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

Monday, February 8, 2016

Feyenoord Rotterdam (Holland)

Feyenoord Rotterdam is a professional football club from the city of Rotterdam, formed in the De Vereeniging pub on the 19th July 1908 as Wilhelmina, who have gone on to be one of Holland’s premier clubs.

The club was renamed as Hillesluise Football Club in 1909, and then RVV Celeritas. In 1912 another change came to represent the district in which the club was formed, as SC Feijenoord was adopted at the same time that promotion to the National Football Association was achieved. The club chose it’s colours of red, white and black at this time.

In 1917 Feijenoord reached 1e Klasse, the highest level of Dutch football and moved into their new Kromme Zandweg home ground. Seven years later the club won their first ever national title. Divisional titles followed in 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1929 as Feijenoord were crowned as Dutch champions for a second time in 1928.

Feijenoord defeated local rivals Excelsior 1-0 to lift the KNVB Beker (Dutch FA Cup) for the first time in 1930. Three more divisional titles arrived at Kromme Zandweg before a second Cup arrived in 1935 as Helmond Sport were defeated 5-2.

Crowds were flocking to home games leading to the club deciding to build a new Feijenoord Stadion, popularly called De Kuip (The Tub). National titles were collected around this time in 1936 and 1938 as the club continued to prosper.

Throughout World War Two, the Nazi’s occupied De Kuip, so Feijenoord decamped to Het Kasteel, the home of their rivals Sparta Rotterdam. On occasions the old Kromme Zandweg was brought back into use.

A fifth national championship was won in 1940, but after that the club went through fourteen barren years. In 1954 the chairmen of Feijenoord, Excelsior ans Sparta arranged a meeting in Utrecht with the aim of forming a premier football league in Holland. The gathering was a success, with the Eredivisie making its debut season in 1954-55.

On the 2nd April 1956 A.V.V. De Volewijckers were defeated 11-4, with Henk Schouten netting nine times. At this time a fierce rivalry with AFC Ajax was built, with matches between the two being dubbed 'de Klassieker'. Daan den Bleijker gave Feijenoord a very memorable moment with four goals in a 7-3 win over Ajax in 1956.

In 1960-61, Feijenoord collected their sixth national and first Eredivisie title, with a 9-5 victory over Ajax along the way. The championship was retained the following season. The wins were prelude to the most successful period in the club’s history as swathes of support followed the team both home and away.

In 1963, thousands travelled from Rotterdam by boat to Lisbon for the European Cup semi-final against Benfica; a tie that Feijenoord went out in the second home leg. In 1965 De Trots van Zuid (The Pride of South) won the Eredivisie as well as the KNVB Beker with a 1-0 win over Go Ahead at De Kuip. The feat was repeated in 1968-69. The Beker was lifted with victory over PSV after a replay.

The 1969-70 season saw Feijenoord under Head Coach Ernst Happel, embark on another European Cup campaign. Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur were hammered in the first round, before AC Milan were overcome. A win against ASK Vorwärts Berlin set up a semi-final tie against Legia Warszawa, which was won 2-0 on aggregate.

Celtic were Feijenoord’s opponents in the 1970 final at the San Siro in Milan. Goals from Rinus Israël and Ove Kindvall scored the goals to secure a 2-1 win after extra time to see the club crowned as champions of Europe. Argentinian side Estudiantes were defeated over two legs as Feijenoord also collected the Intercontinental Cup.

In 1971, Feijenoord won their 10th Dutch Championship before changing the club name to Feyenoord in 1974. The 1973-74 campaign was another success in European competition. Starring players of the period included Wim Jansen, Wim van Hanegem, Coen Moulijn, Hans Kraay and Johan Boskamp.

A fine run in the UEFA Cup led to a semi-final win over VfB Stuttgart. This set up a two-legged final against Tottenham Hotspur. The first leg at White Hart Lane ended 2-2, before Feyenoord won the second leg 2-0 with goals from Wim Rijsbergen and Peter Ressel, in a game marred by crowd trouble at De Kuip.

In 1978, the club divided their professional and amateur sides to form two separate teams, Feyenoord Rotterdam for professionals and SC Feyenoord for amateurs. Two years later a fifth Beker was won with a 3-1 win against Ajax at De Kuip.

In 1984 the league and cup double was completed for a third time; Fortuna Sittard were dispatched by a solitary goal in the Beker final with Johan Cruyff, Ruud Gullit and Peter Houtman playing starring roles. The two 'de Klassieker' matches were classics. Ajax won 8-2 in Amsterdam’s Olympic Stadion before revenge was taken with a 4-1 Feyenoord win in Rotterdam.

The 1989-90 season Feyenoord only just avoided relegation and hit financial problems as their sponsor, HCS went bankrupt. Former player Win Jansen came in as manager to steady the ship, and things improved. The 1991 Cup was lifted with a solitary Richard Witschge goal seeing off BVV Den Bosch.

The Cup was retained in 1992 with a 3-1 win over Roda JC. In the same season a fine run in the UEFA Cup-Winners Cup including victory over Tottenham Hotspur saw Feyenoord eventually go out in the semi-finals on away goals to AS Monaco.

In 1992-93 a final day 5-0 win over FC Groningen sealed the Eredivisie championship. Wim van Hanegem had taken over team affairs as further Cups were collected in 1994 by courtesy of a 2-1 win against NEC Nijmegen and in 1995 as FC Volendam were beaten by the same score.

Rapid Wien knocked Feyenoord out at the semi-final stage of the 1995-96 UEFA Cup-Winners Cup before the club made their Champions League debut in 1997-98. The signings of Aurelio Vidmar, Christian Gyan and Patrick Allotey attracted the attention of the authorities as the club were accused of fraud.

On 25 April 1999, Feyenoord secured their 14th Dutch Championship, to set off huge celebrations, which turned into heavy rioting. The club continued to consolidate good Eredivisie finishes leading to Champions League competition, without any consequent success.

However, early elimination in 2001-02 led to a place in the UEFA Cup. SC Freiburg and Rangers were defeated leading to a quarter final clash with PSV, where a Pierre van Hooijdonk free kick eventually saw Feyenoord through. Internazionale were beaten in the semi-final to set up a final at De Kuip against Borussia Dortmund. Two goals from van Hooijdonk and a Jon Dahl Tomasson strike led to a 3-2 victory for Bert van Marwijk’s side and another European title for the trophy cabinet.

Sadly for the club, they were about to embark on a barren period. A 4-1 Cup final defeat to FC Utrecht in 2003 was as close to honours as it would get for a while. Good news came as Chairman Jorien van den Herik and the club were found not guilty of the fraud claim.

In 2006 a club director Chris Woerts announced plans for the construction of a new 90,000 seated capacity stadium to replace De Kuip on the Nieuwe Maas river that runs through Rotterdam. Following the financial problems and Holland’s failed attempt to host the World Cup, the plans were put on hold.

By 2007 the fans were becoming disenchanted as star players Salomon Kalou departed for Chelsea, while Dirk Kuyt left for Liverpool. Despite claims from chairman of the time Van den Herik that things were fine, it was obvious that the club was facing severe financial problems.

Things got worse as Feyenoord were banned from European competition because of hooliganism and the side missed out anyway on a qualifying place for the first time in sixteen years.

van Marwijk returned and optimism was found through the youth policy whidch attracted investors. Experienced players Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Roy Makaay were amongst the high profile arrivals at the club. Feyenoord managed to win the 2008 Dutch Cup, beating Roda JC 2–0.

van Marwijk departed to take up the national manager’s job to be replaced by Gertjan Verbeek as their manager for the 2008–09 season as the club celebrated their hundred year anniversary.

Verbeek was soon replaced with Mario Been coming in for the 2009-10 campaign. Former manager Leo Beenhakker took over the role as Technical Director. The move didn’t pay off, with Feyenoord losing one game 10-0 to PSV in October 2010. In July 2011 a players revolt led to the departure of Been.

Ronald Koeman arrived at De Kuip, to become the first man to have played and coached Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord. Players came into the first team through the youth system and Koemann’s wheeling and dealing paid dividends as debts were cleared and the KNVB gave the club permission to make signings without their scrutiny.

Despite this Koemann continued with his policy of signing free transfers or promoting youth. Skipper Ron Vlaar departed for Aston Villa, to be replaced in the role by Stefan de Vrij. Graziano Pelle arrived from Parma and ended the 2012-13 season with twenty seven goals.

Around the same time Feyenoord revisited their plans for the construction of a new stadium by 2018, holding 63,000 fans. Many supporters were against the plan and set up the Red De Kuip campaign, meaning Save De Kuip. Their preferred option was the addition of a third tier on top of the current stadium to make a capacity of 68,000 and a huge financial saving.

Feyenoord finished in second place in the Eredivisie in 2013-14, before Koemann departed to take up the Southampton manager’s job. Fred Rutten was appointed as his replacement.

Several players came and went in the summer of 2014, which led to a turbulent start to the new season. A fine run in the Europa League saw Feyenoord eventually go out in the knockout stages against AS Roma, before failing to qualify for the following season after being defeated in the end of season play-offs to Heerenveen.

Rutten was replaced as manager by Giovanni van Bronckhorst, as Kuyt also returned to captain the side at De Kuip following a spell at Fenerbahçe.

Feyenoord Rotterdam will play in the Eredivisie in the 2015-16 season.

My visit

Feyenoord Rotterdam 1 Heerenveen 2 (Thursday 28th January 2016) Eredivisie (att: 47,500)

Without doubt De Kuip is one of Europe’s most iconic stadiums and I was really looking forward to my first visit. I was ready for a good night out, as although my room at the Rotterdam Hotel was OK, I was not enamoured with the staff. I’d never been told that I couldn’t check in while they swapped shifts for thirty minutes!

My mood was already a bit dark after the ridiculous scenario at the railway station. I’d left my luggage in a locker on arrival from Arnhem, so that I didn’t have to lug it around on my morning groundhop tour. However, the lockers were inside the automatic gates, which hadn’t occurred to me at the time. My OV travelcard necessitated a minimum of €20 to enter a railway station to deter fare dodgers. I had €3 on my card. It was completely ridiculous.

I explained the situation to the lady in the information booth. She told me off for using the lockers when I wasn’t leaving by train that day. This was something I’d always done in both Holland and Germany. Surely this is what they were there for? Eventually she opened the gate and allowed me to access my bag.

Thank goodness she didn’t follow me. I would have been left completely red faced. I hadn’t processed the machine correctly and the locker was still unlocked. Fortunately for me my bag was still in it, so in a way I had to be thankful for the crazy system!

A siesta had set me back on the right road. I still hadn’t made up my mind about which pub to visit as I jumped on board the tram opposite my digs. The area I’d seen down near Oostplein was one option, as was b’ Bolwerk by the waterfront. The tram going off in a direction from Beur that I wasn’t expecting sealed it.

Getting off at Leuvehaven I thought I’d walk around the corner to a bar I’d read about called Melief Bender on an old street called Oude Binnenweg. However, I’d mixed up my stops. I meant to get out at Eendrachtsplein and was now a bit lost!

Google maps on my IPhone got me out of bother and within ten minutes I’d found my way via a very lively Witte de Withstraat. I was delighted that I’d made the effort. I got a stool at the bar in Melief Bender and enjoyed the ambience once I’d got my first beer. James Brown and assorted similar music was piped at a sensible level.

The replacement barman quickly piped up a conversation with me despite the bar being busy. It was an old classic with pictures of its history adorning the walls, as well as a couple of old Feyenoord photos. Brand was the usual strength beer. I tried one dark Amstel Bock, but it was too strong.

With time getting on it was time to head back out into the cold and wind. I was sorely tempted to return after the match. I soon found my way back to Beurs where the 23 tram soon arrived. This service was free to football fans with a valid ticket. It took nearly twenty minutes before we got out on the east side of the stadium.

I bought a magazine for €1.50 which I presumed was the match programme. It then dawned on me that I could have done with a cash machine to buy some hot drinks inside the stadium, but there wasn’t one around.

I was in Block K with my seat costing €25.10. Free programmes, which doubled up for the next home game with Den Haag were on the steps once inside. I sheltered under the stand in one of the bars for a while as the game between Roda JC and Utrecht was been shown on the TV’s. I braved the weather and went upstairs.

Stadion Feijenoord to give it its official name simply oozed atmosphere. It consisted of a two tiered bowl with four semi permanent separate seated stands below where the old velodrome once stood. Not that anyone sat in them!

My brother Nick started messaging me when he saw my pictures on Facebook. After much deliberation it seemed he’d sat right above where I was when he’d gone to watch England play Holland in the World Cup Qualifier in 1993; a match he describes as his most frightening experience at football. Apparently the Dutch fans nor police hadn’t been very hospitable hosts that night.

The confusion had come as the stadium had since been roofed, with the players emerging from the opposite side of the pitch and corporate hospitality being added. The place certainly rocked, probably because it had a slightly worn and makeshift feel, rather than perfect angles and the slightly plastic feel of the Amsterdam ArenA.

Dirk Kuyt had been one of my favourite Premier League players during his time with Liverpool, so I was delighted to see that he was skippering Feyenoord. The packed stadium gave the teams a rousing reception.

To see the teams emerge on my video, click here.

The home side started the game on the offensive. Michiel Kramer head his header saved, while Kuyt had one blocked on its way to goal. On nine minutes Marko Vejinovic put in a cross but Jan-Arie van der Heijden headed over from close range.

Not to be outdone Heerenveen woke up and had efforts on goal from Kenny Otigba, Caner Cavlan and Morten Thorsby. Karim El Ahmadi came close to putting the home side ahead, but his shot went just wide. Marko Vejinovic’s shot for Feyenoord was aved as it headed for the top corner. Kramer hobbled off after half an hour with his replacement Anass Achahbar getting a heroes welcome.

The visitors were more than playing their part in a very decent encounter, and it didn’t come as a total shock when they took the lead five minutes before the break when Henk Veerman was put through by a clever short pass from Sam Larsson to dink over Kenneth Vermeer in the home net.

After attempting to warm up during the break without a hot drink I returned to my seat and saw Heerenveen press for a second goal. Joey van den Berg had a low shot saved and then Thorsby smashed the ball against the bar when it seemed easier to score. He also came close on fifty six minutes.

With twenty minutes remaining Feyenoord were level when sub Achahbar latched onto a Kuyt nod down to score with a superb overhead kick which looped over Erwin Mulder in the Heerenveen net. The place went berserk with pots of plastic beer been thrown from the standing area behind the goal.

I fully expected Feyenoord to go on and pile on the pressure, but it wasn’t to be. The visitors in blue and white gradually got a grip in the vital midfield area, and with just six minutes left of normal time they scored what turned out to be the winner.

Larsson cleverly set up Joey van den Berg to slot the ball into the bottom corner as thousands of home fans streamed out. I decided to give it a few more minutes and I’m glad that I did. It was open season on both goals for the last few minutes and stoppage time.

Luciano Slagveer and Mitchell te Vrede both had opportunities to make it 3-1 before Tonny Vilhena nearly equalised when his long range free kick came back off the crossbar. Another Heerenveen effort was thwarted by Vermeer with the rebound being inadvertently stopped on the line by the head of a prostrate attacker.

That was enough for me. On the way out I heard the groans of the home fans as Achahbar was sent clean through but had his weak shot saved by Mulder as the game came to an end, with probably the correct result. It certainly hadn’t been short of incident!

I had decided to get a train back into town, so I ran round the south end of the stadium to the station. I just missed the first full service, but I was on the second, getting out at Blaak station. I took the Metro and fully intended to go back to Melief Bender. However, I couldn’t find a cash machine anywhere and by the time I had I was back at Beurs.

Instead I walked back to my hotel. Just before I got there my mind went back to the side street where I’d got my chicken lunch. It had a bar on the corner. It was still open but looked a bit ropey, so I continued along to see if there was anywhere else.

A couple of doors down was what looked like a nice enough café bar. It was very quiet with just three or four customers and a couple of bar staff. I sat at the end of the bar to mind my own business, have a couple of drinks and then get a bite to eat.

It didn’t quite work out like that as I was joined by an asthmatic drunk who carried out a very passable impression of Blanko Webb from the classic Porridge series. I was polite and listened to him while trying to read or look at the magazines from the match. Hans was certainly persistent and wanted to know all about me. For reasons of extreme embarrassment it was probably as well that he told me he was gay as I was near the end of my last drink.

The girl serving left at the same time as me and obviously felt my difficult situation, while managing to have a laugh. I went to get some supper from the Indian chicken establishment, before heading back up Teilingerstraat at a quick pace to my hotel for a good night’s sleep.

It had certainly been an eventful day and night in Rotterdam!

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