and grabbed an equaliser when Messaoud and could well have gone on to win the game.  At full-time there was the usual confrontation between the two sets of fans across two sets of security fences and police but it was all good-natured (as good-natured as it can be in these parts anyway).

Our night, well afternoon really, was young and we headed for the bright light of the city centre (there is only one – Cafe Kandinsky) for a couple of well-earned beers before heading back to Eindhoven. One last tip – if you ever find yourself in Eindhoven, forget the bars in Stratumseind and head to Van Moll for one of the best evenings ever, surrounded by over 50 beers.  Lovely stuff – not my words, but those of Kenny “AITINPOT” Legg.

You see – it’s not always about the football…..

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’.

zwolle 1Thankfully, 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’.

zwolle 3These 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”.

zwolle 4So perhaps the club badge and name had been removed from the stadium’s main entrance, to be changed.

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.

Club Basics.

Name (at the time of writing): PEC Zwolle
Address: Stadioplein 1 , 8025 CP Zwolle, Netherlands
Email: stage1@peczwolle.nl
Website: www.peczwolle.nl
Supporters website: www.supportersclubpeczwolle.nl

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:

zwolle 6“Geachte

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.

 

Paul Whitaker, our man in the Netherlands, takes us on a journey to Rotterdam to see the city’s second team, Sparta.

This was to be my second visit to Rotterdam and had planned to see more of the largest city in Zuid Holland and its football scene. Unlike Amsterdam, Rotterdam’s skyline appeared to expanding and changing and it was also home to three professional football clubs: Feyenoord (whom I had seen on my first visit), Sparta Rotterdam and Excelsior. So, the itinery was to include a pre-match peek around part of the world’s largest port, before watching the Eerste (Dutch 2nd division) derby fixture between Sparta Rotterdam and Excelsior.

sparta excelsior 1From Amsterdam Centraal Station, there are trains every 15 minutes to Rotterdam Centraal Station. Journey times are about 40 minutes and 2nd class day returns are approximately €28. On arrival at Rotterdam CS, walk about 10 minutes south east to the main VVV office (Coolsingel 5, Fri 9am-9pm) and pick up a 1 day OV-chipkaart (€7) to use on Rotterdam’s metro and tram system. Then continue down to the south end of Leuvehaven and under the Erasmus Bridge you catch one of the regular Spido cruises (www.spido.nl), for a tour of Rotterdam’s vast expanse of waterways and port. The Harbour tour cost about €10 and lasts an hour. Also check out the amazing series of cube shaped houses or kubuswoningen , near Blaak metro stop. You can even go inside one of these ‘upside down’ houses for €2.50.

Do not even think about jumping on the train to Amsterdam for a good night out, as Rotterdam has plenty to offer. I still highly recommend the Bazar (Witte de Withstraat 16), which is an excellent cafe-restaurant , serving North African and Middle East food. Stay on Witte de Withstraat afterwards and there are a number of bars, ranging from pretentious arty-farty cafe bars cum galleries, to traditional dutch pubs whose walls and decor ooze history. Nearest metro stop is Eendrachtsplein. The Sparta Rotterdam supporters bar in Rotterdam is Cafe Verburgh (Oude Binnenweg 106-A).

sparta excelsior 2Sparta’s stadium ‘Het Kasteel’ (The Castle) is located in Spangen, a couple of miles to the west of Rotterdam CS. From here you can pick up Tram 8 (direction Spangen) and you can hop off right in front of the stadium at Spartastraat. The journey takes about half an hour, so I chose quicker option of taking Metro via Beurs station to Marconplein station on lines A,B and C. Het Kasteel is a 5-10 minute in north east direction (via P C Hooftplein).

I am glad I chose this route as the first impression you get of the Holland’s oldest football stadium is the grandiose facade to Kastel tribune. The castle pavilion design was apparently inspired by a castle that originally stood here and today is the only remaining part of the original stadium that was opened in 1916. Sparta redeveloped Het Kasteel in 1999, with the castle pavilion as centre piece (A pity the English FA could not have followed their lead and somehow kept the old twin towers at wemberlee). The rest of Het Kasteel was replaced by four all seating stands, with the pitch being turned some 90 degrees. The castle pavilion then went from being at one end, to the centre of the Kastel tribune today. The current capacity is 11,000 seats.

Sparta Rotterdam is the oldest professional club in Holland, celebrating 125 years this season. Sparta was one of the most successful clubs during the early 20th century, picking up six league titles (1909, 1911-13 , 1915 and 1959) and three KNVB cups (1958 , 1962 and 1966). Since then, football fortunes went south of the river Maas and Feyenoord have dominated Rotterdam’s football scene. Sparta managed to hang on to their place in Eredivisie until relegation in 2002. They returned to top flight between 2005-10, but since then have been playing Friday night football in Eerste Divisie.

sparta excelsior 3To the left of Kasteel tribune, you will find the fanshop to get your Sparta souvenirs and 36 page match day programme , “Pro Sparta” ( €0.90). Right next door is the ticket/information desk, where you can buy your match tickets. The Sparta supporters home can be found on Hoofdtribune side of the stadium, next entrance B. You do not need to worry about buying club cards/tokens, as euros are accepted both here and inside the stadium.

My €18.50 seat was in section 19 of Kasteel tribune, next to Sparta’s home end, the Denis Neville tribune. A large St George flag, complete with Union Jack insert and ‘SYC’, indicated the presence of Sparta Youth Crew. The more boisterous element to Sparta’s support, appeared to be sporting their best burberry for the visit of local rivals Excelsior. I understand the visits of Feyenoord and Ajax are also the most keenly anticipated fixtures at Het Kasteel. Sparta supporters apparently have a friendship with NAC Breda supporters, perhaps formed with their mutual disliking of Feyenoord. The best website for Sparta supporters photos and chat (in dutch) is “In the Winning Mood” (www.itwm.nl).

sparta excelsior 4 - CopyThe city derby kicked off with Sparta pushing to secure third place in Ereste Divisie play-off spot. Excelsior were hoping to secure local bragging rights from an otherwise forgettable season. Excelsior dominated the opening stage of the match and were duly rewarded with a goal by Mick van Buren in the 16th minute. The second half was better for Sparta and their supporters around me, when on 63rd minute, the Morrocan Iliass Bel Hassani scored with a powerful 25 yard free kick. The match ended 1-1 and I left Rotterdam, trying to understand the permutations of the promotion/relegation play-offs that would involve 8 Ereste Divise clubs (including Sparta) and 2 Eredivisie clubs. I arrived back in Amsterdam, still none the wiser.

 

Club Basics

Name: Sparta Rotterdam BV
Address: Spartapark Noord 1, 3027 Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Email: ticketing@sparta-rotterdam.nl
Website: www.sparta-rotterdam.nl
Supporters website: www.itwm.nl

Getting a ticket
Ereste Divisie match tickets go on sale about 2/3 weeks before. Tickets cost around €15 for seat in the ends. The Denis Neville Tribune is the home end and Bok de Korver Tribune contains the away section. Sparta matches do not sell out (there were only 6950 for visit of Excelsior), so simply email to: ticketing@sparta-rotterdam.nl. More tickets and club history can be found on the English language section of their website. Tickets can be collected or bought at the fanshop (next to entrance D) from 2 hours before kick-off. Please note their online ticket shop is only for people who have a Dutch bank account and live in The Netherlands. For more information about tickets or anything else related to Sparta, please contact administratie@sparta-rotterdam.nl or dial 0031-(0)10-8909210.

Thanks to Olaf Hoppzak at Sparta for organising the ticket.

 

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.

breda 1NAC’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”

breda 2I 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.

Club Basics

Name: NAC Breda
Address: Stadionstraat 23, 4815 NC Breda, Netherlands.
Email: ticketing@nac.nl
Website: www.nac.nl/
Supporters website: www.nacbredafc.nl/ 

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

breda 3Tell 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 info@nacbredafc.nl .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.

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

 

Paul Whitaker continues his jaunt around the Netherlands with a trip to Utrecht.

I am not quite sure why more tourists don’t visit Utrecht. Perhaps its because there is no airport for Netherland’s fourth largest city or that when you are on a train passing through Utrecht Central Station, you only seem to be confronted by an ugly shopping complex inside and busy dual carriageways outside. Yet if you get off the train, leave Central Station and follow the ‘Centrum’ signs for about 5 minutes, you will discover Utrecht’s beautiful old centre. A series of narrow canals, cobbled streets and fine old buildings all surrounding the imposing Cathedral or Domkerk. Its bell tower (Domtoren) is the tallest in Netherlands and on a good day from the top, you can see both Rotterdam and Amsterdam. About mile to the south east you will always be able to see the Stadion Galgenwaard, home to the city’s only football club, FC Utrecht and the reason for my visit. ‘Utreg’ which apparently is the pronunciation of Utrecht in the local dialect, were hosting NAC Breda in an end of 2011/12 season Eredivisie fixture.

There are direct trains from both Amsterdam Central Station and Schiphol Airport to Utrecht, departing every 15 minutes and the journey lasts 30 minutes (2nd class adult same-day return or dagretour is €14). The VVV tourist office (Domplein 9) is located right next to the cathedral tower and about 300 metres to the south you will also find Utrecht’s best area for food and drink, the Oude Gracht. This is the main canal in Utrecht and perhaps unique to Netherlands this canal is set some 20ft below street level. Cellars and extended basements that were originally built to join the grand houses along both sides to the canal below, have since been converted into shops, restaurants , bars and cafes. For bier lovers, try the Kafe Belge (Oude Gracht 196). Check out this excellent guide to Utrecht bars  for more bars. You can also make your choice of which cellar restaurants, bars, shops etc. during an hour long boat ride along Oude Gracht and the rest of Utrecht.

It’s about 30 minute walk from Central Station to the Galgenwaard. There are free shuttle buses outside Central Station. As I did not have my match ticket yet, I jumped on no. 12 bus (Regio Utrecht) and purchased €2 winklekaart ticket. You can also use nos. 13, 41 , 43 and 241 for the 15 minute journey to the stadium.

I was surprised to learn that FC Utrecht were a relatively new football club, founded in 1970 as a result of a merger between 3 local clubs. DOS, who won the championship in 1958, Elinkwijk and finally Velox, dutch amateur champions. Although FC Utrecht has never won the Eredivisie, they have won the Dutch cup (KNVB) in 1985, 2003 and 2004.FC Utrecht like Ajax , Feyenoord and PSV have also never been relegated from Eredivisie.

Utrecht have a number of former players you will have heard off back in Britain including Dick Advocaat (Rangers manager), Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool), Michael Mols (Rangers) and Jan Wouters. Ingerland supporters may recognise Wouters as the dutch player who fractured Paul Gascoigne’s cheekbone during the 1993 World Cup qualifier at Wembley.

The 25000 capacity Stadion Galenwaard is an impressive modern all seater. Although a fairly simply design of four separate stands with partially open corners that look like they house offices. All four stands are big, tall and very close to the pitch. Simon Inglis nicely summed Utrecht’s stadium design in his brilliant ‘The Football Grounds of Europe’ commenting, “ the closeness of stand to pitch and steepness of stands provided, as one publicity brochure put it, ‘une ambience toute britannique’”.

The North Side/ Noordzijde is the Main stand with its offices and rooms. Outside the main entrance you will find both ticket office (on its left side) and fan shop (on its right side). There is also a small fanshop in Hoog Catharijne, that ugly shopping complex back at Utrecht Central station. At the fan shop and from vendors around/inside the Glagenwaard you can pick up “FC Today Wedstrijd Magazine”. Just €2 for a 68 page glossy programme.

Next up is the 5,500 capacity stand, Bunnik-side and home to FC Utrecht’s most passionate supporters, also called the Bunnikside. Utrecht did experience some of the worst incidents of hooliganism ever seen in dutch football. Simon Inglis reported that at the last match at the old Galgenwaard , “v PSV on 20 April 1981, Utrecht fans pre-empted the work of demolition crews by mangling an entire metal framework of seating”. This and other incidents led to the unwanted accolade of a visit from professional West Ham fan, funny walking, wide boy Danny Dyer in ‘International Football Factories’. For the football neutral, problems at previous Den Haag and Ajax fixtures means there are currently no away supporters or even the chance for tourist to buy tickets for these matches. Which is a pity, as Ajax in particular are Utrecht’s biggest rivals and their fixtures are responsible for best atmospheres at Galgenwaard. You can check out the Bunnikside choreography photos on www.bunnikside.nl . Today, the bars where supporters can walk straight out onto the Bunnikside stand, vibrate to dutch techno music so I carry on round to South Tribune/Z uidijde.

After a lengthy queue, strict security search, I was up the high steps and amongst the masses of Utrecht supporters at refreshment bars inside this huge stand. You will need to swap euros for tokens here, so as I ever went straight to my seat. After a spectacular display from the Bunnikside the match kicked off. Frank Demouge put Utrecht ahead in the ninth minute, with a close range shot. The Utrecht supporters celebrations were one of the best I have heard in Netherlands, with the 19000 crowd making full use of Galegnwaard acoustics. I was puzzled as to why the stadium announcer greeted every subsequent Utrecht attack on NAC Breda goal, by playing an “Air-raid siren” over the speakers. I would have thought the Utrecht supporters were making enough noise of their own. Perhaps it was a tradition at Utrecht matches?.

Anyway the tannoy announcer’s ‘magic siren’ did not work that evening as just as the match appeared to be heading for a home win, NAC’s Robbert Schilder equalised with 18 minutes left. A cross into Schalk in the Utrecht penalty box found its way to Schilder, who beat Utrecht’s Van Dijk with a nice shot. The small pocket of NAC supporters who had travelled up from Noord-Brabant, jumped amongst the swathe of empty seats in the away section. NAC Breda then scored twice in the closing seconds to defeat FC Utrecht 1-3 and all but guarantee their Eredivisie safety. First, Alax Schalk netted in the 89th minute. Collecting a quick free kick, he beat two Utrecht players before scoring from 20 yards out. The South Side quickly began to empty around me when NAC’s Jeffrey Sarpong scored from the edge of the area seconds before the final whistle.

Club Basics
Name:
Football Club Utrecht
Address: Herculesplein 241 , 3584 AA Utrecht. Netherlands
Email: info@fcutrecht.nl
Website: www.fcutrecht.nl
Supporters websites: www.bunnikside.nl and www.fcufans.nl

Getting a ticket: As at most other Eredivisie clubs, you will not need to apply for a club members card when attending ‘low risk’ FC Utrecht fixtures. You currently cannot buy tickets for ADO Den Haag or Ajax fixtures, but this may change once Den Haag and Ajax supporters are allowed back into Galgenwaard. Tickets go on sale about three weeks before match starts. Try and pick a seat in South Side/Zuidzijde (Blue section) preferably R , S or T.. As you can see from photos, you get great views of the match and both sets of supporters. A ticket here cost me €24. Simply email the club a few weeks prior to the fixture you are interested in attending. The club will then arrange for you to collect the ticket . The ticket office is next to main entrance of the Northside/Noordzijde. As always, bring a passport or other ID. Please arrive in plenty of time, as there were lengthy queues at the turnstiles due to security checks. You can find out more about ticket details on the club’s English language website .

Thanks to Michel Meerveld at FC Utrecht. Also to Frans van den Berg at www.footballfans.eu , Hubert Buter , Freek van der Kerkhof and Danny Last.

Paul Whitaker
Just a few miles north of Amsterdam , you will find the charming fishing village of Volendam. A former seaport that once prospered on North Sea trade via the waters of the Zuider Zee (Southern Sea), today Volendam’s trade is tourism that arrives by coach or are deposited by Markermeer Lake cruise boats. Whilst these daytrippers cram the cobbled streets and waterfront in search of an old dutch world atmosphere, few are aware of an authentic dutch football experience that can be had a mere ten minutes walk away from where their coaches/boats are parked/moored.

FC Volendam or Het Andere Oranje (The Other Oranje) have just finished mid-table in 2011/12 season of the Jupiler League or Eerste Divisie. Football tourists should not expect voetbal in the Dutch second division to be of the quality of Ajax or Feyenoord . But, Eerste Divisie fixtures are always played on Friday evenings (8pm kickoffs), so as not to clash with Eredivisie fixtures. You also do not need to apply for a club members card or purchase an expensive ‘tourist ticket package’ for Eerste Divisie fixtures. So if you are planning a long weekender in Amsterdam, why not give the ‘Ajax Experience Tour’ (Price €17.50 for adult) a miss on the Friday and instead sample the ‘FC Volendam experience’ (Price starting €15 for adult). You can still be back in Dam Square, central Amsterdam for 11pm.

There are no trains service to Volendam, but Bus nos. 110 and 118 frequently depart from the bus station behind Amsterdam Central Station, for the 20 minute journey. Ask the bus driver for a €10 dayticket and get off at the stop, opposite Volendam’s VVV or tourist office ( 37 Zeetstraat). From here, simply follow the daytrippers to the waterfront or ‘De Dijk’.

There are a number of bars and restaurants on ‘De Dijk’ for a pre-match fish, chips and Heineken. Cafe Centraal (Haven 94a) , Cafe Sjaakies (Meerzijde 29), Cafe Motje (Dril 12) have all been recommended by locals. If there is some Dutch sounding pop music playing in the bar, this may well be the Palingsound or ‘Eelsound’ from Volendam’s most famous crooner, Jan Smit. The more adventurous of you may want also to chew on a smoked eel or be photographed in traditional Dutch dress . I just grabbed a waffle and jumped on the Marken Express (€8 adult return) for a short ferry across the Markermeer Lake to Marken. Here you will find a fishing village that is even quainter than Volendam, but not as busy.

FC Volendam play at Kras stadion (Sportlaan 10), which is tucked in a quiet residential area about ten minutes walk from ‘De Dijk’. Simply head back to the VVV office/bus stop on Zeestraat and you cannot miss the Kras stadion floodlights, as they are the tallest structures in Volendam. From the outside, the 6,200 capacity modern stadium is typically functional with everything from a bank to a fishing tackle shop, all operating from under its orange stands.

The only place to buy FC Volendam merchandise is the fan shop located at Kras stadion’s main entrance. The fanshop is only open on matchdays, 2 hours before kick off till 30 minutes after final whistle. Please note you will also need your match ticket to gain access to the Kras stadion main entrance and fan shop. The ‘Welkom bij Wedstrijd’, a handy pocket-sized 34 page match programme which is issued free as you enter the stadium , includes a list of FC Volendam merchandise, on offer at the fan shop. I understand a museum will in 2013 at Kras Stadion, under the theme of what makes Volendam special: “sports, tourism , humour, hard working and traditional clothing”.

Opposite the main entrance you will find the both the ticket office (Inlichtingen), where you can collect your match ticket and next door the small bar for the FC Volendam supporters club (Thuishaven). Inside you will find the members of the supporters group called the Pe side/Palingboeren/The Orange Army. Outside the Thuishaven was a basic floral tribute to FC Volendam’s most famous player, Dick Tol.

I did not see any away supporters (FC Eindhoven) drinking here as they were down at ‘De Dijk’ , under the watchful eye of a heavy police presence. FC Volendam do not seem to have any rivals and perhaps unique in Holland ,do not show any antipathy to their big neighbours, Ajax. On the contrary the rare meetings with Ajax were fondly remembered and created the best atmospheres experienced at the Kras stadion. FC Volendam has apparently also befriended supporters of both RKC Waalwijk and FC Zolle. Photos of the latter’s meeting earlier in the season can be seen on the excellent dutch website, footballculture.nl

My €15 ticket was in the ‘Jap Jonk-tribune’ and in the bar below the stand I picked up a photocopied teamsheet or ‘Opstelling’ with a beer, that I paid with euros rather than tokens. The ‘Pe Muhren-tribune’ to my right housed the noisy home support, whilst the upper tier of the ‘Dr Duin-tribune’ opposite appeared to be all corporate supporters. The away section was housed in NA and NB of ‘Jaap Bond-tribune’ to my left and there were more flags than supporters of FC Eindhoven. Their choreography when the players came out onto the pitch was excellent though.

Whilst FC Eindhoven were pushing for promotion , FC Volendam had nothing to play for in this last fixture of the season. Consequently, the evening was rightly dominated by a pre match end-of-season awards party and the chance to say goodbye to those players pulling on the orange shirt for the final time. Before kick-off, FC Volendam’s Jack Tuyp received an award for top scorer of the Jupiler League. During the match itself, I witnessed two of the strangest substitutions ever seen at a football match when two FC Volendam players were carried shoulder high off the pitch by their colleagues, to the applause of 4200 supporters in the stands and players, alike.

The first player substituted on 67 minutes was defender Barry Opdam who had played almost 400 professional matches at AZ Alkmaar, Red Bull Salzburg and finally FC Volendam. Such was Opdam’s popularity in dutch football , that over eighty AZ supporters attended this fixture and stood behind a huge banner stating “OPDAM, FOR ALWAYS OUR HERO”. This probably explained Opdam’s tears as he left the football pitch for the final time as a player. Then ten minutes later the same thing happened to midfielder Olaf Lindenbergh. In between all this, a football was played out and FC Volendam won 3-1, with Jack Tuyp getting goal number 20 for the season.

Club Basics

Name: Football Club Volendam
Address: Sportlaan 10, 1131 BK Volendam, Netherlands
Email: info@fcvolendam.org
Website: www.fcvolendam.nl
Supporters website: www.fanatix.nl

Getting a ticket: Fortunately, you do not need to apply for a club members card to attend Eerste Divisie fixtures. Simply email the club a few weeks prior to the fixture you are interested in attending. The club will then arrange for you to collect the ticket at the ticket office (Inlichtingen), located near the Main entrance. As always, bring a passport or other ID. You can also buy a ticket online at dutch language website https://fc-volendam.voetbalticket-shop.nl

Thanks to: Remco van der Ende at FC Volendam, Kevin Morris and Freek van der Kerkhof.

Venlose Voetbal Vereniging (VVV) Venlo

Address: Seacon Stadion – De Koel , Kaldenkerkerweg 182, 5915 AH Venlo, Netherlands.
Email: info@vvv-venlo.nl ,
Website: www.vvv-venlo.nl
Supporters Websites: www.fanclub-vvv.nl or www.venlonaren.net

Getting to Venlo
‘Venlose Voetbal Vereniging’ (VVV) Venlo is an Eredivisie club located in Holland’s most southern province of Limburg, a narrow strip of picturesque towns and scenic countryside squeezed between Belgium and Germany. VVV also happens to be one of the Eredivisie clubs closest geographically to the teutonic footballing heartland of North-Rhine Westphalia. If you have never been to this part of Germany before, think of North West England and then add cheap match tickets, drinking beer on terraces, currywurst and watching talented local players who also turn out for a successful national team. For anyone wanting a classic ‘two matches in two countries in two days’ trip, then I recommend VVV Venlo as an authentic dutch footie experience to compliment the Bundesliga football just over the border at Borussia Monchengladbach , FC Koln, Schalke 04, VFL Bochum , Borussia Dortmund, MSV Duisburg, Fortuna Dusseldorf or Bayer Levekusen.

Trains to Venlo from Amsterdam’s Central Station via Eindhoven, will take nearly 2.5 hours and a 2nd class return will set you back about € 42 euros ( http://www.ns.nl ) . Our preferred option was a direct train from Dusseldorf’s Hauptbahnhof that take just over an hour to Venlo. 2nd class returns were also cheaper at €25 (www.bahn.com ). Judging by the Germans who got off the train with us, visitors seemed to be either heading for a smoke in the ‘coffee’ shops in the centre or cycling to scenic countryside outside. Venlo’s tourist office (40-2 Nieuwstraat), a few minutes walk from the train station, can provide information on bike rentals but not the quality of ‘weed’ on sale at the coffee shops.

Venlo’s most popular bars and trendiest hotel are all handily located in one street, Parade. There is the ubquitous Irish bar called ‘Shannons’(69 Parade), ‘Cafe de Gouverneur’ (27 Parade) and ‘Kefee d’n Erme’ (23 Parade) before you retire to bed at the trendy ‘Hotel Puur’ (7 Parade) . Venlo’s younger football crowd apparently hang out at ‘Baer de Woers’ (3-9 Steenstraat). There does not appear to be an established ‘away’ bar in Venlo, as most visiting supporters have to travel directly to VVV’s stadium on organized coaches.

Getting to de Koel
Getting to VVV from Venlo centre or the train station is a doddle. Simply follow the throngs of yellow shirted VVV supporters walking /cycling along Kaldenkerkenwerg for about 15 minutes and the stadium’s floodlights are popping up over the trees to guide you in. You can also pick up the bus from the central station. The number 3, direction “Casinoflat” or number 5 or 6, direction “Veegtes”. Jump off at “Maagdenbergplein” and it’s an 8 minute stroll to VVV. This brief tour around Venlo’s residential suburbs will set you back about 2.50 euro return. Parking in the area around the stadium appears to be at a premium and probably explains why so many choose to walk or cycle from Venlo centre.

About the de Koel
VVV have been playing football at the Seacon Stadion or de Koel, since 1972. Although it may not be Holland’s oldest football stadium, it distinct design helps makes watching dutch football there an enjoyable experience. Despite this part of Holland being flat as a pancake, two of de Koel’s four stands (including the main stand) appear to be set into a hillside. Consequently VVV supporters have to go down to reach the stands and even the players have to negotiate flights of steps to get to the pitch. This probably explains why de Koel translates as ‘the pit’.

De Koel has only a capacity of 8000 maximum, of which 1500 can stand on the home terrace sections O1-4. Here, you will find VVV’s main supporter group, “D’n twellefde man” providing most of the de Koel’s noise and colour. At the opposite end, 500 away supporters will be tucked up safely behind the high metal fences in sections W1-3. I hear de Koel will close in a couple of seasons when VVV Venlo will move into a “multifunctional complex” also hosting music concerts, trade-shows and other events. I only hope “D’n twellefde man” can persuade VVV and the new stadium owners to incorporate a terraced section into the design. If safe terracing works at de Koel and across the border in Germany where the day before I had watched 25,000 Borussia Dortmund supporters bouncing on the Sud Tribune, why get rid of it?

The club shop is located in the same white building as the ticket office, both outside De Koel’s main entrance. Be the talk of the pub back home and pick up a yellow and back VVV home shirt, with ‘Scelta Mushrooms’, the shirt sponsors and not the name of their star striker. VVV souvenirs can also be purchased at sport shops back in Venlo centre. The club issues a match programme called “de sloef”. Costing a mere €1, the magazine can be picked up from a number of vendors dotted both outside and inside de Koel.

Between the club shop and de Koel, you will find a statue of Jan Klaassens, VVV’s most famous player. Klaassens first stint at VVV led the club to their only piece of silverware, when they beat ADO Den Haag 4-1 in the 1959 KNVB Cup. Klaassens then went on to pick up two league titles wearing the red and white of Feyenoord, 57 caps wearing the orange of the dutch national team, before returning to finish his career in the yellow and black of his beloved VVV. After hanging his boots up in 1967, Klaassens ran a small cigar shop and I only know this after stumbling across the tiny premises, back on Venlo’s Parade. It was now crammed full of memorabilia from Klaassens’ distinguished football career and must be a contender for the smallest football museum in Europe.

VVV supporter’s club bar can be found at the left corner as you walk towards de Koel. Thankfully, you do not need exchange euros for any of those annoying club ‘tokens’ or ‘cards’ to enjoy the local tipple, Lindeboom. Knowing dutch football supporter groups trend of friendships with other groups I was surprised to hear VVV’s “D’n twellefde man” did not have any supporter friendships, especially with any of clubs just over the border in North-Rhine Westphalia. The only other ‘football tourists’ appeared to be a Japanese couple there to support fellow countryman and VVV defender Maya Yoshida.

The match itself was less one-sided as the VVV supporters were predicting before kick-off. Although Ajax started off strongly, they failed to take numerous chances. Two goals from VVV’s talented midfielder Ahmed Musa early in the second half had de Koel rocking and VVV on course for their first home win over Ajax, since 1989. Ajax coach Frank De Boer made some tactical substitutions and the reigning champions soon pulled a goal back. Christien Eriksen ran almost the length of the pitch before feeding the ball through to Theo Janssen to score on 68th minutes. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson then levelled the score a minute later. VVV’s goalkeeper Gentenaar pulled off some crucial saves towards the end, but points would be shared. Both the VVV supporters and myself went back down Kaldenkerkenwerg, happy with what we had seen at de Koel.

Getting a ticket for de Koel
VVV epitomizes the Venlo folk in their hospitality to visitors and if you contact the club via ticketing@vvv-venlo.nl , they should be able to sort you out a ticket. Simply email the club/supporters club and make arrangements to collect ticket from ticket office about an hour before kick-off. Ticket office is outside De Koel’s main entrance and some photo ID or passport will normally be needed when collecting tickets.

Views of the pitch are excellent from all parts of the de Koel, but sections O , Z , N and W 4 , 5 , 6 are season ticket holders and doubtful you will get a ticket in these sections. Try and ask for tickets in sections VN4-5 which will not only give you good views of VVV Venlo’s home terrace, but also the players entering the pitch from their changing rooms high behind you in the main stand. Many home supporters (including me) took the opportunity to stand behind their seating sections and I strolled around half of de Koel, to cheer on VVV attacking the other end in the second half. Ticket prices are cheapest in the VW and VN sections at €20 euros and although you are close to the pitch, also note you are open to the elements.

VVV ’s big rivals are as expected clubs from the province of Limburg. Fortuna Sittard and MVV Maastricht are both in the ‘Eeste Divisie’ or Jupiler league. Limburg’s other Eredivisie representative Roda JC Kerkrade, will guarantee a full away supporters section, an 11.30am kick-off and a great match atmosphere at de Koel. Tickets for Eredivisie fixtures normally go on sale about three weeks before and refreshing to see VVV do not increase ticket prices for the visit of Ajax, Feyenoord or PSV Please get there early if Ajax the visitors. I missed a kick-off for the first time in 15 years, due to crowd congestion outside de Koel. This did not happen queuing up outside Wembley, Camp Nou, San Siro or La Bombonera…

Paul Whitaker, Maracana Manor

Thanks to Freek van de Kerkhof for the ticket and patiently answering all my questions on VVV.

Sportclub (SC) Heerenveen.

Address: Abe Lenstra Stadion, Abe Lenstra Boulevard 19 , 8448 JA Heerenveen . Netherlands
Email: info@sc-heerenveen.nl , info@niewnoord.org
Website: www.sc-heerenveen.nl
Supporters Websites: www.nieuwnoord.org

Getting to Heerenveen
This would be my first visit to Heerenveen or indeed the province of Friesland and to be honest my knowledge of this part of North East Holland, was limited to what I had learnt at school. I had read that this independent-minded province was unique in Holland in having its own language and apparently the Frisian dialect is closer to our very own English, than the ‘throat-clearing’ tones of Dutch. Although I would never be able to confirm this, as with the rest of Holland, the Frisians I met spoke better English than myself. Also, the highlight of my schooling in English Literature was discovering ‘The Riddle of the Sands’ by Erskine Childer. This classic tale of adventure of yachting, espionage and german imperialism was set amongst Friesland’s beautiful coastal marshlands and islands. Finally this mainly agricultural region is home to the famous black and white Frisian cow, that is now an iconic feature in the English countryside and on Inspiral Carpets album covers.

Accommodation in Heerenveen is very limited and the guide books advise to base yourself in Friesland’s provincial capital, Leeuwarden or Amsterdam. Direct trains run every half hour from Leeuwarden to Heerenveen. Journey times are only 20 minutes and 2nd class day returns are €10. From Amsterdam Central to Heerenveen, you have to change trains at Hilversum or Amersfoot. Journey times are about 2 hours and 2nd class day return will set you back about 42 euros. If you have access to a dutch friend with an OV chipkaart , you should get upto 40% off this ticket price. Note the trains from Hilversum split into two at Meppel. The front part of the train heads to Groningen, whilst the back part goes on to Heerenveen and finally Leeuwarden.

Heerenveen’s VVV tourist office is at Minckelersstraat 11. Its weekend opening times are Saturday 10am-4pm and closed Sunday, which is helpful if you are a football tourist visiting arguably Heerenveen main tourist attraction, SC (Sports club) Heerenveen. If you fancy watching extraordinarily athletic dutch men and women, whose legs are as thick as Frisian calves, bent double and sweating in latex suits. Then do not go to Amsterdam’s red light area, but head instead to Heerenveen’s famous speed skating ice stadium, called Thialf. This indoor arena is located at Pim Mulierlaan 1, has a capacity of 12,500 seats and annually hosts numerous dutch, european and world Speed Skating events.

My first impression of Heerenveen was an eerily quiet and deserted . Which is a bit unfair, considering I had spent previous 24 hours celebrating Queen’s Day with friends in Amsterdam. Queen’s Day or ‘Koninginnedag’ is not some Tranny Convention, but instead Amsterdam’s very own Mardi Gras and Oktoberfest all rolled into one big street and canal p#ss up. Apparently its to celebrate the official birthday of Netherland’s reigning monarch, Queen Beatrix.

A few minutes walk from Heerenveen train station we found friendly and welcoming locals enjoying a post-Koninginnedag/pre-match ‘Pils’ at a number of cafes and bars. There were plenty of visiting Ajax replica tops spotted outside Cafe de Wereld or Cafe Bak at de Koemarkt. SC Heerenveen’s most fanatical supporter group, Nieuw Noord (New North) were happily being filmed by police spotters, drinking outside Cafe de Skoffel at de Nieuwsstraat.

There is not an SC Heerenveen fanshop in the town centre, but some shops did sell a small amount of football shirts and scarves. If you are after an unusual gift to take home, then on the way back from the match, pick up a bottle of Heerenburg from any of the bars at de Koemarkt. It’s the local ‘fire water’ and at 30% volume alcohol, probably explains why some Frisians like to pole vault over water (called Fierljeppen) in their spare time. Locals advise mixing Heerenburg with coke (cola) like bacardi & coke, so as not to get drunk too fast.

Getting to Abe Lenstra Stadium
SC Heerenveen’s home is the Abe Lenstra stadium and is an easy 10 minutes walk from the train station or 5 minutes from the bars at de Koemarkt. From the train station, you can either follow a series of white stones set into the pavement, that guide you to the stadium. If you have had too much beer, jump on a no 15 , 17 or 48 bus outside the train station to take you to the short distance. It will only cost you a €1, but be warned post-match traffic congestion around the stadium normally means long delays or no bus at all.

About the Abe Lenstra Stadium
The Abe Lenstra stadium may not win any architectural design awards, but you cannot help but be impressed with the sheer size of this modern and functional stadium. Ok, so Abe Lenstra stadium’s 26,800 capacity is certainly smaller than the ‘Arena’ or ‘De Kuip’, but unlike Amsterdam or Rotterdam, Heerenveen’s entire population of 28,000 could almost squeeze into its football stadium. SC Heerenveen attracts support from all over Friesland, south of Groningen, Drenthe, Overijssel and north Flevoland.

The Abe Lenstra stadium was opened in 1994 and named after the 1950s dutch international player, who led a Heerenveen side to win six league titles in a row. Coincidentally, the visit of Ajax gave SC Heerenveen the perfect excuse to reprint a match programme and report from an historic fixture that took place on 7th May 1950. An Ajax side containing Rinus Michels went into a 1- 5 lead with only about 25 minutes left of the match to play. Then in one of the most noted fight backs in dutch domestic football history, Lenstra inspired Heerenveen to a stunning 6-5 win. No wonder the grainy photographs from that day showed jubilant supporters carrying Lenstra and the other Heerenveen players shoulder high, off the pitch. SC Heerenveen today were finishing the 2010-11 season in mid-table, whilst Ajax were the in-form team and chasing three points towards their first Eredivisie title since 2004.

Although SC Heerenveen have never won the Eredivisie in modern times, success has come off the pitch with financial stability. This has been achieved by the strong and loyal supporter base, whom ensure the club benefits financially from having the fourth highest attendance in dutch football. SC Heerenveen also runs an excellent player scouting network, that has regularly produced (and sold on) many great players. These include Ruud Van Nistelrooy (PSV), Jon Dahl Tomasson (Newcastle), Afonso Alves (Middlesbrough), Miralem Suljemani (Ajax), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Ajax), Daniel Pranjic (Bayern Munich) and Georgios Samaras (Manchester City).

Before you rush into the Abe Lenstra stadium, check out the SC Heerenveen fanshop which is located under the main (west) stand. Here you can pick up nearly anything with the club colours of blue and white stripes, together with those distinctive red water lily leaves (which I initially mistook for ‘hearts’). These club colours are also seen on the club emblem and represent the districts of Friesland. The match programme is called ‘It Pompebledsje’ which translates as ‘the lilypaper’, costs a mere €1 and can be found on sale by vendors inside and outside the Abe Lenstra stadium.

The SC Heerenveen supporters club bar can be found under the east (oost) stand. If you hear German or Welsh accents at the bar, this is because of Heerenveen’s friendship with supporters of Bundesliga club Hannover 96 and the Wales national team. I understand the latter was developed after bumping into each other at a European supporter football tournament in Ukraine. Please note that you have to buy SC Heerenveen club tokens if you want purchase drink or food inside the stadium.

Inside, Abe Lenstra stadium’s steep, two-tiers of stands, its canter-levered roof and a passionate Heerenveen support, combined to make a great matchday atmosphere. The Abe Lenstra stadium is also one of the few football stadia in the Eredivsie (Heracles and NAC Breda being the others) to have a standing terrace section. SC Heerenveen regular Mechiel, explained why terraces are a rare sight in the Eredivise:

“In the period when a lot of Dutch clubs rebuilt their stadium, the rules were very strict. That is why many clubs do not have terrace sections like the Bundesliga. Rebuilding the stadiums were also expensive, and clubs can earn more revenue with supporters in a seat than standing. Also the football culture is different in Holland. Here, there is also more aggression between supporters, than in Germany. Many clubs are thinking. ‘lets play it safe with seats’.”

Our tickets were for the terrace section and I am pleased to report that like watching football in the Bundesliga, standing on the Heerenveen terrace was a very safe and enjoyable experience. About 1200 Heerenveen supporters can stand in this section for Eredivsie and domestic cup matches only. UEFA’s ongoing campaign to alienate the traditional football supporter means that seats have to be installed during european competition matches, but at a cost of reducing the section capacity. UEFA have also banned the Frisian national anthem from being played before European competition matches, when apparently the SC Heerenveen supporters duly ignore and sing it anyway. For my visit, both SC Heerenveen and Ajax teams lined up like at a international match, as the Frisian national anthem was played by the brass band and sung passionately by the crowd around us.

We were also in the centre of the impressive and well-planned pre-match choreography (that can be seen on the link http://www.feanfans.nl/fotos/1011/heeaja/heeaja.htm ). The display was to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Nieuw Noord supporters group. The choreography is funded by the subscriptions of Nieuw Noord’s 1100 members, club sponsors and €8000 generously donated by SC Heerenveen itself. Although Nieuw Noord have to email details of displays to the club’s security staff, there seems to be little interference from the club. Nieuw Noord also used the choreography to highlight the ‘Tegen het Moderne Voetbal’ or ‘Against Modern Football’ campaign.

This supporter-led protest is active at clubs throughout the Eredivise and Jupiler leagues and the central aim is to get football back to its supporters through normal kick-off times , lower ticket prices and better aways sections. In particular, the campaign wants to end the draconian travel restrictions that currently hinder many dutch club supporters. For example if Ajax, Feyenoord, FC Twente or local rivals FC Groningen want to support their team at the Abe Lenstra stadium ,they can only purchase a ticket in combination with organised travel by train, bus or car. For example if supporters wish to drive, they can only collect match tickets 2 hours before kick-off at a petrol station, en route to Heerenveen.

I am always amazed that Dutch have the ingenuity to keep the North Sea from flooding large parts of Holland for hundreds of years. Yet seem unable to deal effectively with a few hundred football hooligans, without restricting the matchday experience of the majority. Anyway, I wish the ‘Tegen het Moderne Voetbal’ campaign at Heerenveen and other clubs all the success for a cause many of us supporters here can relate to.

As for the match itself, SC Heerenveen got off to a great start on 18 minutes with Vayrynen’s speculative 30 yard shot, beating Ajax goalkeeper Vermeer. Immediately Ajax equalized when former Heerenveen player, Sulejmani chipped over Stur-Ellegaard. Ajax then took the lead at the start of the second half, when the highly-rated Dane Eriksen slotted the ball into the bottom left corner of the Heerenveen goal. Despite the continuous “heh , heh , heh” shouts of encouragement from the home support, Heerenveen missed countless opportunities to not only equalize, but win the match themselves. How they could have done with an Abe Lenstra or a Ruud Van Nistlerooy, to finish the many chances given to them by a hesitant Ajax defence. Instead, the final score remained 1-2 and the three points went back to Amsterdam, as did we.

Getting a ticket for SC Heerenveen
To buy tickets for SC Heerenveen matches, you will need to purchase a member card. Applications and online ticket sales can be found on the club website here.

Match tickets go on sale about three weeks and unfortunately tickets for the terrace section are only available with a season ticket. Ticket prices are cheapest at the Hoektribunes (corners) and the most expensive seats are in the Main (Oost) stand. I understand ticket prices do not increase for particular fixtures. When the Abe Lenstra stadion is not sold out, you can purchase tickets on match day at entrance E, between North (Noord) and West stands. To collect reserved tickets, go to entrance B at the Main (Oost) stand. Unless you have a soft spot for a particular opponent, the matches played on Saturday evenings tend to have the better atmospheres.

Thanks to Stephane Lievens for the ticket contact, Mechiel Zantema for the tickets and telling me everything about SC Heerenveen, Ajax Paul for the education in dutch football and Winnie for spell-checking.

Paul Whitaker, Maracana Manor.

Club Basics – ADO Den Haag
ADO (an abbreviation of Alles Door Oefening) Den Haag
Address: Kyocera Stadion, Haags Kwartier 55, 2491 BM, Den Haag
Email: info@adodenhaag.nl , Info@fansupportdenhaag.nl
Website: www.adodenhaag.nl
Supporters Websites: www.northside.nl, www.ADOfans.nl , www.groengeelhart.nl ,

Getting to Den Haag
Den Haag is located in Zuid-Holland and is the third largest dutch city after Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Despite being the home of dutch government, Den Haag is not the Netherland’s capital. For any pub quiz regulars amongst you, that is Amsterdam. Den Haag is the capital of the province of Holland. Direct trains from Amsterdam Central Station take about 50 minutes and a day return will set you back about 20 euros.

Den Haag has two train stations: Den Haag HS (Hollands Spoor) and Den Haag CS (Central Station). Jump off at Den Haag CS to get to ADO Den Haag’s Kyocera Stadion and also to see most of the city’s principal tourist attractions. You can pick up a free transport map at the tourist office (VVV), a five minute walk from Den Haag CS, at Hofweg 1. Opening times Sat 10-5pm and Sun noon-5pm.

A good ’football’ bar for a pre-match beer in Den Haag centre is the ‘Fiddlers’ on Riviervismarkt 1, 2513 AM, Den Haag. Please do not be put off by the fact it looks like a modern British pub chain, complete with cr#p tacked to the walls.

Getting to the Kyocera Stadion
ADO De Haag’s Kyocera Stadion is too far from Den Haag CS to walk, so the best option is to use the city’s tram system, the Randstadrail. You will find the HTM (Hague Tram Company) ticket window in Den Haag CS and ask for a ‘Dalurenretour Den Haag plus’ ticket, costing €4. Jump on any tram on lines 3 or 4, heading to Zoetermeer Centrum-West and jump off at Forepark. Exiting the station, turn left and a 10 minute stroll through a retail/industrial park will bring you to Kyocera Stadion.

About the Kyocera Stadion
ADO Den Haag did have an unenviable reputation for hooliganism and an Ajax- supporting friend did little to reassure me, with tales of horror away days to their old Zuiderpark Stadion in the 1980/90s. Simon Inglis’s excellent ‘The football grounds of Europe’, section on Zuiderpark Stadion painted an equally depressing picture of ADO Den Haag. Inglis mentioned that a pass was needed to stand on the infamous Midden Nord terrace during this period, which was ‘akin to possessing a hooligan’s medal’. Although to be fair, Inglis did conclude it would be unjust to judge ADO Den Haag on the behaviour of a minority of its regulars.

It was not surprising to read ADO Den Haag looked to address the issue of supporter behaviour when they designing a new home. Although the resulting Kyocera Stadion is not the most aesthetically pleasing stadia from the outside, it is now reputed to be one of the safest football stadiums in Europe. Other clubs apparently visit ADO Den Haag, to learn about their state of art security systems and supporter friendly stewarding. A good indicator of its success was the noticeable lack of any police presence to speak off, when I arrived outside the Kyocera Stadion.

The stadium ticket office (marked KASSA) is under the Haaglanden Tribune. If you are after the fanshop for some green and yellow coloured merchandise, simply follow the stadium clockwise round to the Aad Mansveld Tribune, named in honour of one of ADO Den Haag’s greatest players.

Heading back towards the Haaglanden Tribune you will see the Den Haag Supporter’s clubhouse. Its bar opens a few hours before kick-off and looked a popular place for supporters before and after the match. I grabbed a Heineken inside and marvelled at the impressive display of scarves and photographs from clubs across Europe, that apparently share supporter links with ADO Den Haag. These include Club Brugge, Legia Warsaw, Juventus and Swansea City who apparently have been playing pre-season friendly matches with ADO Den Haag for over 20 years. Most of the fashion-conscious ADO Den Haag supporters appeared to be sporting “Viking” (a Juventus Ultra group) hats and coats, rather than any similar attire from the fashion catwalks of South Wales.

At the Haaglanden tribune turnstiles, I mistook a sophisticated security system for a simple metal detector. Apparently when season ticket holders pass through this point, they can keep their clubcards in their pockets. A scanner will recognise the card holder and a camera from a facial recognition system will check the person is the same on the card. Once inside a small army volunteer stewards in high visibility Day-Glo Coats will politely frisk you before pointing you in the right direction for your seat.

I was pleased to see I did not have to transfer my euros into a money club card just so I could buy some refreshments . The club issued a 32 page match programme costing a mere €1 can be picked up from a number of mobile sellers outside the stadium.

Getting a ticket for ADO Den Haag
Despite operating a very slick security operation at the modern and safe Kyocera Stadion, ADO Den Haag currently have an agreement with Ajax and Utrecht not to send supporters to their respective fixtures. I am still struggling to understand how a country that has managed to keep the North Sea at bay for centuries, is unable to provide a practical solution to a domestic hooligan problem that does not impede the law abiding majority. Anyway, until such bans are lifted, if you want to experience the best ADO Den Haag atmosphere with away supporters present, then try and get to a ADO Den Haag – Feyenoord fixture. Unless you know someone with a spare club card, contact the club/supporters direct.

For low profile fixtures against teams like Willem II Tilburg, a club card is not required. Simply email the club/supporters club and make arrangements to collect ticket from office or supporters’ clubhouse about an hour before kick-off. Bring some photo ID.

As with every modern stadium, views of the pitch are excellent from all parts of the Kyocera Stadion. You will find younger supporters behind the goal in the Aad Mansveld Tribune, the older supporters who used to frequent the Midden Nord at the Zuiderpakstadion, have relocated to the mural decorated Haaglandden Tribune.

I took my seat on the Haagladen Tribune to enjoy a prematch snowball assault on the referee who was daft enough to warm up in front of us…………

http://www.101greatgoals.com/videodisplay/ado-den-haag-supporters-attack-the-referee-with-snowballs-7901855/

………………and ADO Den Haag’s 2-1 win over Willem II Tilburg.

Thanks to Koos at the ADO Den Haag Supporters club for sorting out the ticket and everyone at the club for showing Ajax how to ensure snow would not postpone the Willem II Tilburg fixture. (The Ajax-Feyenoord fixture at the roofed Amsterdam Arena was postponed due to similar adverse weather conditions!)

Paul Whitaker, Maracana Manor.


Club Basics – NEC Nijmegen
N.E.C (an abbreviation of Nijmegen Eendracht Combinatie)
Address: Stadion de Goffert, Stadionplein 1, 6532 AJ Nijmegen, Netherlands
E-mail: info@nec-nijmegen.nl
Website: www.nec-nijmegen.nl
Supporters Website: www.detrouwehonden.nl , www.svnec.nl/

Getting to Nijmegen
Nijmegen is located in the south eastern part of Netherlands, close to the border with Germany. Getting there is fairly simple, with direct trains from Amsterdam central station taking about 1 hour 30 minutes and a day return will set you back approximately 30 Euros. On arrival at Nijmegen train station, the tourist information office is well signposted, but was unfortunately closed on the Sunday I was there. Officially Netherlands’ oldest city, Nijmegen had the misfortune of being directly on the frontline towards the end of World War Two. Consequently most of its old town was destroyed, but its modern replacement is both walkable and charming enough. There are plenty of choices for a pre-match beer in Nijmegen centre. Café Van Buren on de Molenstraat seems as good a place as any.

Getting to the Stadium
NEC’s De Goffert stadium is a good 45 minutes walk from Nijmegen train station. There are a number of bus options from the train station to the ‘Sportspark de Goffert’ where the stadium is located. Choose any bus from 3 , 4 , 8 or 9. Purchase a ‘Kan Kaartje’ costing 2.20 Euros and you can also use the ticket on your return. Jump off the bus when you see the stadiums huge floodlights that tower over the trees of surrounding Goffert park. Do not worry about which side of Goffert park you were dropped off, as all paths/roads into the park lead eventually to NEC.

About the De Goffert Stadium
The original De Goffert was opened in 1939 and not an ideal stadium to watch football, mainly due to a large grey cycle track that ringed the pitch. The extra space created by the track did allow NEC the unique opportunity to build a new stadium within it original boundaries and simultaneously improve match atmosphere by moving the supporter stands closer to the action on the pitch. The resulting ‘McDos Goffert stadion’, is a 12500 capacity smart and modern stadium that opened in 2000. With many matches now a sell-out, NEC are planning to increase its capacity.

Both the ticket office and club shop can be found on either side of McDos Goffert’s main entrance, which I can confidently predict did not win any architectual awards . The club shop is small, but well stocked and sells all the usual stuff as long as you want it in the club colours of green, red and black. Complimentary match programmes (Strijdplan) can be found stacked up on the club shop sales counter. To reach the turnstiles of McDos Goffert stadium, you have to walk down the sides of the original De Goffert. At the entrance to the Hazenkamp tribune of the stadium you will see the old stadium clock, but little else of the original stadium survives.

Refreshment options are a little sparse outside De Goffert. A few wooden huts dotted under the stadium dispense beer, chips with mayonnaise and stroopwafels. If your leisure activities extend to beer, drugs , fireworks and apparently a urinal trough painted in the colours of yellow and black (the colours of NEC local rival’s Vitesse Arnhem), check out the NEC supporters/hooligan bar called the ‘Goffertzicht’. Take Steinweglaan road out of Goffert park towards Slotemaker de Bruineweg and follow the noise of dutch dance tunes and football chants to Hazenkampseweg.

Getting a ticket for NEC Nijmegen
The McDos Goffert stadium is sold out for all home games against Ajax , Feyenoord , PSV and Vitesse Arnhem , but a limited number of tickets are made available for other matches. As with other Dutch clubs, to obtain a ticket you will need to apply for a NEC clubcard. Registration is free and the card will be valid for 5 years. Please note that you should be able to buy tickets at other Dutch clubs using your NEC clubcard. See specific club websites for details. Registration can be done at the NEC ticket office or a form can be downloaded from www.nec-nijmegen.nl . Tickets can be sent to your address or collected on match day from ticket office, located next to McDos

Prices vary, but cheap seats in Goffert Tribune start at 17 Euros, leading up to 27 Euros in OSRN Tribune. Prices increase for visit of ‘big three’ and Vitesse Arnhem. Views are good throughout the stadium, unless you happen to be stuck behind the perspex glass of the away section in West Stand. Following views are from Hazenkamp tribune during recent NEC v Ajax match.

Thanks to Danny, Pat and Pierre van Rossum for ticket and additional information.

Paul Whitaker, Maracana Manor

Philips Sport Verenigeng (PSV) Eindhoven
Address: Philips Stadion,
Frederiklann 10a,
5616 NH, Eindhoven

Website: www.psv.nl

Supporters Websites: www.psvfansunited.nl , www.super-psv.nl

Getting to Eindhoven
From Amsterdam Centraal Station, there are trains every 20 minutes to Eindhoven and journey time is about 1 hour 20 minutes. 2nd class day return approximately €35. Eindhoven is located in the south of Netherlands and is the largest city in the province of Noord-Brabant.

My guidebook informed me that Eindhoven Centraal Station is apparently designed in the shape of a Philips transistor radio and the name and logo of this multinational electrical giant, seemed to be everywhere during my visit. Philips most successful platform in spreading its global brand name is also Eindhoven’s largest football club, Philips Sport Verenigeng (or PSV) Eindhoven. The city’s second professional club is EVV Eindhoven, who play in Eerste Divisie at Jan Louwers Stadion (Charles Roelshaan 1, Eindhoven) .

The VVV or tourist office is located right outside the train station and is a great source of information on ideas about what to do in Eindhoven. Which is good, because unless you are a visiting football supporter, design student or Philips employee, there seemed little else of interest here. Perhaps my first and brief impression of Eindhoven is incorrect, as the Brazilian superstar and party animal extraordinaire Romario, played for PSV and partied in Eindhoven for 5 seasons in the 1990s.

Eindhoven planners have conveniently concentrated most of the fashionable (re expensive) beer establishments on Stratumseind. This street has the dubious honour of having the largest number of bars in the Netherlands. If you are after more PSV-orientated chat, then check out the bar on the corner of Gagelstraat and Mathildalaan , directly opposite the gated entrance to Philips Stadion. Did not catch the name, but you cannot miss the PSV colours outside and the din of dutch dance tunes, inside.

Getting to the Philips Stadion

You can see the Philips Stadion as your train draws into Eindhoven Central Station. Leaving Central Station plaza, simply turn right and go along Mathildelaan for about 10 minutes until you can see the Philips Stadion. The neighbourhood where the stadium is located is called Philips village or Philipsdorp.

About the Philips Stadion
Although Netherland’s third most successful football club after Ajax and Feyenoord, I only became aware of PSV in 1988, when Gus Hiddink’s team containing Ronald Koeman, beat Benfica in the European Cup Final. Hiddink was then replaced by the former England manager Bobby Robson, who despite getting England to World Cup semi-finals in 1990, was duly hounded out by the English FA and media. England’s most ‘successful’ manager in recent times, went on to win the Eredivsie title for PSV two years running, helped by the goals and flair of Brazilian playmaker Romario.

Philips financial clout was most evident in 1994, when PSV beat off many clubs to sign 19 year old brazilian goal machine, Ronaldo for £3m. Since then PSV sides with star players like Wim Jonk, Jaap Stam and Ruud Van Nistelroy have won the Eredivsie title in 1996–97, 1999–00, 2000–01, 2002–03, 2004–05, 2005–06, 2006–07, 2007–08 . PSV have arguably replaced Ajax, to become Netherland’s dominant side.

Philips Stadion is a superb modern stadium, designed to put the supporters close to the action on the pitch and also give them plenty of leg room, food kiosks and stadium stewards. The Philips brand logo was literally everywhere inside and on the Philips Stadion. The advertising hoardings , the floodlights, the stewards and players clothing, supporters merchandise and banners, food kiosks and toilets.The high stands with those famous gas heaters in the stadium roofs, provide protection against Eindhoven weather and also make for a great match atmosphere. Photo below taken from West Trbune, section L.

Small complimentary match programmes were available from food kiosks inside Philips Stadion and ‘PSV Inside’ magazine is on sale at PSV Fan Store outside gate 12. The PSV Supportershome can also be found here.

PSV offers tours around Philips Stadion including to the dressing room, press centre and pitch. A tour can also be done in conjunction with a visit to a PSV training session at their Sportcomplex De Herdgang, about 5 minutes from the Philips Stadion. If you fancy watching players stretch, play head tennis and sprint with bibs on, training sessions are normally scheduled a week in advance. Tours around Philips Stadion only are €12, but day-trippers please note there are no tours run on matchdays.

Getting a ticket for Philips Stadion
As with Ajax and Feyenoord, unless you can borrow someone’s ID card, you will have to take advantage of the scheme where tourists can purchase match tickets. PSV operate the grand sounding ‘Gold’ and ‘Silver’ Package scheme. Being from Yorkshire, I naturally picked the cheaper silver package. For this, I paid €60 and for my package, I got a €21 match ticket in West Tribune. Although this was better for the atmosphere, it was not so good if you want to see the West tribune’s impressive pre-match choreography. I also get a €20 voucher for the PSV Fan Store, if you want to surprise your loved one with a PSV duvet or lampshade. Finally there are €10 worth of tokens to exchange for food/drinks. I managed to resell the Fan Store voucher and any unused food/drink tokens on Ebay, no problem. Check out club website, for more details.

Fortunately, PSV have no restrictions on away supporters visiting Philips Stadion, so you can enjoy good match atmospheres, especially when Ajax, Feyenoord, AZ Alkmaar or Twente are in town. Away supporters are safely behind Perspex fences and netting way up on the upper tier of the North-west corner.

PSV’s most ‘excitable’ supporters are the Vak T and can be heard in lower tier, Section T, next to the North-east Corner. The West tribune seems to be location for the supporter choreography and in for the PSV- Vitesse Arnhem 2009/10 fixture, they put on an impressive display with the message “In other cities dark/but this is Eindhoven, city of light”. Philips would no doubt have been proud of such indirect advertising.

Paul Whitaker, Maracana Manor

AFC Ajax

Address: Amsterdam Arena,
Arena Boulevard 29,
1101 AX Amsterdam Zuidoost

Email: ajax@oad.nl (for tickets)

Website: www.ajax.nl

Supporters Websites:www.afca.nl , www.vak410.nl

When to go to Amsterdam.
Even if Ajax are playing away, I highly recommend a visit to Amsterdam for Queen’s Day. No its not some Transvestite convention, but Amsterdam’s very own Mardi Gras and Oktoberfest all wrapped in orange to celebrate the official birthday of Netherland’s reigning monarch, Queen Beatrix. Wear something orange and join Amsterdammers for a 24 hour street and canal p#ss-up, from evening of 29 April to 30 April.

Getting to the Amsterdam Arena
The most convenient and therefore busiest route from Amsterdam Central station to Amsterdam Arena is on metro line 54 (direction Gein). Stop at Strandvliet or Bijlmer. Get yourself a dagkaart or 24 (€7), 48 (€11) or 72 (€14) hour metro card in advance, to beat the queues after the match. Amsterdam Arena is also reached from outlying districts by buses 29, 158, 174 and 175. Jump off at Bijlmer stop with the Ajax supporters.

As with other modern out of town stadia, options for a pre-match beer are limited around the Arena. Personally I would do what most Ajax supporters do and drink in central Amsterdam. If you do get to the Arena early, there are some dull-looking sports bars around Bijlmer metro stop. For a bit more atmosphere, carry on to the training ground next to the Arena where you will see the graffiti-decorated Ajax Supportershome (Arena Boulevard 1). I understand the Supportershome bar is open 3 hours before kick-off and 2 hours after final whistle on matchdays.

About the Amsterdam Arena
If you have trudged the well worn and crowded tourist paths to the Sex, Hemp, Torture, Heineken and Anne Frank museums , may I suggest a tour around the Amsterdam Arena, Ajax museum and fan shop. There are normally between 5-7 Arena tours daily, but as ever check the website for opening times and prices.

My tour began from the middle tier of the Noord section, with a local guide who naturally spoke better English than me, enthusiastically lecturing us on the ‘multipurpose usage’ of the Arena. Below us the ground staff were busy utilising rows of UV lights, to minimise the number of times the turf would be dug up and re-laid, mainly because of the effect of the ‘multipurpose usage’ and the sun-restricting roof above us.

We then moved down into the bowels of the Arena and the press room where I spotted a fantastic arty farty photograph of Ajax players (including a youthful Johan Cruyff, complete with a Beatle mop hair cut) in a classic 1960s pose. Unfortunately, we were not allowed into the dressing room and the obligatory walk onto pitch-side was again done from the Noord section. So there was no opportunity to admire the graffiti art on display in the lower tier of the Zuid section, home to Ajax’s fanatical F-Side supporters. The tour ended with free entry to the Ajax museum. It is possible to visit the museum without a tour, again check the website.

This compact museum is well organised and stuffed full of great artefacts which chronicle the history of Netherland’s most successful football club. Ajax have won 29 Eredivisie titles , 2 Intercontinental Cups, 4 European Cups and have been entertaining the Whitaker family for two generations, now.

My father was stationed at an RAF base on the dutch/german border in the early 1970s and fondly recalls not only the great Borussia Monchengladbach team led by Gunter Netzer, but also the Totaal Voetbal of Ajax team containing Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens. This may explain why the England national team’s poor qualifying record in the 1970s, if this was the quality of opposition at the time.

By the 1980/90s, I had joined the dutch footie appreciation society, thanks to Marco Van Basten’s time at AC Milan. Advances in media technology (i.e youtube) has only recently allowed me to enjoy Van Basten’s career at Ajax. Scoring on his debut as a 17 year old in 1982, Van Basten spent 5 seasons at Ajax and was top scorer in the dutch league for 4 of them. Van Basten chalked up some 128 goals in 133 matches and my favourate was this cracker against Den Bosch, at De Meer in 1986.

Van Basten’s 128th and final goal for Ajax was the winner, scored against Lokomotive Leipzig in the 1987 UEFA Cup Winners final. Amongst the medals and European Golden Boots lent to the museum, was a school football diary and photograph of Marco Van Basten as a spotty teenager . Although I did not share Van Basten’s prodigious goalscoring talent, at least I could empathise with the teenage acne and a 1980s casual haircut.

The Ajax youth academy or de Toekomst (the Future) that produced the likes of Marco Van Basten, Denis Bergkamp and Wesley Sneijder, is still churning out prodigious talent now. Unfortunately for clubs like Ajax, the Bosman ruling meant these best players are now quickly sold onto richer, if not necessarily bigger clubs. Even imports that were bought in to fill the void, players like Ibrahimovic and most recently Suarez, no longer hang around. I doubt Ajax will ever be able to repeat their last European Cup win of 1995, when Van Gaal’s team containing Kluivert, Bogarde , Overmars, Kanu , Davids , Seedorf and the de Boer twins beat AC Milan.

The Ajax museum is located at the main entrance of the Amsterdam Arena, next to the official Ajax fan shop. If you are after purchasing some Ajax clogs, this may well be your only chance as after numerous visits to Amsterdam, I have never found an Ajax fan shop in centre of the city. You can pick up the 40 page colour Kick Off match programme for €1.90 here and from booths around the Arena entrances.

Getting a ticket for Amsterdam Arena
As with PSV and Feyenoord, unless you can borrow someone’s ID card, you are obliged to take advantage of the scheme where tourists can purchase match tickets as part of an expensive package. Ajax offer packages to Eredivisie, Dutch Cup and Champions League fixtures that include a match ticket, an ArenA-card worth €10 and an ‘unspecified’ (i.e something from slow-moving stock in the fan shop) Ajax souvenir. Depending on the package, seats are normally available in section 409 (corner top tier) or 113 (middle tier behind the goal) and go on sale about 3 weeks before. You can collect your tickets from the Arena’s main entrance, some 2 hours before kick-off. Further details and Arena seating plan can be found at www.ajaxtravel.nl/ . Below is view from section 409.

Locals tell me the best atmospheres at Ajax matches used to be der klassieker, with Feyenoord. I say ‘used to be’, as Feyenoord supporters are currently banned due to repeated outbreaks of violence between both sets of supporters, in previous visits .Their absence may well mean less police around the Arena, but it has also had a negative effect on recent der klassieker atmospheres. Looking at the photo below from the 2009/10 der klassieker, even the Ajax hoolies seemed to be missing their Feyenoord counterparts, to chant at. The banner reads “ The Classical without colour”, bemoaning the absence of rivals supporters.

I understand the banning of away supporters is only into the second of a five year exclusion order, so do not expect to Feyenoord supporters back at the Arena for a while. Despite operating some of the most draconian supporter control measures in Europe, the authorities have now also decided to ban ADO Den Haag and Utrecht supporters from Ajax matches as well. At least, you should get some traditional match atmosphere in the Arena when teams like PSV , AZ Alkmaar or Twente are visiting.

Match Extras

If you get to the Ajax Supportershome about an hour before kick off, you can also witness the impressive display of Ajax supporters marching to the Arena. The choreography of chants, fireworks, drums and banners outside the Arena for the 2009/10 der klassieker , seemed to be led by the VAK410 supporters group, usually located inside the Arena in the upper tier of the Zuid section

One aspect of dutch football I had not witnessed in the English game was when former Ajax player Thomas Vermaelen returned to say ‘goodbye’ to supporters in the Arena at the 2009-10 Ajax/Feyenoord fixture. Vermaelen led the Arena crowd in an a typically dutch singalong, received bouquets of flowers from various supporter groups and then did a final lap of ‘farewell’, throwing Ajax shirts into the crowd. In age of modern football where most former players here would receive chants of Judas etc., it was refreshing to see a positive relationship between supporter and player. It would be interesting to see if Vermaelen would have received a such a warm reception if he was wearing the away shirt of Feyenoord rather than current club, Arsenal.

Thanks to Stephane Lieven for organizing the ticket and ‘Ajax Paul’ for the Ajax and dutch footie history lessons.

Paul Whitaker , Maracana Manor.

Feyenoord
Address: Stadion Fijenoord, Van Zandvlietplein 1
Email: info@feyenoordnet.nl
Website: www.feyenoord.nl
Supporters Websites:   www.lunaticnews.nl , www.hetlegioen.nl

Getting to Rotterdam
From Amsterdam Centraal Station, there are trains every 15 minutes to Rotterdam Centraal Station. Journey times are about 40 minutes  and 2nd class day returns are approximately €26.

If you reside on or near the M62 corridor and you fancy an awayday with a nautical theme, then check out P&O ferries for any 2 for 1 deals, on the Hull-Rotterdam route. You dock at Rotterdam’s Europoort in the morning and catch the bus, dropping off at Rotterdam CS. In theory you could attend ‘der Klassieker’ between Feyenoord and Ajax, as the fixtures  normally have lunchtime kick-offs and still catch the afternoon bus back to Europoort , for the evening sail.

Either side of this ‘European Football Day’, you get 2 nights sampling the delights of the ‘Pride of Rotterdam/Hull’ ferries. Once the bright lights of the Europoort or humber estuary are left in your wake, retire to the Sunset Lounge on the upper deck and chill out to the club singer belting out 80s hits. If you are lucky, there could be an impromptu performance on the dance floor, when the ferry security guards break up a drunken brawl between two hen parties from South Yorkshire.

On arrival at Rotterdam CS, seek out the VVV Info Cafe (Stationsplein 45. Open Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 10am-5pm) for free mini-guides, city and public transport maps. Rotterdam is not the easiest of cities to get around, due to uneven layout of modern office buildings and shopping streets. We used the Erasmus Bridge as focal point of visit. From here, you catch one of the many Spido cruises for a tour of Rotterdam’s vast expanse of waterways and port. The Harbour tour cost about €9 and lasts an hour. Also check out the amazing series of cube shaped houses or kubuswoningen , near Blaak metro stop. You can even go inside one of these ‘upside down’ houses for €2.50.

Do not even think about jumping on the train to Amsterdam for a good night out, as Rotterdam has plenty to offer. I highly recommend the Bazar (Witte de Withstraat 16), which is an excellent cafe-restaurant , serving North African and Middle East food. Stay on Witte de Withstraat afterwards and there are a number of bars, ranging from pretentious arty-farty cafe bars cum galleries, to traditional dutch pubs whose walls and decor ooze history. Nearest metro stop is Eendrachtsplein.

Getting to de Kuip
Feijenoord Stadion or De Kuip (The Tub) is located on the south bank of the Nieuwe Maas River in the Ijsselmonde district. From Rotterdam CS you can catch Tram 23 or on match days only, Tram 29. Rotterdam public transport operate those disposable OV chipkaarts that you see in Amsterdam and you have a choice of 1 (€6), 2 (€9) or 3 (€12) day passes. OV chipkaarts can be bought at Rotterdam CS and Tram 23 can be picked up at or just over Erasmus Bridge. You can  catch Connexxionbus 157 to De Kuip from Zuidplein. There is also a football special train or Voetbaltrein that runs on match days, every 20 minutes from Rotterdam CS to Stadion stop. Journey times are only 10 minutes and maybe an option after the match, if you are rushing to catch the Europoort bus.

About De Kuip
Rotterdam is rare in the Netherlands, in it being a three professional football club city. Feyenoord’s local rivals are Sparta Rotterdam who play at Netherlands oldest stadium, Het Kasteel (Spartastraat 7). Excelsior is effectively a feeder club for Feyenoord and play at the Woudestein stadion (Honingerdijk 110).Feyenoord may be the biggest football club in Rotterdam, but within Netherlands has always struggled to get out of the shadow of its main rival Ajax and more recently PSV Eindhoven.

Not many football supporters outside Netherlands (well the straw poll I conducted) know, that Feyenoord was the first dutch club to win the European Cup (beating Jock Stein’s Celtic in 1970), the Intercontinental Cup and later the UEFA Cup. Famous players to have worn the iconic red and white halved shirts include Ruud Gullit , Ronald Koeman , Dirk Kuyt and a certain Johan Cruyff who moved from Ajax prior to the 1983/4 season and helped Feyenoord to their last ‘double’. Feyenoord have won the Eredivsie 14 times, but the last title came back in 1999.

Unlike Feyenoord the club, Feyenoord the stadium does stand out from its Amsterdam  and Eindhoven rivals. Yes, this classic and functional stadium looks a period piece which has changed little from its original 1937 design. Yes, the seats, leg room and toilet facilities maybe inadequate for 21st century football supporter. De Kuip is still a favourate football stadium for UEFA for staging European finals, even beating its Amsterdam Arena rival to host the 2000 European Championship Final. At the risk of upsetting my Amsterdam friends, I have to say it is also my favourate football stadium in Netherlands for the match atmosphere generated by both Feyenoord and dutch national team  supporters.

My previous visit to De Kuip and Rotterdam was for the 1993 World Cup Qualifier between Netherlands and Graham Taylor’s England. It was to be a classic “I was there occasion” with the dutch support the star attraction off the pitch. De Kuip shook to the ompah-band drinking songs and a rendition of “You’ll never walk alone” that reverberated around the stands. It almost made me forget the scenes of pre match violence and firing of rocket flares into our stand from the dutch hoolies, although not the injustice of Ronald Koeman only getting a yellow card, after the professional foul on David Platt. Then Koeman going straight up the other end and chipping a precision free kick past a flapping David Seaman. My plans to be part of Graham Taylor’s Barmy Army in 1994 World Cup in USA, were firmly b#ggered up that night.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HpShwkrWtk

Fast forward to 2010 and if De Kuip had changed little apart from new seats and a roof, the atmosphere was good and the locals friendly. Options for a pre match pint seemed to be limited directly around the stadium. The Feyenoord supportershome can be found next to the club’s training pitches. From outside the Olympiatribune part of De Kuip, simply go along the Olympiaweg under the Marathonweg and turn left towards Feyenoord’s training complex and pitches.

There are a number of merchandise and food vans outside the Olympiatribune. You can also pick up two match programmes here. There is the complimentary pocket-sized ‘Feyenoord wedstrijdmagazine’ which includes  tiny player posters that would take a young Feyenoord supporter years to cover his bedroom wall. The club also produces the ‘Stadion Sport Nieuws’ in traditional match progamme size and costing €1.50.

Feyenoord do 60 minute guided tours of De Kuip on matchdays, that cost about €10. The Home of History museum is also open. Price is €5 Tues-Sun from 10.0-1600. As ever check the club website for more details. Once inside De Kuip, you will have to swap euros for Feyenoord tokens if you want to purchase more food/beer

Getting a ticket for de Kuip.
As with PSV and Ajax, unless you can borrow a Feyenoord friend’s Club card then you will have to apply to the club direct for a ticket. For high risk matches, you will need a valid club card. You can apply by downloading application from club website. Please allow 3 weeks for card to be processed and sent to your home address.

In theory you can also apply for away ticket, but bear in mind all dutch clubs run a ‘combi’ system, where you can only buy a match ticket with a train or bus ticket. This means you start and finish a Feyenoord awayday  at Rotterdam, regardless where you live.

For low risk matches, simply register with the club by email . You can then access Feyenoord Ticket service and apply for match tickets online. Tickets go on sale about three weeks before match. You can have tickets posted to you or simply collect from hut on the Olympiatribune. Do not forget to bring valid ID. For Feyenoord v AZ Alkmaar fixture, picked  €23 seats in the upper tier of Marathontribune, section HH. This was close to away supporters in section GG and views can be seen below.

Feyenoord matches at De Kuip can have some of the best atmospheres in Netherlands and this is due to the club’s supporters who are known as Het Legioen or The Legion. As a nice touch,  Feyenoord do not  use the squad number 12, as this has been given over  to their loyal supporters. The boisterous element can be found in the Stadiontribune and have called themselves ‘Vak S’. With Ajax supporters currently banned from Feyenoord matches, you may want to delay your ‘Der Klassieker’ experience for a few years, until authorities chill out. For the best match atmospheres, time your visit to De Kuip when ADO Den Haag, PSV Eindhoven or Utrecht are in town.

Paul Whitaker, Maracana Manor




One thought on “Netherlands

  1. I am a fan of sc heerenveen and i think it’s great that people from other country’s visit the abe lenstra stadium.
    I talked with people from germany and the UK in the stadium and it’s always great to hear their oppinion. With some friends I sometimes visit games in Germany and next season we want to visit a game in the UK. I wrote your article about sc heerenveen and all the information you’re writing is correct. Finaly I would like to give you the hint to visit the game sc heerenveen – sc cambuur. It’s the derby of friesland. Goodluck with evrything!

    Gr Tjeerd

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