x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Feyenoord: a meltdown times 10

The storied Dutch club is at risk of relegation and great things were not expected from the Rotterdam side this season, but this?

Mario Been, the Feyenoord coach, after losing 10-0.
Mario Been, the Feyenoord coach, after losing 10-0.

Feyenoord fans know that their current team is not top quality.

Alongside Ajax Amsterdam, the 1970 European champions are the biggest, if not quite the most successful, side in Dutch football. Their fans are famous for the noise they create in their De Kuip (The Bowl) home and even rival Ajax fans would have a grudging respect for their support.

The 40,000 match-going Feyenoord fans did not expect to win the Eredivisie this season. Poor off-field management has seen debts rack up and expensive players moved in favour of cheaper youth players. Feyenoord's decline was exacerbated by the emergence of well-managed regional sides such as Twente, the reigning champions, and AZ Alkmaar.

Feyenoord fans were also used to losing their best to clubs in richer leagues. Salomon Kalou, Royston Drenthe, Michel Bastos, Robin van Persie, Henrik Larsson, Johan Elmander and Dirk Kuyt were all at the club and supporters could only watch with pride and envy as they excelled elsewhere - sometimes after failing to impress in Rotterdam.

These are not great times for Feyenoord, but nobody could see coming what happened on October 24. Demolished 10-0 by league leaders PSV Eindhoven, the club suffered its worst defeat, one their coach Mario Been called "a black day in the history of Feyenoord".

"A month on, I still can't actually believe it happened," said Erik van den Polder, a Rotterdamer from a family of Feyenoord fans.

"It's simply the most amazing result in the history of the league. Most people who saw the result assumed it was an error or that it must have ended 1-0 or 0-0. It was a freak result. Every shot PSV had went in."

Historically, Rotterdamers are used to adversity. The Luftwaffe destroyed the port in the Second World War and the city has been a building site ever since. It's a hard, predominantly working-class city, the second-largest (population 1.1 million) in Holland after Amsterdam (1.5 million). It boasts the largest port in Europe and only Shanghai's is bigger. But supporters still took the defeat badly.

"The fans were devastated," Van den Polder said. "When the team coach returned home that night, Feyenoord fans were waiting for them and made it clear how they felt about the players."

But although they were angry, supporters remained loyal. They knew they would have to rely on youth players this season, and they are currently 14th in the 18- team league as a result, just two points above the relegation zone and the city's other current top-flight club Excelsior, who are often viewed as a feeder club for Feyenoord.

This is a concern for a club who have never been relegated and have failed to win any of their seven away games so far. They play away tomorrow at fourth-placed FC Groningen. There is still fight in Feyenoord and their fans. Days after the 10-0 humiliation, the fans turned up en masse for a game against 17th place VVV Venlo and roared their nervous young side to a 3-0 victory. The same support has been given to the coach and there are several promising players coming through the youth ranks. There also is talk of wealthy businessmen investing in the club.

For now, the misery is far from over and further defeats are inevitable, though few seriously believe that Feyenoord will go down. Nor are Feyenoord alone in their problems, with Ajax also mired in financial difficulty and six points from the top of the table. And, as long as Ajax are not winning, that makes life a touch more bearable for Feyenoord.

 

sports@thenational.ae

 

Fixtures

Today

Excelsior v VVV 9.45pm

De Graafschap v Roda 10.45pm

Twente v AZ Alkmaar 10.45pm

Vitesse v Heracles 10.45pm

Ajax v PSV 11.45pm

Tomorrow

Den Haag v NAC 5.30pm

Groningen v Feyenoord 5.30pm

Heerenveen v Willem II 5.30pm

Utrecht v NEC 7.30pm

Eredivisie table

Team P W D L GD P

PSV 14 10 3 1 31 33

Twente 14 9 4 1 15 31

Ajax 14 8 3 3 17 27

Groningen 14 8 3 3 7 27

AZ Alkmaar 14 7 4 3 6 25

Roda 14 6 6 1 7 24

Den Haag 14 6 4 4 0 22

Heerenveen 14 5 5 4 2 20

NEC 14 5 4 5 2 19

Utrecht 14 6 1 6 2 19

Breda 14 6 2 6 -2 19

Heracles 14 4 3 7 0 15

Feyenoord 14 3 4 7 -10 13

Vitesse 14 3 4 7 -10 13

De Graafschap 14 3 4 6 -13 13

Excelsior 14 3 2 9 -12 11

VVV 14 3 0 11 -16 9

Willem II 14 0 2 11 -26 2