Groundhopper: Feyenoord Rotterdam

“I loved the Feyenoord atmosphere and how they pyro’d the hell out of the start of the match. So when I got an email through from the club offering me tickets, I was never going to say no, was I?”

De Kuip. Built in 1937 and the home of 17-time Dutch champions, Feyenoord Rotterdam. It’s a stadium I’ve wanted to visit for years and made all the easier now with me living in the Netherlands.

Being a Celtic fan you grow up knowing the name Feyenoord as they famously beat us in the European Cup final in 1970. Also with a number of players from the likes of Henrik Larsson and Pierre van Hooijdonk playing for both teams there has always been a link. Our infamous manger Wim Jansen who won us the league in ’97 also turned out for the Rotterdam club.

A few weeks prior, I attended the Johan Cruijff Schaal match between PSV and Feyenoord and loved the latter’s atmosphere with their singing, flags (which were green and white) and how they pyro’d the hell out of the start of the match. So when I got an email through from the club offering me tickets, I was never going to say no, was I?

Feyenoord and Celtic great, Henrik Larsson.

In the run up to this match, Feyenoord had not got off to a good start. The Dutch Super Cup aside, Feyenoord were beaten both in the Eredivisie and Europe, with a home draw in the latter resulting in elimination from the competition. So the derby match against their former feeder club Excelsior was a must win to kick-start their season.

Rotterdam is about a two hour train journey away from where I currently live in Maastricht. With all the years of following Celtic everywhere from Milan to Inverness, two hours is nothing. Train tickets in the Netherlands aren’t really cheap though with tickets for example from Maastricht to Amsterdam costing you €25 one way. Thankfully someone turned us on to a website offering half-price tickets before this trip.

The tram journey to the stadium from Centraal takes about 20-minutes and much to my delight, it’s free with a match ticket. The tram was full of a variety of fans, young and old. We asked a few fans about where was the best place to get a beer before the match and were advised that a lot of fans drink at a local amateur ground near the stadium.

‘Stadion Feijenoord De Kuip sinds 1937’

We arrived off the trains and headed to a number of cafes and bars next to the tram station which were rammed full of Feyenoord fans with music blasting out the doors. A drink or two in there and we headed over to get a good look at De Kuip. In a world where new modern stadiums are built all over the place, De Kuip is a welcomed change. Old and gritty with flood lights outside the stadium pointing inwards. All around the stadium there is banners that celebrate players and moments from the club’s history. The stadium was buzzing before kick-off so we grabbed another few beers and made our way to our seats.

The game itself didn’t really get going until Robin van Persie calmly slotted home the first goal on the 17th minute mark. A lot of wasted chances and poor passes filled the rest of what was a frustrating half for the home support. The one noticeable occurrence was the Excelsior fans showering the sick kids from the local hospital below them with cuddly toys which was also done by Ado Den Haag a few years prior. The second half kicked off and much of the support was still tense. This was finally relieved on 78 minutes when Jerry St Juste slotted the ball home after some good play from Yassin Ayoub. A further goal from Jan-Arie van der Heijden in the 89th minute sent the fans home happy.

Whilst chatting away to a supporter beside me, he told me all about the plans for a new 70,000 seater stadium to be built in the near future. The decision is now in the hands of the Rotterdam council as the planning permission is all they are really waiting for. According to him there is a large quantity of the support strongly against the move. It would be a shame to see this stadium go but whatever is built in its place is sure to be a cracker.

The view from the seat.

Living where I live you are literally in the heart of Europe so you have a mixture of massive clubs and small clubs at your door step. The next fixture I would attend was VVV Venlo vs Heerenveen in the Eredivisie. After that I’m looking to head over to Belgium for a K.R.C Genk or Standard Liege match.

More on them in my next piece.


Groundhopper: Deutschland/Holland ’16

Here is Ian Bradshaw’s account of his Groundhopping weekend in Germany and Holland, where he managed to fit in three matches, in three days.

By Ian Bradshaw.

Since my two live quite a distance away with their mum and only spend every-other weekend with their dad, I get the chance to follow football pretty much when and where I please these days – albeit, I’d rather that wasn’t the case.

As a Liverpool season ticket holder since 1984, my allegiances are obvious, but I don’t mind taking in other fixtures to chalk off a few grounds in the process.

My birthday weekend in early February 2016 was throwing up some promising opportunities for a weekend away in Europe – although the Bundesliga fixture generator had still to spit out the most opportune of weekends that suited my needs best.

Düsseldorf looked the place to best locate myself, and with home fixtures at Borussia Monchengladbach, Schalke 04, Bayer Leverkusen and Fortuna Düsseldorf up for grabs, it seemed a sensible choice to consider booking flights prior to the games being announced.

I also chanced a look at the Dutch fixtures. They threw up the prospect of Ajax v Feyenoord – already confirmed as Sunday 7th February.

Then came the German fixture confirmation – it read:

  • Friday 5th February – Borussia Monchengladbach v Werder Bremen
  • Saturday 6th February – Schalke 04 v Wolfsburg.

My weekend was well and truly made.

Outward flights were booked from Manchester to Düsseldorf and inward back from Amsterdam to Manchester, with 2-nights accommodation in the Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof Ibis to facilitate an early start to Amsterdam on the Sunday morning.

Match tickets were eventually secured for all three, with fantastic value for money compared to the current pricing strategies of English top tier football.


Goal Frenzy Greens

Borussia Monchengaldbach 5 – 1 Werder Bremen
Borussia Park, Friday 5th February 2016 k.o. 20.30
att. 51,144
Ticket: €44,50 (circa. £34)


Monchengladbach ticket


This was to be a new ground for me and I jumped a train from Düsseldorf Hbf over to Monchengladbach Hbf, and then buses are laid on up to Borussia Park.

Borussia Park is quite the sight as you approach in the dark, with the modern concrete structure and roof under lit with the green of BMG.


Monchengladbach Stadium 2


Memories came flooding back of being allowed to stay up as an eight year old to watch the 1977 European Cup Final in Rome on the telly, as I watched my idol Kevin Keegan and the rest of the mighty reds pit their wits against the strength of the Bundesliga in the form of Bertie Vogts, Rainer Bonhof and Wolfgang Knieb among others.

Having purchased a bratwurst outside the ground for €2,90, I had a mooch round the fan shop. I’d already purchased a memento scarf and pin badge online, however, to save lugging it around Europe.

bier in the ground was €4,10, and it went down well given the wind’s occasional icy slap in the face.


Monchengladbach Stadium


The game finished 5-1 to the home side as they produced some scintillating form to record their first points following the Bundesliga winter break, following a 3-1 home defeat by Borussia Dortmund and a 1-0 loss away at Mainz.

I’d expected a little more from Bremen, who’d recently impressed me on TV with a 3-1 away win at Schalke 04. Nevertheless, the entire game was played out in the usual entertaining atmosphere of German football, chants and fans bouncing up and down for a ninety-minutes solid.

Post-match, I caught the bus back into Monchengladbach and the connecting return train to Düsseldorf saw me arrive the hotel bar for 23.30.

Highlight: Apart from the game with 6 goals? A drunken German with more than a 90% passing resemblance to Joe Jordan, entertaining passengers with an impressive stumble and fall flat onto his face on the platform at Neuss on the return journey to Düsseldorf.


Taming of the Wolf

FC Schalke 04 3 – 0 Wolfsburg
Veltins Arena, Saturday 6th February 2016 k.o. 15.30
att. 61,481
Ticket: €41,50 (circa. £32)


Schalke ticket


It was a mid-morning start on Saturday, as I jumped the train to Heinrich Halle Strasse. A brisk walk through the Aldstadt down to the Rhein, and a walk along one of the main water arteries of Central Europe followed it.

I made the journey back to Düsseldorf Hbf for a train to Gelsenkirchen, which is free with a match ticket, if you travel on a regional train.

Having already attended a game at Schalke, the prospect of going again was a real attraction for me. As a stadium, from the outside it resembles an out of town office building, clad in reflected glass, which actually belies the fact that a truly magnificent football stadium is housed inside.

The concourse outside offers bratwurst at €2,95, though concessions inside the turnstiles – unlike BMG – require the purchase of a fan card.


Schalke Stadium


My seat was up with the Gods, back row of Block 55 – which seems to be the area of the ground set aside for day visitors, having sat in the vicinity previously.

An entertaining start saw Julian Draxler roundly booed following his recent defection to Wolfsburg and not before long business as usual was restored as Klaas-Jan Huntelaar notched the hosts ahead. A second was added ten minutes later from a sweetly hit direct free-kick by their industrious midfielder, Jonathan Geis.

I’ll own up now, given Schalke was a pig to get away from last time, I chose to leave with five minutes still on the clock. And, without knowing the German for Sods Law – Schalke netted a third before I’d got down the steps through Alessandro Schopf strike.

To compound matters, back at Gelsenkirchen I foolishly boarded an Inter City train to Düsseldorf and was clobbered for a €23,00 for a single ticket.

Once back at the hotel, I had a few biers, quick wash and set out into the Aldstadt for a few of the local altbiers. 

Highlight: seeing glimpses of the old 1973 built Parkstadion behind the hotel complex between that and the new stadium – with an immaculate pitch it is still used for training matches nd then watching the Nordkurve in full cry before and during the game.


De Klassieker

Ajax 2 – 1 Feyenoord
Amsterdam ArenA, Sunday 7th February k.o. 12.30
att. 51,875
Ticket: €59,00 (circa. £45)


Ajax Stadium


Early start for this as I caught the 06.56 ICE train to Amsterdam Centraal, which was €19 in advance on the DB website.

Arriving in Amsterdam, I threw my bag in a day locker for €10 and had a brief walk around, before jumping the train up to Biljmer for the ArenA. I had to collect the ticket I purchased in advance from the main entrance adjacent to Gate E – with which I received a complimentary Ajax scarf.

Once in my seat, there was a pre-match presentation to Johnny Heitinga who’d recently retired. He received a silver club platter and an F-Side baseball jacket before making the walk around the pitch with his two children.

The notorious F-Side, located behind the goal, showed their appreciation by lighting fireworks to honour the former Everton player.


Ajax Heitinga


Whilst away fans are prohibited for this fixture, this didn’t translate onto the pitch with the early exchanges a real blood and thunder affair, the type associated with a fierce derby where commitment to the cause takes precedent over footballing competencies.

When Feyenoord scored first through Jens Toornstra, an eerie silence fell around the ground. Ajax quickly restored the balance with a fine move concluded by some deft footwork by Amin Younes who slipped two defenders in shimmies to slot the ball into the far corner, out of reach of the keeper, and in off the base of the post.

The second half saw Ajax take, and ultimately retain the lead, through a fine long-range strike by their highly rated box-to-box midfielder, Riechedly Bazoer.

The scenes at the end left you in no doubt that Ajax thoroughly revelled in finally beating the staunchest rivals for the first time in four meetings – following two draws and a defeat in the preceding fixtures.

Highlight: an impressive pyro / smoke bomb display by Block 404 Check, saw black smoke hang over the pitch for a good 10 minutes, despite the roof being wide open.


Ajax Stadium 2


All in all, a great trip and one that will live in the memory for a good while. Work took some doing on the Monday, though.

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