Feyenoord v NAC Breda
8th March 2015
De Kuip has this feeling about it, in the way that I’d imagine the old Wembley did, that it had seen moments of real history. It somehow feels special.
It was meant to be 17°C today. That was cause for optimism. My football day bag still contained my trusty bunnet and running gloves and I felt like living dangerously and risking the gilet/jumper combo. It was only a week since my last jaunt so I felt like this was a stolen moment. However, this would be an experience with a difference as I was ‘treating’ a 10 year old girl to a day in Rotterdam to watch the football. The kind of Daddy-Daughter days that seem like a karmic return for the endless hours of waiting at drama or Brownies. Getting to spend the day with Sofia and visiting a new stadium and city was a win-win for me. Those good people who run the Belgium-Netherlands intercity train clearly had this sort of day in mind when they set their pricing policy. Yes, the train is slower than the Thalys but for 2.50€ each way for a child, Sofia can look forward to more Dutch excursions (at least until she turns twelve). That was for first class seat as well. I wouldn’t normally travel first class but she had homework to do and it was certain to be quieter than the regular carriages which, given the sizes of some of the rucksacks various ‘crusties’ were wielding, were more like cargo containers.
The train itself reminded me of a British Rail diesel chugger on the outside. Upon boarding, it became clear that the first class carriage was about as first class as a first class stamp. The seats themselves had the plastic/leather/metal feel that reminded me of a bygone era. It was perhaps analogous to a high end late 1970s Rover saloon infused with the nostalgic aroma of stale pipe smoke. After a little searching, I found a plug point for phone charging (worth the additional 4 euro each way in itself) and sunk back into my Parker Knoll buttock receptacle. Two hours of homework and hangman passed surprisingly quickly and we had to scoop up our belongings and disembark.
Rotterdam Centraal Station is incredibly funky. I’m no train geek – the two previous paragraphs notwithstanding – but I’d go back to Rotterdam just to look at the station again. It feels like you have walked into a film set from the 1960s that is supposed to depict the future but has made all the wrong predictions. It was almost as though a flamboyant architect with the same raw materials as a Soviet or Post-War German designer was showing off and saying ‘look what you can do!’
KFC don’t have any stores in Belgium so, as a down-payment for compliance and tolerance, Sofia was fed some unhealthy but scrumptious fried chicken. Like me, Sofia does not like to even contemplate being late so we headed to the station and bought some tickets to the stadium. This seemingly simple task was made far more complicated by poor design and chimpery on my behalf. The card reader is angled in such a way that you need to bend your card round to insert the chip into the reader. There seemed no obvious alternative. Furthermore, the search facility doesn’t tolerate incorrect word order. You need to search for ‘Rotterdam Stadion.’ Without the word Rotterdam, it cannot find Stadion – feyenoord/feijenoord was also ‘not found.’ Once we finally beat the machine, we took our tickets (which are scanned upon entry and alighting, much like an Oyster card) and boarded the 7 minute shuttle to the stadium.
It was a bit of a faff getting the tickets (25€ each). They MUST be ordered either in Dutch from Feyenoord’s own website or through viagogo. The club will direct you, via the FAQ page in English, to viagogo. It is much better, and generally cheaper, to register an email address and order the tickets directly.
The stadium is literally (please apply non-Essex, traditional meaning) 200 metres from the train station. Scarf and keyring purchased from the man in a tin can, I took a few photos of Sofia in front of the large ‘feyenoord’ sign. There were a lot of people milling around, clearly waiting on friends, but not a lot to see or do so we headed to the stadium for a refreshing beverage.
After we scanned through the turnstile, we had a little nosey around. The food and drinks system is unneccessarily rigid and complicated. In order to buy any food or drinks, you need to buy tokens. However, somebody has decided that they can only be bought in multiples of 5, at 2.70 per token. Therefore, you need to spend 5 tokens worth on food and drink in order to make it worth it. I understand the logic behind cashless food and beverage stalls within a large event. But when the token is the unit of currency and the price for a slice of pizza or a 50cl beer is 1.5 tokens, you then end up with a half token (yes, you snap a token in half). All the food and beverages were on the ground level, as were the only toilets in that section of the stadium. What was on offer was absolutely fine but the system was just nuts!
Armed with a coke and a small beer, in addition to the free match-program that is given out, we made our way to the stairs up to our section. There was a steward half way up and I’m not convinced her job was not to hand out oxygen masks to those who struggle with the stairs or pass out due to the thinning oxygen. At the entry to section HH, we had a look around. De Kuip has this feeling about it, in the way that I’d imagine the old Wembley did, that it had seen moments of real history. It somehow feels special. It is not modern or even that comfortable but it feels like it is steeped in some concentrated solution of glorious moments, fading from view like the sun at dusk. I had perceived this before I had even arrived at our seat. The view was great although you are quite far away from the action. We were very close to the away section, which provided some entertainment.
The seats themselves were the type that do not fold up which inevitably leads to people treating the them the way that Super Mario (the plumber, not Balotelli) treats mushrooms in order to reach the end of the level. The Breda fans were lively and armed with inflatable bananas. I didn’t want to simply assume the worst and thought that this might be because they play in yellow. Before the game, Feyenoord were 4th in the league and Breda were 15th so the Breda boys were clearly there to enjoy the day more than in expectation of a victory. Hearing that former Ajax and Anderlecht midfielder Demy de Zeeuw now was playing for Breda, I fancied them even less. As kick off approached the stadium filled up, although it was not quite sold out. As the teams emerged from the trap-door tunnel, I expected an eruption of noise. Instead, a spattering of polite applause like one might hear resonating round Wimbledon when someone serves an ace against the Brit, was heard. Some kind of anthem interrupted the techno music (what is it with techno in Europe?) and the fans dutifully sang along in the way that a hungover family who attend church out of habit sing hymns. It was all just a little flat.
I suppose, in a way, it reminded me of the Celtic or Rangers fans when St. Mirren or Dunfermline came to town. The Feyenoord faithful were clearly not expecting much of a fight and weren’t sufficiently energized as a consequence. It became apparent within the first couple of minutes that there was only going to be one winner. If Manu, the Feyenoord striker, had been a little less wasteful, it could’ve been a cricket score. When Lex Immers finally opened the scoring, the celebrations were a little delayed as the referee and assistant discussed if the ball had crossed the line. An affirmative refereeing decision (it did look in, even if the ref was a bit of a homer) was rewarded with some green smoke that looked a little like what the Trevi fountain was spewing a few days earlier after Feyenoord visited the Italian capital.
Maybe an early Breda goal would have livened things up a little. After that, it just seemed like an inexorable procession towards victory. To be fair to Feyenoord, they knocked the ball around very nicely, everything going through Jordy Clasie, and te Vrede scored two good goals, especially the team’s third. 3-0 was a fair reflection on Feyenoord’s superiority and their varied play kept Breda guessing right till the end.
Feyenoord have plans to start building a brand new stadium right next to the current one and, to be honest, it could do with it. The plans look fantastic but I just hope that the stadium doesn’t lose its magic. I had always planned to come to Feyenoord. Its proximity and transport links to Belgium made it very straightforward. Reading the excellent www.supportersnotcustomers.com website only further whetted my appetite.
Sofia and I left two minutes before the end in order to make the 1624 train back into Rotterdam, which we got on before heading back to Brussels. We scampered across but it left a couple of minutes late anyway to scoop up its capacity of passengers. It would be unfair to say that the atmosphere inside de Kuip was disappointing. It’s just that I had expected more. I would encourage people to visit de Kuip and I’m certain that Rotterdam has plenty of interest. However, my advice would be to pick the right game, against a genuine rival. The tickets might be less available but the experience should be augmented by the tension.
Some phone video clips
Overall Ratings: (out of 5)
- Quality of match:***
- Stadium Character: *****
- Stadium atmosphere: ***
- Hospitality: ***
- Ease of access: *****
- Things to do in the area: ****
- Overall: ***1/2
http://www.feyenoord.nl/tickets/in-de-verkoop – Feyenoord ticket sales (in Dutch only – use google translate if needed)
https://www.b-europe.com/Travel – good old Belgian rail
http://supportersnotcustomers.com/ – an excellent blog written by a Cardiff City fan who now follows Feyenoord.