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

Sparta Rotterdam (Holland)

Sparta Rotterdam is a professional football club from the Dutch city of Rotterdam who were formed on the 1st April 1888, when students in the city decided to form a cricket club.

Within two years Sparta played their first proper football match, before disbanding the cricket section in 1892. In April of the following year the club were promoted to Hoogste klasse, the highest level of Dutch football.

However, Sparta withdrew four years later, unhappy with the refereeing of their matches. The club continued with a visit to Sunderland by some of its members in 1889 prompting them to adopt the colours of red and white striped shirts with black shorts.

Sparta organised the first ever Holland international game, which was played against Belgium in 1905. The team progressed through the leagues to be crowned as Dutch champions in 1909. Jaap Blazer wrote the club anthem; De Spartamarsch, in celebration. Sparta also started up their cricket club again, as well as continuing their strong athletics section.

Three consecutive titles followed in 1910-11, 1911-12 and 1912-13. After a season without honours they were once again champions of Holland in the 1914-15 season. In 1916 the club moved into their new Het Kasteel home ground in the Spangen area of west Rotterdam.

The second string team at Sparta picked up honours at a regular rate, while the first team won their regional title in 1925, which was repeated in 1929. The cricket club also picked up titles in the early 30’s. In 1941 the club were crowned as champions of Rotterdam.

In 1942 the club opened up a section for baseball, soon picking up title wins. The 1946 the clubs Spangenberg ground staged its first ever cricket international. After another divisional title, Sparta joined the ranks of semi-professional clubs in the mid 1950’s.

The club continued their run in the highest level of Dutch football when they became founder members of the new Eredivisie for the 1956-57 season. Sparta lifted the KNVB Beker for the first time in 1958, as FC Volendam were defeated 4-3 in front of a crowd of 18,000 at the Olympisch Stadion in Amsterdam. In 1958-59 Sparta became champions of Holland for the sixth time.

They lifted the Beker once again in 1962 when a solitary goal from Piet van Miert in extra time saw off DHC Delft at Het Kasteel. They made it three Beker wins in 1966 when ADO Den Haag were defeated with a goal from Ole Madsen in the De Kuip home of city rivals Feyenoord.

Third place Eredivisie finishes were achieved in 1962-63 and 1966-67 as the big two of Ajax and Feyenoord dominated the Dutch game. In 1971 Sparta were defeated by a Johan Cruyff inspired Ajax side after a replay in the final of the KNVB Beker. Both games attracted over 60,000 fans to De Kuip.

The Sparta Jeugdopleiding (Sparta Youth Academy) continued to give young players their chance in the game, with many going on to win international honours. The club made a split between their professional and amateur sections, with the second team continuing to win honours along with the cricket section.

Players such as Danny Blind, Danny Koevermans, David Mendes da Silva, Ed de Goey, Winston Bogarde, Memphis Depay, Henk Fräser, Jan van Beveren, Anwar El Ghazi, Jetro Willems, John de Wolf, Kevin Strootman and Nick Viergever continued to come through the system, before Sparta\ were defeated 5-2 in the 1996 Beker final by PSV.

In 1999 the pitch at Het Kasteel was turned ninety degrees with new stands being erected to make it a modern stadium. The team continued its run in the top flight until the 2001-02 season when Sparta were relegated to the second tier Erste Divisie for the first ever time.

Adri van Tiggelen led the team back to the top flight through the play-offs in 2004-05, but the team were relegated once again in 2009-10. Despite a second and third place finish promotion proved to be elusive. It was left to coach Alex Pastoor to lead the team from 2015.

Sparta Rotterdam will play in Eerste Divisie in the 2015-16 season.

My visit

Thursday 28th January 2016

I had wanted to visit Sparta for many years. It may have been the love of the underdog in me, but the castle and smaller set up than Feyenoord seemed just that little bit more alluring. It was time to go and have a look.

After leaving Excelsior’s Stadion Woudestein I took the tram to Beurs in the city centre to sort myself out with a cuppa. Rotterdam really was lacking some architecture. I took the B line on the Metro to Marconiplein and then followed my instincts before the floodlights of Het Kassel came into view.

The old castle looked superb straight ahead as I walked into Huygenstraat. The stadium had been rotated ninety degrees in 1999. Before that the castle and its adjoining structures were behind the goal.

There were glimpses inside from the four corners of the stadium through the gaps in the rails. I took the best photos that I could. The team were training on the artificial pitch inside. I decided to try my luck to get inside and went into the reception to ask. The young lady said that the only chance I had was if a corner gate was open.

I’d just about given up and I’d even got on board the tram sat at its terminus outside the castle when something told me to give it another go. It was nagging away at me that I hadn’t tried the corner gate nearest the offices.

Sure enough I could get in, but my appearance roused an anxious young fella in club gear to come across. I pleaded to be allowed to take some quick photos and promised that I wouldn’t interrupt training in any way. He was not convinced and told me that he’d be in big trouble from the officials watching. I then played my trump card.

I told him that the lady in the reception said it was OK at the open gate. OK it was a bit of a fib, but I wasn’t going to cause any problems for anyone. I assured him that I’d just go to the pitch fence, take some photos of the stands and be out within a minute. He relented.

Sparta Stadion or Het Kassel was a fine example of what could be done to adapt a venue for modern demands. The stands all joined together and were raised above the pitch. The Tonny Van Ede Tribune had corporate boxes at the rear and business seats in front, with all the offices behind. At the far end was the Dennis Neville Tribune, named after a famous manager where the most partisan Sparta fans sat. Above me to the right was the Bok De Korver Tribune while along the far side was the Kasteeltribune, with a gap in the centre with boxes attached to the front of the castle alongs with a seating deck.

I thanked my saviour and even had a little chat. His attitude had changed completely, especially when I told him that I lived in London and I was on a soccer tour of Holland, even calling in at amateur clubs.

The next tram was waiting when I got back round the other side. It was time to cross the city once again, to visit a couple of the amateur clubs that I’d just mentioned.

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