PSV Eindhoven 10 Feyenoord 0 - a result that just had to have a story behind it. Thomas Archer looks beyond the score to dig a little deeper...
The dust is only just beginning to settle in Rotterdam. Sunday 24th October 2010 is a day that will forever be etched into the history of Dutch top flight football. It was the day that two of the top three ‘best’ supported clubs in the country met in an eagerly awaited contest, an expectant crowd of 33,000 spectators hoping for an exciting game. Both teams boasted a wealth of exciting players - PSV with Balasz Dzudszak, Johnathan Reis, and Ibrahim Afellay, Feyenoord playing Georginio Wijnaldum, Leroy Fer, and Dutch football’s new hope Luc Castaignos. What happened next couldn’t have been predicted by even the most partisan of PSV supporters.
Jonathan Reis made it 1-0 then a Martins-Indi own goal increased PSV’s lead. It was looking difficult for Feyenoord as the half-time whistle sounded, despite having dominated the early exchanges of the game they already had a mountain to climb. Into the second half and Reis scored again for 3-0 before it all became a bit surreal. Toivonen, Lens, Reis again, Dzudszak (2, including a penalty), Engelaar, and Lens with his second completed the rout for an unlikely 10-0 win for PSV, Danny Koevermans even having an eleventh chalked off for offside in injury time. Whilst not coming completely out of the blue, the result sent shockwaves through Dutch and European football and beyond - CNN have apparently been camped outside De Kuip hoping to get some information on the game. Even my girlfriend’s father - a man not particularly enamoured by the beautiful game - greeted me at the dinner table with the words ‘Feyenoord, hey, ha ha’!!
The coverage of the issue has been so widespread that TV crews covered the arrival back at their stadium of the Feyenoord players on Sunday night, cutting away from the regular highlights show. There were reports of camera-crews being warned not to go to the ground to cover the arrival and indeed one television stations team was attacked and suffered minor injuries. However, when the players did eventually arrive having taken a tactical stop at the club’s hotel, there was no fighting or violence, just disappointed supporters jeering and chanting at the disgraced stars. Coach Mario Been, a lifelong Feyenoord fan who was close to tears at the side of the pitch as he watched the PSV onslaught, then invited the fans into the empty stadium for a meeting to allow them to voice their anger.
After all of the hullabaloo, just how much of a surprise was the result? Those who follow my regular blog will have read the article I published last week regarding Feyenoord’s financial state and it’s well documented that the club has serious problems. On the pitch the team have been struggling of late, their best player Jonathon de Guzman left on a free transfer to Real Mallorca at the end of last season as the Rotterdammers couldn’t afford a small salary rise to keep him. The young team, all mostly under the age of 22, are led by 20 year-old attacking midfield behemoth Leroy Fer who limped out of Sunday’s game with the score at 0-0. Fer now joins experienced players such as Jon-Dahl Tomasson, Sekou Cisse, Dani Fernandes and Ron Vlaar on the treatment table, and as a result the likes of Kamohelo Mokotjo, Kelvin Leerdam, and Luc Castaignos have been asked to step up to the mark with an acute and obvious lack of experience. This should be helped over the next few weeks with the appointment of 39 year-old goalkeeper Rob van Dijk - the oldest player in the Eredivisie - as team captain. Leading the line is Ruben Schaken, signed from perennial yo-yo club VVV Venlo over the summer and not having the most impressive scoring record in Dutch football at just over 30 goals in over 250 professional appearances. This type of player with this type of record doesn’t befit a club whose best strikers over the past few years have included Roy Makaay and Michael Mols, and the Het Legioen (Feyenoord’s fans) don’t appear to have warmed to the 28 year-old.
So what of Mario Been? The ex-NEC manager was unveiled as new Feyenoord coach following the disastrous previous spell of Gertjan Verbeek, the now coach of AZ Alkmaar. A former Feyenoord player and self-confessed lifelong fan, this defeat hurt him more than anybody else. It was reported that Been offered his resignation to the players in the changing room after the game on Sunday, however none accepted. Since the game all of the players have come out in support of the beleaguered manager with most of them placing the blame firmly with the team itself. Left-back Tim de Cler admitted ‘…we just capitulated, every player played their own game.’ If this is the case what can a manager do with players who aren’t willing to listen to him - has he already lost their confidence? Why did Feyenoord not throw up the barricades after 55 minutes with the score already at 5-0? On Sunday night there was footage of the move that led to PSV’s seventh goal with 7 Feyenoord players all caught in attack when the ball was lost - surely there was a more valid argument to settle for a 5 or 6-0 defeat that they could regroup from easier.
Leo Beenhakker, the decorated former manager and now Technical Director, has also come out in support of Been saying ‘…there is no other solution at the moment other than to trust the current coaches’. Is this because they can’t afford to pay Been’s compensation, or that they couldn’t then afford to hire a better manager? There have been whispers of Guus Hiddink relinquishing his title as manager of Turkey for one last punt at the big-time with Feyenoord, it remains to be seen whether he would accept the current challenge. Also what of Frank Rijkaard, recently sacked by Galatasaray? For a start the former Dutch international played for Ajax and managed city-rivals Sparta Rotterdam making him a tough sell to the fans, on top of that after his time at Barcelona he’s also likely to interest a more internationally renowned club.
These problems bring to light another question, can Feyenoord still be seen as a major brand in Dutch football? Whereas Ajax and PSV have a huge international profile, shirts and merchandise sold across the globe, it’s far rarer to see Feyenoord replicas in your average sports shop in the UK. Whereas many people relate PSV to Eindhoven and Ajax to Amsterdam, would the average person in another country know that Feyenoord are from the port city of Rotterdam? Fans of Feyenoord consider themselves to be in the big three but in truth, Dutch football’s profile has changed to provide a ‘big two’ of Ajax and PSV, with FC Twente and AZ Alkmaar also in the mix for the major honours. The last time Feyenoord finished in the top 3 of the Eredivisie was back in 2004 when Dirk Kuijt was still at the club alongside Salomon Kalou. In reality Feyenoord have not signed a big name player for years, Makaay and Tomasson had previously played abroad and were returning to their roots (in Tomasson’s case club not national) and as such cost Feyenoord far less in wages tham they could have previously commanded. Karim El-Ahmadi was their last big money move and having never won the respect of the fans, looks set to move in January. The club have lost a number of players on the Bosman ruling, de Guzman being the latest having become a talisman for the Rotterdam club after moving from Toronto and becoming a firm favourite.
Following the recent sale of 25% of the club for a knock-down 15 million euros (compared to an original asking price of 40!) they’re hopeful of selling another 24% in the hope of wiping away the club’s debts and raising some capital. The club’s perilous financial position has caused it to now sit at KNVB category 1, the highest alarm category available in regard to finance meaning that the club is currently a ‘ward’ of the KNVB. This basically means that the club can’t buy any players until they raise the money fully to be able to do so and then remain financially secure enough to move up to level 2. With the club desperate for funds, a capitulation to Benelux neighbours KAA Gent in the UEFA Europa League Qualifiers hardly helped matters.
The matter affects all of Dutch football as it needs a big club in Rotterdam, it needs a stable and solvent Feyenoord. Ajax in particular thrive on playing against the Old Enemy in the Klassieker and the passion of the fans makes for an exciting atmosphere at De Kuip when full. The matter is big enough for old-Ajacied Edgar Davids to come out with words of comfort for Feyenoord on his twitter account stating ‘I wouldn’t wish a result like this on my worst enemy. Feyenoord have some good young players and they need time to come to fruition’. Whether or not they get that time before the club is forced to sell the last of the family silver remains to be seen. Their next game is tomorrow night against VVV Venlo, a positive result is a must for everyone involved with Dutch football and the club itself.
Tom can be followed @eredivisielife and writes regularly for IBWM