The Rise of Vitesse Arnhem: FC Hollywood upon Rhine
100 years ago, Vitesse Arnhem lost a playoff final against Sparta Rotterdam and as such finished runners up in the race for the 1912/13 Netherlands Football League Championship. A century on, the trophy cabinet at the GelreDome Stadium lies vacant and still awaits Vitesse’s maiden top flight championship trophy. With only a few games remaining in the Eredivisie this year, Vitesse sit in 3rd position, just 5 points astray of league leaders and Dutch giants Ajax. Surprising many by being able to maintain their title challenge until the business end of the season, this may not be the year that Vitesse Arnhem finally fill the gaping void in their history and secure their first Dutch Championship, but they are gaining deserved recognition.
Vitesse’s golden era came at the beginning of the 20th Century as the club ended as runners up of the Netherlands Football League Championship for three consecutive seasons between 1913 and 1915. Since then, the closest Vitesse have come to securing the top league title was a third place Eredivisie finish in 1998. The achievements of the 97/98 season provided a degree of progress for Vitesse given that the club had fallen into bankruptcy in the mid-80’s and spent the majority of the decade playing their football in Holland’s second tier. The resultant drama on and off the pitch during this era earned Vitesse the unenviable nickname of “FC Hollywood upon Rhine”.
Taking in the Ajax experience in Amsterdam with The Eurofan
It’s the home of bicycles, nightlife, Van Gogh and Ajax Amsterdam, of course. Since the launch of Copa90 last summer, one of their most entertaining shows follows the adventures of The Eurofan. It’s a show presented by Tom Deacon, who’s also a comedian and DJ for Radio 1, where he’s sent to different football cities each Champions League week to become a fan of the home team.
So far he’s travelled to Spain, Romania, Turkey, France, Russia and Celtic. And now, even though its not Champions League week, the Eurofan has flown to Amsterdam to become a fan of Ajax.
But this time he was accompanied by a friend of AFR, KSI. Just as we documented the Ajax experience, together they explored the city, learned about the culture behind Ajax, interacted with fans and attended ‘De Klassieker’ - the heated Ajax vs Feyenoord derby.
It’s strange, in a sort of good way, how a song can remind you of someone, their image instantly etched into your mind. ”The Saints Are Coming” (Green Day/U2 version), is one example, the goal music at De Grolsch Veste – home of FC Twente – now forever associated with Luuk de Jong, largely responsible for many of its airing last season, now plying his trade in Germany he’s hoping for a similar amount of encore performances.
His departure last summer, along with Bas Dost who moved from Heerenveen to Wolfsburg, confirmed the long-held view: one of the Netherlands chief exports is ‘number nines’. Both are the latest in a long line of Dutch strikers, a lineage as decorated as Italian defenders, but what excites most onlookers is not their records (which speaks for itself) but their gradual evolution: getting better, more uncanny in front of goal, both – notably De Jong – determined to be become renowned for scoring in the unlikeliest of situations. Ultimately to attain the title of number nine par excellence.
After conquering the Eredivisie a logical step would be the Bundesliga. A league equally synonymous with great strikers: Gerd Müller, Uwe Seeler, Klaus Fischer and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to name but a few. Those illustrious figures of the past serve as a inspiration just like compatriots Henk Groot, Willy van der Kuijlen, Marco van Basten and Ruud Geels. On arrival it meant three Dutch numbers 9s in the same foreign league. The other, is already a household name and last season’s Bundesliga golden boot winner – first Dutch striker to do so – Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
As time move so do trends, today for most up-and-coming strikers Huntelaar is their reference. Though the striker many still attempt to emulate is Van Basten still held as a beacon, ultimate example of near perfection, technique and finesse intertwined in unadulterated ruthlessness.
There was one minute left in extra time and Ronald Koeman started to prepare for the inevitable. He found what he was looking for, a notepad and pen, after collecting his thoughts he jotted down numbers one through five. Next to number one ‘Lex’ was written, followed by a space, then letters I and M, before he could finish the surname, a loud roar erupted, looking up, Koeman saw Lex Immers – the very person that was going to take the penalty – wheel away in celebration, Feyenoord left it very late.
In a single minute every emotion imaginable was exhausted. They say the KNVB Beker is often void of drama well the Goffertstadion played host to one. It was cruel on NEC, but satisfying for Feyenoord, who needed that win. A few days earlier they were second best to a PSV side many had down on the verge of a crisis. Yes, even this early.
It goes to show how much football has changed, it’s about the here and now, no patience and nothing is kept in perspective anymore. A one game losing streak, to paraphrase Roy Keane, is a crisis. Their success last season, finishing runners-up, has meant anything less won’t do. The expectation from the fans was the club would push on instead they’ve started their campaign slowly. The mindset of their support has reverted to a previous state one Koeman encourages and is doing everything to satisfy.
The club from Rotterdam is a different one from years gone by, but they are now – like before – players in the Eredivisie. Their recent successes, which is few and far between, been built on their esteemed youth academy based in Varkenoord, with its seemingly endless production line. The game against Excelsior – city rivals – last April featured 18 academy graduates, the bulk in red and white. On the scoresheet – getting their second in a 3-0 win – is probably their current crowning jewel: Jordy Clasie.
By Jared Mercer
Along with Spain and Germany, the Dutch were pre-tournament favourites, but they went home with three losses out of three games and exit Euro 2012 along with the Irish as the only teams to have gained zero points for their efforts in Poland & Ukraine. The question has been on everyone’s lips since the opening match loss to Denmark: where did it all go wrong? Losing 1-0 to a defensively strong Danish side who were also unlucky to go out in the group stages was not the end of the world, but in the Group of Death it meant that the Oranje would have to get results against a good team in Portugal and the best team (aside from Spain) in Germany. Granted, the loss to the Danish was not all doom and gloom as it was a match that Holland dominated, but a timely finish from Danish star of the tournament Michael Krohn-Dehli (Christian Eriksen being surprisingly absent in all of their games) and then solid defending by the whole team as a unit, so there was some reason for optimism. Players, coaches and pundits alike have been attempting to assess the damage and wading through the garbage that was the Netherlands display at the tournament, it was never going to point to one conclusion. We will start from the beginning.
Kids day at the Amsterdam Arena
After a KNVB cup match between Ajax and AZ Alkmaar was suspended because a fan ran on to the pitch and attacked AZ’s keeper, Ajax were able to replay the match, but with one caveat: only kids (and a few supervisors) would be allowed into the Amsterdam Arena. About 20,000 children showed up for the match as part of a campaign to show the good of the game and the happiness that overpowers hooliganism. AZ won 3-2 in what was a fantastic match. AZ manager Gertjan Verbeek hailed the decision by Ajax saying, “all those … children create a lot of noise - and I should know, I’m the father of three daughters.”
By Eric Beard
Despite everything Soccernomics preaches, Turkey’s path to becoming a footballing superpower has hit yet another bump in the road. The nation failed to qualify for EURO 2012, and via the transitive property this means Guus Hiddink’s time is up as manager. The country and the Dutch mastermind have parted ways, so Guus is officially on the market. Well, sort of. The Dutchman isn’t ready to simply jump into another coaching position. He said, “I want to have a rest. I haven’t decided my future yet, but it is too early to start with a new team.”
It is no secret that Johan Cruyff did all he could to convince Hiddink to come back home to Ajax to be the club’s Director of Football. Dreams of football purists envisioning the Ajax of the 1970s returning to power died quickly, as Guus has said there is too much turmoil at the Amsterdam-based club for him.
All signs seem to point to a return to Chelsea, where he gained legend status at Stamford Bridge in only a matter of months. "It was great at Chelsea, a terrific time, but that does not mean I am ready to start tomorrow. I need time to reflect. I’m not ready to retire, I like to be involved with a team on a daily basis, but maybe I am ready to step out of the limelight a little bit, away from the cameras. Hopefully I will still be involved but perhaps it will be as an adviser or a consultant.”
By Eric Beard
"He’s been waiting for this moment his entire life. He’s just minutes away from hoisting up the trophy of his dreams. Holland has stayed up all night to watch their beloved Dutch maestro make history. They said it was impossible. Hell, I said it was impossible. Well, we’ve all been proved wrong by Mr. Cruyff. He has been absolutely phenomenal all series and is showing no sign of slowing down. My goodness! I’ve never heard the chants of "Johan" sung quite like this. It’s deafening! And there’s his last warm up pitch. He’s ready to go. Just look at that smile. Folks, it’s the World Series. It’s Game 7. It’s 1-0 in the bottom of the 9th here at Yankee Stadium and you better believe the world is watching…."
When you mention the Ajax team of the late 1960s and early 70s, there’s no denying that geniuses ran rampant throughout Holland and Europe for the better part of a decade. But what if I told you that Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens weren’t born to play the beautiful game? What if I told you that some of Holland’s finest athletes may have wanted the opportunity to pursue a career in another sport they adored?