PSV Eindhoven v CSKA Moscow
Tuesday 8th December 2015: UEFA Champions League
Between cursing scrotum-esque Belgian undertaking drivers, I played a little game of ‘What could PSV stand for?’. Based on this experience, it certainly could mean People Should Visit Eindhoven or Proudly Support Vocally Eindhoven. The excitement and atmosphere of this match was fantastic and even with its ‘importance coefficient’ factored in, the fans were terrific and were surely complicit in inspiring their team to victory.
Getting to Eindhoven
Travelling from Eindhoven from Brussels via public transport is surprisingly slow given the geographical proximity of the two cities. The city does have its own airport and train station for those with more patience than me. Under normal road conditions, this drive takes 1 hour and 15 minutes. However, craziness on the Belgian roads varies directly with rainfall meaning that the journey was 2 hours and 35 minutes of cursing, stressing and worrying about missing a game I’d set out in plenty of time for.
This was compounded by the fact that my sat-nav sometimes confuses his ‘turn rights’ from his ‘go straights’. Finally, I pulled into a car-park that may have been car park 4 but, given how poorly lit the area was, I’d never have known. I locked the car and camera, phone, wallet and printout in hand, scampered across the road to find gate 9. The reason the area was so poorly lit is probably due to the whole Dutch electrical supply being channeled into the 3-bar patio heaters dangling from the roof of the stadium.
I won’t be able to include anything about Eindhoven as, due to time constraints and bad weather, I didn’t see much of it. However the stadium is very central and is any easy walk from the city centre. I didn’t have to purchase a ticket for the game but, if you are visiting from outside the Netherlands, you can get tickets via https://www.psv.nl/english-psv/ticketing.htm. Dutch fans needs a Club Card to buy tickets for most home games. To be honest, the whole process seems clunky and time consuming but, at 60€ including 20€ credit in the fan store and 11€ credit for food and drink for a Dutch league match, it’s not exploitative.
Once the dude at gate 9 frisked me for weapons – it didn’t seem like the time for saying how a pen could be figuratively weaponised – I made my way up to the press seats. I was right at the back of Vak CD. I was very grateful to PSV for the invitation to this match. However, I’m sure I’m not the only person to sit in those seats to marvel at the stupidity of the design. The seats are fixed, so don’t fold down. Not a problem if there is space to pass in front of or behind the seats. But, there isn’t. So if a person wants in or out, the whole row has to stand up and let the person walk along the seats. Add to this the little ‘desk’ bench for placing your notepad or laptop on which prevents you from actually standing up fully. If the fans in front stand up, and you try to stand up, you get the back of the chair digging into your calves due to the platform and lack of space. It is frightfully stupid.
The Stadium itself looks like it was made from the spare parts of other stadiums. It isn’t a modern thing of beauty and is fairly asymmetric. However, what it lacks in immediate aesthetics it makes up for in atmosphere and character. It is a clearly a stadium that has evolved into its current condition. That’s not to say it is ugly. I really liked how it looks, but you wouldn’t design a stadium like this from scratch.
There is all the fan merchandise, chips and beer outside the stadium that you would hope for. They also looked like little independent operations as opposed to being club-run vendors, which means they don’t need to succumb to UEFAs corporate prohibition. Fans were flooding between spaces between parked cars immediately next to the stands like winding roads leading to Rome.
Normally I’d get a walk around the stadium, check out the refreshment system and prices, evaluate the toilet situation and watch the stadium fill up all before the players warm up. Not this time. Although, my half-time trip to the toilet revealed a woefully inadequate 5 urinals being accessed from two doors. This drastically needs sorted. The club also operate one of these dreadful token systems, where you have to go and buy tokens and decide you want to buy food and drink before you see what’s on offer. The toilet and refreshment concourse reminded me a little of Anderlecht’s stadium. Narrow, pipes at head height for a tall person, funneling stairways and little space to move. Let’s home those roof heaters never catch fire or nobody is getting out alive.
The pre-match atmosphere was fabulous. Better to show you than describe it, but it left you pumped for the game itself. When the teams emerged, it seemed almost coincedental as opposed to the focal point: the fans were partying regardless. The video won’t do it justice but it certainly blew Feyenoord and Ajax out of the water.
This could easily be described as 74 minutes of the teams feeling each other up, a very soft CSKA penalty conversion followed by gung-ho PSV waking up and getting the goals they needed. There was a lingering inevitability about PSV getting the win, which they just about deserved. My friend Shug declared that PSV were being osmotically fuelled by my hatred of Van Gaal, giving them the extra impetus they needed to get over the line. I don’t hate Van Gaal; I just think he’s an Amiga in world of iPads. That Man United pinched PSV’s top scorer from last season and their team cost ten times what PSV’s did perhaps made the victory all the sweeter though.
I liked PSV’s shape and, importantly, the players looked like they understand it. Luuk de Jong is a bit of a mystery and, at times, looks like the complete centre forward. He didn’t really cut it Borussia or Newcastle but is a clear threat. For me, PSV’s main man is Jeffrey Bruma at the back. Formerly of Chelsea, he’s far more solid and assured than anything they currently have and he bossed the defence tonight.
CSKA played a very high line, perhaps due to de Jong’s lack of real pace, and ‘gegenpressed’ a little but lacked the killer pass. It is easy to be swayed by the howling home support every time a refereeing decision doesn’t go their team’s way but PSV didn’t get many favours. Propper’s winning goal was fit to win any match as he thumped it in from the edge of the box. By that time, my camera had died and the stadium was shaking. I did manage to catch it samples on my phone, but you can fill up the memory of an 8GB iPhone with a Haiku recital.
‘So Happy Together’
All in all, it was a fabulous night. I stayed to watch the celebrations for a couple of minutes after the match but, realising that 35000 were still inside the heated stadium, I made a dash for the car and was back home within 90 minutes.
A PSV home game in the league might be different but it’s a great, non-linear and characterful stadium whose fans make a great racket. The team play some nice stuff as well. Next time, I’ll take the train and see what Eindhoven is all about. What does PSV stand for? Tonight, it stood for Proudly Superior to Van Gaal.
- Quality of match: ****
- Stadium character: *****
- Stadium atmosphere: *****
- Hospitality: ***
- Ease of access: ****
- Things to do around the stadium: ****
- Overall: ****1/2