Ajax v Feyenoord: Low expectations for Feyenoord in the first Klassieker
When I was in primary school, I had discussions with classmates about who was better, Ajax or Feyenoord. Of course I claimed the latter was the best of them, the others defending the team from Amsterdam. And when I started playing football myself, I always wanted to be Pierre van Hooijdonk (Feyenoord’s striker at the time) or Paul Bosvelt (Feyenoord’s captain), and my teammates Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Ajax’s striker). The rivalry between both teams is deeply anchored in the lives of thousands of Netherlanders.
The most important game of the season
This Sunday, both teams will meet each other for the first time this season. In Ajax’s stadium the Arena, the lifetime rivals will play the most important game of their season. De Klassieker is always an important game, no matter how both teams are situated in the Eredivisie, no matter how much importance the match has on the league table. Feyenoord hates Ajax and Ajax hates Feyenoord. No matter what happens.
As a Feyenoord supporter, Ajax away is always a hard time. We’ve lost most games against them in the last years. The last win dates back to eight years ago. I still remember quite well, where most Ajax fans won’t problably remember most wins of them against us – which says it all about how well we’ve done there. It was a sunny day in August and the beach of Gravenzande was crowded. Everywhere you could hear little radios with live updates from the stadium. When Feyenoord scored, the whole beach started cheering. There was a full sing-a-long of Feyenoord’s song Hand in Hand by hundreds of barely dressed men and women.
Important month for coach Koeman
This year, things will be different. Feyenoord lost their first two Eredivisie games, against PEC Zwolle and FC Twente, and criticism is growing towards manager Ronald Koeman, from players, the board, investors and supporters. After two succesful seasons, Feyenoord’s development seems to have stagnated. Koeman might have the most important month in this career as Feyenoord manager in sight, with games against Ajax, Kuban Krasnodar, NAC Breda and Roda JC. If Feyenoord won’t impress in these games, patience might run out and the pressure on Koeman to perform will grow even further.
For Feyenoord, away games at Ajax are always hard. This year it might be even harder, with right back Daryl Janmaat being injured and his replacement Jordy van Deelen suspended for one game. Sven van Beek, who made his professional debut in the cupmatch against PSV last season, will problably be in the starting eleven. Captain Stefan de Vrij is suspended as well, which will leave Feyenoord’s fragile defense even more fragile. And with away fans banned from visiting the match, the team will have to do without the support from the fanatic Het Legioen. Of course, many Feyenoord fans will find their way to the stadium (‘you can’t ban a Feyenoord fan’), risking a long ban from Feyenoord games and a huge fine, but without an organized away section publicly supporting Feyenoord during the match will be close to suicide.
Where will we stand after Sunday? Most Feyenoord fans and media are pessimistic about the game, expecting nothing from the team. On the other side, pressure to finally win a game is big. Winning in the Arena would give the team a huge mental victory. But the most important thing for Feyenoord will be whether they will show the same amount of willpower and strength as they did in Koeman’s first two seasons at Feyenoord. So far this season, Feyenoord has not shown any of all the beauty and strength they did earlier. Where did it go? If Feyenoord will succeed in finding back their spirit Sunday, it might as well be the start of something great.
Mark Lievisse Adriaanse is a fanatic Feyenoord-supporter and freelance journalist, writing about both politics and football. You can find him on the twitter too: @Markla94.