Holland Feyenoord end 18-year wait
There is a phrase for Feyenoord’s league performances over the past 18 years: “De Coolsingel
blijft leeg”. It means “the Coolsingel remains abandoned” and is the title of a book by Hugo Borst which monitored Feyenoord for the 1995-1996 season – a campaign during which they won nothing.
Coolsingel is the street in front of Rotterdam’s city hall where the club celebrates its successes. Providing there are any.
On May 15, the Coolsingel looked anything but abandoned as 140,000 fans gathered to see Dirk Kuyt and coach Giovanni Van Bronckhorst with the much coveted championship plate. After 18 years of drought – although the club did win the 2002 UEFA Cup and the national Cup twice – those supporters have stayed loyal to Holland’s most popular club.
Emotions aside, the signs had been clear that the team were in with a good chance of winning their first title since 1999. Van Bronckhorst had kept his squad together and discovered, in Danish striker Nicolai Jorgensen, the missing piece of the puzzle.
Feyenoord were top for the entire season, although Van Bronckhorst had to deal with issues that threatened his authority. He kept the veteran Kuyt out of the starting line-up on a regular basis, much to the player’s displeasure. He also stuck with former Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones despite Kenneth Vermeer being fit again in the later stages of the campaign. But unlike in his debut year, when he had to accept Dick Advocaat as advisor after seven consecutive defeats, the ex Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder demonstrated considerable leadership.
With two matches to go, his side looked home and dry. All they needed was a win at struggling Excelsior, who were once Feyenoord’s satellite club.
But then the unthinkable happened. Excelsior, needing a point to avoid the relegation play-offs, were not ready to co-operate and a lacklustre Feyenoord lost 3-0. Suddenly their lead was down to just one point.
Needless to say, a week of crisis, tears and rising pressure dominated the lives of players, staff and supporters. Many thought that Van Bronckhorst should have started with Kuyt against Excelsior, and with Tonny Vilhena suspended for the final game of the season, against Heracles, the coach grabbed the opportunity to make amends.
Kuyt took the ultimate revenge. He scored within a minute of the kick-off before completing a hat-trick to put all doubts to an end. The 36-year-old was desperate to win the title since it was his first in his homeland – and it would also be his last as he announced his retirement the next day, taking up a future managerial job at the club.
So what’s next for Feyenoord? Well, that depends on the transfer window. Vilhena will stay, but Eljero Elia has announced his departure and Steven Berghuis has returned to Watford.
However, even if there is a big exodus, that is no excuse to keep the fans waiting another 18 years to have the next party at the Coolsingel.
Hat-trick hero...Dirk Kuyt (second right)