Monday, December 24, 2012

NEC Nimjegen 0 at ADO Den Haag 2 - December 22, 2012


The Dutch Eredivisie is the poor man among Europe's elite soccer leagues despite the Netherlands making it all the way to the World Cup final back in 2010. Most soccer fans recognize the team names from the English Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, and the Bundesliga, but few would be able to name more than Ajax, Feyernoord, and PSV when discussing the Eredivisie. I'm no better myself, so when Amsterdam was decided as one of the destinations for my year-end trip, I had to check out the list of cities with teams in the Eredivisie to see if I could catch a game while I was there.

I arrived in Amsterdam on December 21st which began the final weekend of the first half of the season. With 18 teams in the league, there were 9 teams at home over the three days of action. Ajax Amsterdam was out of town, so I was forced to choose from Alkmaar (Friday night), Den Haag (Saturday night), and Utrecht (Sunday afternoon), all about 45 minutes from the Dutch capital. I decided in the end to visit Den Haag (The Hague) as there was an interesting exhibition at one of the museums and the game was at night, which allowed for a full day of sightseeing. So after the morning in Amsterdam, I boarded the Sprinter train to Den Haag and enjoyed the afternoon at the Gemeentemuseum before heading over to Kyocera Stadion, home of ADO Den Haag.

Kyocera Stadion



Like most European soccer venues, Kyocera Stadion is located outside of the city centre. Both the metro and the Randstadrail get you there, with Forepark being the closest station, about a 10-minute walk. It was raining heavily the day I went, so I did not do my usual tour outside the ground, instead choosing to get a ticket and hurry inside. While I was looking for the correct gate to enter, I did notice a statue of Aad Mansveld, a Den Haag legend who passed away at 47 back in 1991.



The ticket window was clearly marked and I asked for a seat in the Haaglanden Tribune. At 31.50 Euro, this was not a cheap ticket but I just wanted to get inside and out of the rain. It took me a couple of minutes to reach what I thought was the right entrance. I was let in through the Happy Crowd Control security gate and quickly realized that I was nowhere near my ticketed section. Thanks to my incredible comprehension of Dutch (i.e. showing my ticket to ushers with a blank look on my face), I was guided to the right area, even having thick plastic doors that usually separate the visiting fans from the locals opened for me and me alone. I told them I was English though, so no embarrassment for the home nation.



When I reached section K, I was happy to see that it was general admission and there were still plenty of empty seats, no doubt due to the weather and the time of year. The stadium holds 15,000 but only 11,000 hardy Den Haag supporters showed up on this night.



The symbol of the team is a stork, and there is a mascot (below) who walks around before the game. No babies in the beak though.



There were a few concession windows but I had just eaten a nice dinner at a local establishment and was not willing to try a hot dog. Beer was plentiful though, but even then the biggest cup was just 350 ml for 3.5 Euro, not enough to quench one's thirst.



There isn't much else to discuss here. I was in section K, separated from the real fans by a plastic wall. There really wasn't any troublemaking though, the visiting fans were at the other end of the stadium and frankly, the fans didn't see any reason to start a fight just a few days before Christmas.



Perhaps the highlight of the evening was halftime when the cheerleaders ran out onto the field wearing white Christmas outfits. They proceeded to dance to Christmas carols as they moved around the stadium. Most fans missed the display as they were getting beer, but as an intrepid sports road tripper, I stayed in my seat to take pictures and enjoy the show. Statuesque Dutch women wearing white in a freezing rainstorm - isn't that what sports is all about?



Overall, Kyocera Stadion is what you would expect from a mid-range team in the Netherlands. A functional venue that offers little beyond the basics. European soccer suffers from hooliganism, even in lesser known places, so often stadiums are designed to minimize trouble rather than maximize fan enjoyment. I'd say Kyocera Stadion is one of these places, worth a visit if you are in the area but go there with no expectations lest you be disappointed.

The Game



It was raining from well before game time so the pitch was waterlogged by kick off. That didn't stop the home team from attacking early and they put one in the net just 5 minutes in when Rydell Poepon appeared to head one in off a corner kick. However, the ref said the ball went in off his hand (above) and the match remained scoreless. N.E.C. took a yellow card on the 18th minute and just four minutes later were handed a straight red when Kevin Conboy went in to a tackle with spikes up. Down to 10 men, the visitors went to a defensive posture but were quickly beaten when Jens Toornstra took a perfect through pass from Vito Wormgoor and slotted home in the 33rd minute for the only goal of the first half.



The second stanza began with N.E.C. attacking and winning some free kicks (above) but keeper Gino Coutinho (below) was equal to any challenge.



With just 5 minutes left, ADO brought forth another attack. Charlton Vicento was fouled but the referee played advantage and the ball fell to Aaron Meijers who croosed to Toornstra who made no mistake in finding the open net. That was all she wrote as ADO Den Haag won 2-0 in a reasonably interesting affair. Highlights are here.



Notes

With the loss, N.E.C. became Satan's team with a 6-6-6 record. ADO Den Haag is just a point behind with a much less symbolic 5-8-5 mark. Both teams are currently in the Europa League playoffs but with 16 games left, anything can happen.



Toornstra is rumoured to be heading to Swansea in the EPL in the upcoming transfer window. Will be interesting to see how he does there should he make the move.

Next Up

I'm off to Barcelona for the next few days and the EuroLeague basketball tournament begins their Top 16 while I am there. Still trying to secure a ticket as their online system is rather useless for out-of-Europe credit cards. Check back in a few days to see if I made it.

Until then, Happy Holidays everyone!

Sean

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