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Pin-balling Around The Netherlands

Silhouettes on a greyish day

thick heavy grey sky above
rainy fragrance all over
no season today

low hanging fog in a stew
clear daylight a reaping hook
on this eclipsed day

by Elly Wouterse




Wednesday 5th February 2014 Dutch Eredivisie k.o.:- 7.45pm

NEC Nijmegen                                         1

Rens van Eijden 24

NAC Breda                                                1

Rydell Poepon 17,

referee:-  E. Janssen                           attendance:- 11,200

Eagerly anticipated and long awaited, the day arrived at last! I was up at 2.30am and enjoyed a traffic free drive down to Luton Airport. The rain was still falling, as it has been doing for the last six weeks or so, and it was still falling, when my plane landed at Schiphol at 8.45 CET. By  14.00, we were all landed and able to entrain for the longish trip to Nijmegen. There were four of us:-








and …….. Eddie (with the inevitable Ginnever!)

Jonny had booked us in at “The Hotel Incredible” in Nijmegen:-


Before the match we had a couple of beers (Ginnever for Eddie) and then repaired to The Goffertstadion for the match against NAC Breda.


The ground was pretty full, despite NEC occupying joint bottom spot in the table with ADO Den Haag. NAC Breda were five points better off, yet they were comparatively, comfortably placed in 10th position in the table. The ground had wrap around single storey stands and both programmes and team sheets were available free of charge!


There was plenty of beer available, but it was that frothy light lager that I can’t stand, the others, of course, took full advantage! The first goal came from the away side courtesy of Rydell Poepon after seventeen minutes. It was the first time I had heard the term ‘thunder bastard’ which apparently derives from The Guardian Football Weekly, but it very accurately described a cross from the left which dropped onto the strikers boot some twenty-five yards from goal and the volley was sweetness itself as it flew into the top left hand corner of the net!


The equaliser which came some seven minutes later, was an altogether more prosaic affair, but it gained NEC a point in a closely contested match, despite having Tobias Haitz sent off after 77 minutes!


It didn’t end there! Jonny and James went out to sample the delights of a coffee shop and then came back to sample yet more alcohol at the hotel! They were well oiled! The following morning, Jonny had to buy a new pair of shoes, having mistaken the original pair, during the night, for an alternative receptacle! We still had time to visit Valkhof, where Frederick Barbarossa built a huge schloss, on the site of a former Carolingian castle, in 1155AD. We also saw the site of the 1944 Allied Operation Market Garden, where a large airborne invasion took place across The River Waal.


The bridge across The River Waal

Thursday 6th February 2014    Dutch Eredivisie          k.o.:- 6.45pm

FC Utrecht                                               1

Juan Sebastian Agudelo 24,

PEC Zwolle                                             2

Dennis Mahmudor 74,

Fred Benson 77,

referee:- J. Sanders                          attendance:- 15,831


Utrecht is a large city about half way between Nijmegen and Amsterdam. Jonny had found us an apartment on the banks of a canal in the city. It was spacious, with two good sized bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and bathroom, just for the one night! Before the match we enjoyed an Indian meal right on the banks of the canal, liberally washed down with copious amounts of red wine.


Stadion Galgenwaard is built on the site of the former place of execution and is quite the most visually attractive of the Dutch stadia. There are four discrete stands which look as if they are held up in a spider’s web and the entrances are spacious, even if the climb to the seats is a tad steep!

The area behind the seats, where the refreshments are, has its own seating and once again, programmes and team sheets were freely on offer.

This was my second visit to Utrecht, and, just as at the first match (Sunday 22nd January 2012:- Dutch Eredivisie FC Utrecht 1 PSV Eindhoven 1 attendance:- 20,347), it was pouring with rain!


It was not a good week for FC Utrecht, who sat in 12th place (out of eighteen) in The Eredivisie before start of play. However, they were but five points above bottom club, ADO Den Haag, and tonight’s defeat probably brought a tingle of apprehension to the home fans!


They started brightly enough and, indeed, opened the scoring midway through the first half. In fact, all seemed well for the home team until just before the hour mark, they had Adam Sarota very harshly sent off for what appeared to be a fairly innocuous challenge.


Thereafter, PEC Zwolle, who, until then, had looked happy enough to accept a 1-0 defeat, suddenly increased the tempo of their game and snatched the win with two late goals. This was the first of several strange refereeing decisions which littered the matches we were at and I can’t help feeling that the match hinged on the referee’s perception of events, a perception at odds with everybody else in the stadium!


It was the biggest attendance of the week, as well, though at the time we underestimated by about five thousand spectators! After the match, there was the usual free for all, as spectators crammed onto the free buses which took them back to the train station in the centre of the city!

Friday 7th February 2014   Dutch Erstedivisie        k.o.:- 8.00pm

FC Oss                                                   2

Jonathan Opoku 31, 81,

De Graafschap                                     2

Vincent Verwein 34,

Ted vd Pavert 75,

referee:- K. van den Heuvel                    attendance:- 1,337


If you think it rains in England, I can assure you that it rains equally heavily in Holland. We were greeted at Oss station by heavy winds and driving rain and we worried about the match being played at all! Jonny had booked a small hotel about fifteen minutes walk from the ground. There we enjoyed a passable meal before the match this time washed down with white wine!


FC Oss are bottom of The Erstedivisie, which is, supposedly, the equivalent of The English Championship. They are five points adrift of safety, but for a town of perhaps 50,000 people, it was surprising to see them in The Erstedivisie at all! They have a three-sided ground, with stands which run along all three sides and behind the goal on the fourth side, there is a large commercial building which overlooks the stadium and in its grounds are the two floodlight pylons for that end of the ground! The pitch is 3G, which explained why there was no concern over postponement because of the very wet weather!


Watching the match, you wouldn’t have thought that FC Oss were in such dire straits at the bottom of the table, especially as they were playing recently demoted De Graafschap. They opened the scoring on the half hour, but then fell behind with a scant fifteen minutes remaining, only to rescue themselves with a second goal from Jonathan Opoku in the 81st minute. The Frans Heesen Stadion was hardly heaving but, once again, both programmes and team sheets were freely available! For their first match of this season, they played Yong Ajax and apparently, almost 12,000 spectators turned up!


Back in the hotel, I have to admit that the Ginnever flowed freely down my throat (I think I had ten shots) and I don’t really remember much about getting to bed that night!

Saturday 8th February 2013    Dutch Topklasse            k.o.:- 2.30pm

Excelsior 31                                         1

Niek Davina 31,

Excelsior Maasluis                              4

Niels Vonk 33, 50, 79,

Jomo Reurink 90,

referee:- L.J. Duarte                    attendance:- 700


It was still raining the following morning and it was with a slight grogginess that I joined the band on the train to Deventer. The conductor asked us where we were going and found our pronunciation challenging.  Apparently it is NOT ‘Dee-venter’, but ‘Dave-enter’! Jonny had excelled himself on this occasion, booking an apartment above The Museum of Coffee in the city centre!


However, our first match today was in Rijssen at The Sportpark De Koerbelt, but then things started to go wrong. I was the only one who caught the train to Ryssen. The other three who were purchasing tickets, missed it! They took a taxi and arrived in good time for the start of the match. I got to the station in Ryssen an hour before kick-off and with the stadium about a kilometre and a half away, I thought I had plenty of time to get there. After several frustrating mis-directions and nearly an hour’s walk, I eventually found the ground with about five minutes to spare.


I had been in contact with Excelsior 31 to let them know that we were coming for this match and the previous day, we had received an e-mail from Harald Eertink at the club, to let us know that we had only to announce ourselves and both tickets and programmes would be waiting for us to collect – and they were. It was an incredible piece of generosity, particularly as another officer of the club, Bert Bosschers, bemoaned the fact that because of The Winter Olympics, only around seven hundred spectators, rather than the usual one thousand or so, had turned up for the match.


Behind the main stand (in the top picture), there was a large social area serving both coffee and beer. The other three had taken advantage, before the match, of the social club behind the goal (visible in the third picture in this section). Behind the opposite goal was a large banner “You’ll never walk alone” and the home team played in all red, but they didn’t have the Liverpool v Arsenal match on the club house screens, greatly to Mark’s disappointment, particularly as Liverpool won 5-1.

This was probably the best match of the week, even though it occurred in the lowest most tier that we visited.The home side scored first, but the visitors equalised two minutes later and the score was 1-1 at half time. Just after half time, Niels Vonk scored his and his team’s second and for a while, the match see-sawed and could have gone either way. Perhaps an injury to home player, Rob ten Hove, who was taken off after 56 minutes, gave the visitors the edge. In the last ten minutes, Niels Vonk completed his hat-trick and was substituted and Jomo Reurink completed the scoring in the final minute. At the beginning of the game, these two teams had been separated by a point in mid-table. After the game, Excelsior Maasluis (a team from Rotterdam), had opened up a four point gap between themselves and their defeated opponents.


Saturday 8th February 2014       Dutch Eredivisie          k.o.:- 7.45pm

Go Ahead Eagles Deventer            2

Doke Schmidt 36,

Jarchinio Antonia 86,

AZ Alkmaar                                      1

Roy Beerens 90+4

referee:- Danny Makkelie         attendance:- 7,938


We didn’t have quite as much time as we thought before going off to the evening match. However, we still chose to patronise an Italian restaurant ‘O Sole Mio’. We waited the best part of an hour before we were able to eat and had to order a taxi so that we could get to the match in time. Even then, it was nip and tuck, with Eddie displaying his usual equanimity and restraint, but we did manage to apprehend – as usual, free of charge – programmes and team sheets, before making our way towards our seats.


This was the noisiest, most raucous crowd of the tour and the De Adelarshorst Stadion felt, not only full, but heaving. Imagine my surprise to learn, afterwards, that it was only two thirds full! The floodlights were straight out of a 1970s English League ground (see below) and behind each goal, there was standing room and even a cockpit on one of the stand stanchions where a cheer leader could co-ordinate the singing and repartee!


Go Ahead Eagles, newly promoted, were thirteenth in the table, some four points off the bottom and were playing sixth placed AZ Alkmaar. The home side were strenuously urged on by a fervent following and scoring a goal in each half, were good value for their victory, which, right up until the last minute, looked likely to be without conceding a goal! Then another strange happening occurred. As the ball was delivered into the Eagles penalty area from a corner, the ball boy, obviously not realising the ball was already in play, launched the ball he had retrieved, into the penalty area also. Two balls were now ping-ponging around like random ball bearings in a pinball machine. One of them ended up in the back of the home net from a header. The referee immediately awarded a goal, whilst the other ball was still ‘in play’, so to speak. It seemed a little harsh on the home team, but the referee immediately blew his whistle for full time.


After the match, I managed to procure a club badge for Graeme (one of only three clubs who had any all week!), and we walked back to the hotel. The others stayed in for match of the day, but I slunk off to a smoky den of iniquity where pool without pockets was being played and downed another large batch of Ginnevers!


The following morning I caught most of the ‘Match of the Day’ goals before we all piled downstairs into the museum for breakfast.


The Museum of Coffee in Deventer

Sunday 9th February 2014   Dutch Eredivisie       k.o.:- 2.30pm

RKC Waalwijk                                 5

Romeo Castelen 8,

Daniel de Ridder 79,

Kenny Anderson 81,

Jean David Beaugue 90.

Aurelién Joachim 90+3

FC Utrecht                                      2

Jens Toornstra 10 (pen),

Steve de Ridder 83,

referee:- M.B. van der Kerkhof          attendance:-  5,712


Getting to Waalwijk was not easy. Firstly, we took a train from Deventer to Hertegenbosch (passing Oss along the way), but once there, we had to wait  for a ‘bus to take us to Waalwijk, which has no railway station. The 302 Tilbury ‘bus meandered around most of the villages between Den Bosch and Waalwijk and decanted us opposite the stadium with plenty of time to spare.


Once again, programmes and team sheets were freely available. In this instance, I just mentioned ‘programme’ in the club shop and a comely young assistant immediately sped off to capture one for me! Team sheets were available from main reception – take as many as you like! We sat in the club house, drinking beer until just before kick-off.


Martin Jol, manager of RKC Waalwijk 1998-2004

The Mandemakers Stadion was smaller than the other Eredivisie stadiums we had visited and would probably hold around 7,500. Once again, there were wrap around stands and a segregated area for away fans, but without the usual plastic frontage to deter missile throwing. The small band of away support were pretty vociferous – or was it just that we were fairly close to them in the ground?


FC Utrecht were playing for the second time this week, but this time we were seeing them on their travels. This is RKC Waalwijk’s second season in The Eredivisie and they are still adjusting to life in this rarefied atmosphere.


For the first eighty or so minutes, it was a pretty poor match. Each side scored a goal in the first half, but the Utrecht equaliser came courtesy of an appalling penalty award for ‘hand-ball’ which was harsh in the extreme. We all felt, by half time, that either side would struggle in League One in England!


The second half, if anything, was worse! It felt like a competition to see which team could pass back to the goalkeeper the most! Then, out of the blue, on 79 minutes, man-of-the-match, Daniel de Ridder, hit a thunder bastard from the edge of the area to commence a remarkable sequence of five goals and a missed penalty in eleven minutes! Two minutes later it was 3-1 to Waalwijk and they seemed to be coasting. Utrecht pulled one back in the 83rd minute and then had the chance of an equaliser! With only two minutes to go, they were awarded a penalty, only for Jens Toornstra to strike the foot of the post and see it cleared to safety.

Two goals in added time saw the home side stretch their lead and FC Utrecht had effectively thrown away two matches and six points in a week!


Because of the enormous police presence (there was no need for any of them to be there, a very orderly crowd dispersed quite quickly!), the road past our bus stop was closed! Jim did try some half-hearted remonstration with Holland’s finest, but was rebuffed, so we walked down to the main road and a bus stop nearer to Den Bosch. We still had to wait nearly an hour before our transport arrived and this time, it was not the 302, but the 136. Still, it said it was going to Den Bosch, so we boarded. If anything, the 136 managed to ferret out even more detours than the 302 had this morning and it took nearly twice as long to get back to Den Bosch. Jonny and Jim were in a bit of time trouble. Their flight was due to leave in less than two hours. My train to Amsterdam Centraal was direct, whilst, their transport to Schiphol had to change at Utrecht and again outside Amsterdam for ‘buses because of weekend engineering works. I found out, after I got back, that they had all made it safely and boarded their flights on time!

Monday 10th February 2013       Dutch Erstedivisie           k.o.:- 8.00pm

Yong Ajax                                       4

Lucas Andersen 41,

Ricardo Krishna 52,

Lesly De Sa 57, 90,

VVV Venlo                                      1

Leon de Koegel 6,

referee:- Jeroen Manschot                 attendance:- 432


This season, for the first time, the U-21 teams of Twente Enschede, PSV Eindhoven and Ajax Amsterdam have been admitted to The Erstedivisie, the second tier of Dutch football. Last season, there were only eighteen teams in Erstedivisie, and then one of them – SC Veendam (I went to see them on 23rd January 2012:- Dutch Erstedivisie – SC Veendam 1 FC Oss 2 attendance:- 3,176) – went bust, which left just seventeen teams to see out the season. The three U-21 teams will not be allowed to gain promotion, nor will they be allowed to play in the Dutch FA Cup, but they will compete in the league and it seems that they will provide healthy attendances for other Erstedivisie sides.


Above is the main stand of the Yong Ajax facility at De Toekomst, where the Ajax U-21 team play their home fixtures. Along the opposite side there is uncovered seating and behind each goal there is some standing, with a club house and sumptuous bar behind one goal. Tickets were ten euros, there were no programmes, but once again, free team sheets were available in the club house. The De Toekomst Arena is about ten minutes walk from The Ajax Stadion and is itself surrounded by two or three other mini stadia with stands and spectator facilities. From Amsterdam Centraal to Bijlmer, the stop for Ajax, is about half an hour by train (five euros return)!


I had been to see VVV Venlo (Friday 25th February 2011:- Dutch Eredivisie – VVV Venlo 1 SC Excelsior 0 attendance:- 7,500), but tonight, they were playing a division lower. They took the lead against their illustrious rivals in the sixth minute, which sent the small hemmed in bunch of away supporters into paroxysms of delight – see below!


Yong Ajax equalised just before half time and then, in the second half, they eased away to victory with the last two goals from young Lesly De Sa coming from scorching pace and thunderous finishing!


Watch Yong Ajax in comfort?


During the match, one of the stewards, a young slip of a lass no more than seventeen or eighteen, waded into the seated area to eject two spectators who had been identified as having gained admission without paying! I asked her at the end whether she had any qualms about pitching into the crowd like that. She said that she loved it, loved being a steward and that being a steward was completely voluntary!


I also had a chat with the ticket office who told me that they had sold 324 tickets for the match, but hadn’t yet counted the complimentary tickets issued. Above is the official attendance, which suggests that over a third of the spectators got in free!

When I got back to Centraal, I found another smoky den and downed my last Ginnevers…… until next year, I hope! The following day, I took the return trip to Luton Airport …. and it was still raining! The difference in Holland was that there was no apparent flooding, whilst in  England, there was flood catastrophe!

Many thanks to Jim and Mark and Jonny who all played their part in making the trip both enjoyable and successful. Jonny managed all the accommodation, Mark handled all the travel arrangements and Jim ensured that we all had tickets for the matches.

It ALWAYS goes too quickly!

Here’s to the next time!!!!

Matches this season:- 141 new grounds – 98

Matches this year :- 22 new grounds – 12

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