Welcome to volume two of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard


September 2015

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

PEC Zwolle (Holland)

Prins Hendrik Ende Desespereert Nimmer Combinatie Zwolle, or more commonly PEC Zwolle is a professional football club from the historic city of Zwolle in The Netherlands. The city located seventy five miles north east from Amsterdam is one of the oldest in the country.

PEC’s history takes a complicated and interesting history since the clubs Prins Hendrik, formed in 1906, and Ende Desespereert Nimmer (1904) merged on the 12th June 1910 to form the club.

PEC became the club of the middle class community and became rivals to ZAC who represented the high society since their formation in 1893. Zwolsche Boys arrived on the scene in 1918 to give the working class a club to support. All three clubs played on grounds a small walking distance apart and played each other regularly.

PEC reached the KNVB Cup Final in 1928, but were defeated 2-0 by Racing Club Heemstede.  In 1934 the club moved into the Oosterenk Stadium, which was also used by Zwolsche Boys. PEC left the amateur ranks on the 23rd February 1955 to turn professional and become the city’s leading club.

PEC and Zwolsche Boys merged in 1969, keeping the PEC name before adding Zwolle to the title two years later to promote their city as a club in the second tier Eerste Divisie. The club reached another KNVB Cup final in 1977, but lost 3-0 after extra time to FC Twente at De Goffert in Nijmegen. The disappointment was soon forgotten the following year, as Zwolle won the league title and were promoted to Eredivisie for the first time.

The club consolidated their position as new signings came in under the chairmanship of Jan Willem van der Wal. He was also in a high position at Slavenburgs Bank. It transpired that the club had built up a massive debt chasing their ambitions and came close to bankruptcy.

In 1982 businessman developer Marten Eibrink took over and stabilised the finances, as well as changing the name to PEC Zwolle ’82. He had the stadium renovated and brought in legendary players Johnny Rep and Piet Schrijvens to the club. The revival lasted until 1985 when PEC were relegated.

Co Adriaanse took the team back up at the first attempt but by 1988 Eibrink had left the club citing a lack of interest from sponsors and the local authorities has his reason. At the end of the 1988/89 season Zwolle were relegated once more with sponsors pulling out, players being left unpaid and the true extent of the Slavenburgs Bank debt coming to light. The club were declared bankrupt in 1990.

The club started again as FC Zwolle, changing from the city’s green and white colours to blue and white and to sever all ties with the previous regime and creating a new club crest. A young side including Jaap Stam and Bert Konterman gave the club a new impetus, which eventually led to promotion in 2002. However, they were relegated after just one season.

The 2004-05 season saw Zwolle miss out on promotion in the play off group, which was repeated the season afterwards. In 2007 the old Oosterenkstadion was demolished to be replaced a new compact stadium.

Another narrow failure to win promotion came in 2010-11, but Zwolle made no mistake the season after by winning the Eerste Division title and promotion back to the Eredivisie. In the summer of 2012 the club announced that they had changed their name back to PEC Zwolle.

In 2013-14 under head coach Ron Jans, the team reached the KNVB Beker final, where they destroyed Ajax 5-1 in front of an astounded crowd at De Kuip. Zwolle qualified for the 2014-15 Europa League where they went out in the play-off round to Sparta Praha. The Eredivisie campaign ended with a fine sixth place finish.

PEC Zwolle will play in the Eredivisie in the 2015-16 season.

My visit

PEC Zwolle 1 Vitesse 2 (Saturday 18th January 2014) Eredivisie (att: 12,350)

My planning for this Saturday evening encounter had begun a few weeks earlier when it looked a good travel link to the rest of my journey, so I applied for a clubcard. These are needed by supporters at each club to purchase tickets, so that the authorities have a clear check to see who is in the stadiums, which has cut down on a lot of the hooliganism that blighted matches for a couple of decades.

My PEC card had come back, but I still couldn’t order my tickets online as I needed a Dutch bankcard. A phone call to the helpful staff soon sorted me out, so I could collect them at the game. I needed two as I was to meet up with my old pal Guy Watson who was going to see FC Utrecht the following afternoon.

I met him in the plush bar of the Sandton Pillows Hotel across the road from Zwolle station after I returned from my afternoon amateur game at nearby WHC Wezep. Guy had done his homework well. We were soon crossing the canal that circled the old city centre and entering Sally O’Briens Irish Bar for some Grolsch and to watch the live coverage of Arsenal v Fulham.

Once we’d seen the other scores come in we decided to take the easy option and head to the IJsseldelta Stadion in good time. We got on board the no.3 service from Rodetorenplein near to where an ice disco was being set up after a rapid slurp in Cafe Bosch. On the bus we got talking to a Swiss groundhopper who was due to go to Oxford City and Cambridge City the following week as well as Warrenpoint Town in Northern Ireland to revisit an abandoned game, which was well beyond my dedication.

Unbelievably I looked in my wallet and realised I’d left my clubcard back in London! The lady at the counter said it was no problem and that they were expecting me. Our seats cost $17.50, with a decent programme just one more Euro.

All sorted it was time to find the fans bar, which it appears is a regular feature at Dutch grounds. It cost non card carriers $2 much to Guy’s laughter. Inside old games were shown on the TVs. Refreshments were obtained by a token system, necessitating us to put notes into a machine which then dispensed a plastic currency known countrywide as munts. Each club had their own special plastic coins.

A fan started talking to us, and seemed most impressed that I’d been to watch Wezep that afternoon, which was a general appreciation I got as the night continued. He returned with two beers for us as a mark of hospitality. Naturally we returned the favour before our new pal headed off to meet his teetotal father in law. After a couple more drinks it was time to make our way round to our seats at the far end.

The IJsseldelta Stadion was compact and enclosed all the way round, with a roof offering all protection. It was all seated with al four sides raised. A few seats covered the paddocks down to the pitch down the sides. The away fans from Arnhem were further along from us. The configuration of the arena made for an excellent atmosphere. The PEC Ultras at the far end were making a real racket.

Vitesse took the lead on the excellent artificial surface after just three minutes, when Christian Atsu went past three defenders without challenge and shot into the top corner. We thought that could signal a one sided game, with the visitors needing a win to go to the top of the league.

Zwolle responded as Guyon Fernandez finished neatly after ten minutes following neat build up play from Jesper Drost.. Vitesse had a penalty saved shortly after by PEC keeper Diederik Boer. Guy returned with a couple of beers that we were allowed to drink in our seats, but with the bad news that the punts from the bar outside were invalid and we needed new ones in the stadium.

The game was nip and tuck until the interval. My need for food was an expensive experience compared to drinks, but I was well aware of the perils of drinking on an empty head! While the tokens save queues at counters, they were also very convenient for the clubs as they could round up prices. We were left one munt short of drink, but the staff would not bend. Guy said he saw one tourist fan looking to put a $50 into the machine. He was either returning to another game, very generous or in a hell of a mess at full time.

Zwolle had more of the play after the break and looked like they could snatch it. However, after missing a good opportunity late on, the visiting full back Patrick van Aanholt won the game in the last minute when his run took the ball in his stride before firing home under Boer.

We had both been cheering for Zwolle and had taken a liking to the way they played. Well that and the beer assisting us maybe? We headed round to the far end and quickly found the bus stop back into town. There were no extra services laid on, so it could have been a bit of a fight to get on, if not for it being a mismatch in the weight department on our favour. The bus back was packed, with the local youths rocking it from side to side and generally acting up until it drove off, before depositing us at the station.

We crossed a bridge back into the old town and found a brown cafe for an hour or so. At half time at the game a home fan had rolled giant dice on the pitch to draw the raffle much to our amusement.  Niek was now in the pub and we chatted football and drank with him and his mates. Guy went off to his hotel by train while I stayed for a nightcap before Niek gave me his Zwolle scarf.

I eventually got back to the hotel for midnight after failing to find my bus stop and having to pay for another taxi, but I still seemed pretty happy with life! 

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