Looking at some classic games as played in De Kuip, as requested, and giving you five reasons why Oranje needs De Kuip as their home base.
The Dutch NT hasn’t played more matches in any other venue… They played 118 games in De Kuip in total. The first one, against Belgium (of course) in 1937, which Holland won: 1-0. That game was the second ever played in the Stadium Feyenoord (as it is officially called). The last international played in De Kuip was in 2016 vs Belarus, a 4-1 win. There was a two year gap between that WC qualifier and the friendly vs Ghana in 2014. De Kuip was frequented most often in big finals games as well, such as during the Euro2000 tournament. Three group games, a quarter finals and the finals itself. The Trezeguet golden goal won France the title in 2000, in Rotterdam.
During Oranje’s recent failed EC qualification campaign, there were strong rumours that the players were not happy and at home in the Amsterdam Arena. The players asked the KNVB for more games in De Kuip. Why? The atmosphere in Rotterdam is much better. The stadium oozes nostalgia and a typically “English” football vibe, as opposed to the more business-class character of the Arena. The acoustics in De Kuip are amazing, which means that 55,000 fans sound like 110,000 fans. When host Feyenoord plays at home, the vibe is amazing but also during the cup finals without Feyenoord, De Kuip is the swinging centre of the Dutch football universe. This will affect the players and will result in better performances and results.
3. The Pitch
One of the biggest advantages of De Kuip is the pitch. It’s pitch perfect. Erwin Beltman is the unsung hero in Rotterdam, groundsmaster of Feyenoord. Year after year he wins the prize for best football pitch in The Netherlands, voted by the captains of the Eredivisie clubs. In Amsterdam, you’ll find yellow spots, brown spots, even black spots on the pitch. Never in Rotterdam.
Former Feyenoord star Van Hooijdonk in 2015: “Never ever again in De Arena!”. He said: “It’s about time that the KNVB gives football the priority over commerce, if we’re talking about Oranje home games! You need to create the best circumstances for the players, the coaches. They are the artists. They should be leading in all decision making. And key is: a good ref, a good ball and a good pitch! The pitch in Rotterdam is 100 times better than in Amsterdam. And yes, I get the business reasons…the sponsors, the VIP dinners… If you’d rate the pitch in Amsterdam a 7 and the pitch in Rotterdam an 8, yes… I get the decision, but it’s not like that. De Arena pitch is a 4 and the pitch in De Kuip is a 9. This decision making is a disgrace.”
Oranje performs worse in De Arena, compared to De Kuip. Significantly. Since 1990, the Dutch team played 40 times in Rotterdam and only lost two games. They lost against Germany in 1990 in a friendly (0-1) and in 2000 against Portugal at home for the WC qualifications (0-2). The national team lost more in recent years in Amsterdam than in 25 years De Kuip. Is it the vibe, the pitch, the actual location? Who knows. But if we want to achieve something with Oranje, we need start using De Kuip as the home base. In 2000, Yugoslavia was played off the pitch, under Rijkaard’s management. 6-1 at the Euros 2000. Where? In Rotterdam.
5. New beginning
And the final reason, not the least important…we need to make a change, a new beginning. The switch back to Rotterdam as home base would be the first and simplest change we can make. A new home will inspire. The Dutch national team needs to play good football, fresh and attractive football and deserves to this in a good, fresh and attractive venue.
Since the 1980s, De Kuip is the traditional home of the Dutch cup final and apart from the Euro 2000 finals, there were 10 Uefa Cup finals in Rotterdam, with the likes of Spurs, AC Milan, Ajax, Feyenoord, Man United and Barcelona winning their silverware in Rotterdam.
So classic games played in De Kuip… Now that’s tough one. Apart from seeing acts like U2, David Bowie, Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Stones, Michael Jackson in De Kuip, I’ve seen many a Feyenoord and Oranje match.
One can’t escape the Feyenoord-Ajax classics of course. I vividly remember most of them but was only 2 years old when Feyenoord trashed Ajax 9-4 in 1964. This was Johan Cruyff’s first ever classic.
In 1972, Ajax took revenge. Cruyff was a mature football star and with buddy Piet Keizer, Ajax was too strong for Feyenoord. Both clubs reigned supreme in Europe, with Feyenoord winning the Europa Cup in 1970 and Ajax doing it the season after. This particular game confirmed that Ajax was by far the best team in the world, winning 1-5 in Rotterdam.
The 1988 classic was memorable for two reasons: the local police force was campaigning for better conditions and did so by having a gorgeous female police officer doing a striptease on the pitch before the match. In front of 55,000 football fans, the young lady undressed, probably inspiring a 19 year old Dennis Bergkamp, who’d play a sensational game leading Ajax to victory 1-2.
The 2005 classic again resulted in a dramatic loss for Feyenoord, losing 2-3 in the dying seconds, but it was a gem of a match. And a game which saw a number of future European football stars on the pitch, such as Dirk Kuyt, Salomon Kalou, Maxwell, Wesley Sneijder and Steven Pienaar. Maduro made the winning goal at the death (with Danny Blind winning as coach, over Feyenoord colleague Ruud Gullit).
In 2012, Feyenoord won spectacularly vs Ajax (4-2) with a hattrick for Man City loanie John Guidetti who’d go on to become a Feyenoord legend, in just one season. This lucky shot was followed up by another one: Graziano Pelle was brought back to Rotterdam and he went on to reach the top in England and the Italian national team.
The 1974 Tottenham Hotspur game was my first home game in the stadium. As a 12 year old, I was invited to come by our neighbours and although I vividly remember the match, I think I had my eye on the tremendous violent acts of the Spurs hooligans on the stands above me. Scary stuff, but in the memory forever.
Even further down memory lane, a game I only remember from the TV… But a classic indeed. Feyenoord vs Real Madrid. The great Real Madrid, but also the great Feyenoord… With Willem van Hanegem, Rinus Israel and Coen Moulijn. The most memorable moment of that game, was the team spirit Feyenoord demonstrated when their iconic left winger was attacked by a Madrid butcher. All Feyenoord players decided “enough is enough!” and went after the culprit. Watch it here:
And the Moulijn sequence is here:
We can safely say that ugly scenes on the pitch are not new… The Dutch commentator says: “Oh lads lads… don’t do this, now… please…this is not nice. Not nice at all!”
We mentioned the classic Oranje game at home at the Euros already. The 6-1 win. There were many great home games for Oranje, but sadly I was witness in De Kuip when Oranje failed to beat Belgium and wasn’t able to go to the 1986 Mexico World Cup. Oranje lost 1-0 in Belgium and needed a 2-0 victory. Houtman scored the first one and when Robbie de Wit scored the 2-0, everyone – including me – felt the job was done. I was right on the spot in the stadium in line with the Belgium attack, five minutes before the end, when a cross reached Georges Grun. The defender wasn’t marked and headed home the goal that took Belgium to their impressive World Cup performance.
I remember two things vividly, apart from the tragic away goal Belgium scored: it was terribly cold and we parked so far away, that my dad ruined his knee in the walk up to the stadium, something that would bother him till his death…
The biggest win Oranje had, at home in Rotterdam, was a 9-0 beating of Norway in 1972. A qualification game for the World Cup 1974. I have no video for that game though. Holland started scoring late in the game. It took 31 minutes for Neeskens to find the net and the score at half time was only 1-0. In the last 25 minutes it rained goals, with Cruyff, Keizer and Brokamp joining Neeskens on the score sheet.
The biggest loss we suffered at home in a formal match was versus the former Magical Magyars in 1961, for the 1962 World Cup qualification: losing 0-3.
One of the craziest games we played in Rotterdam was the 5-5 draw in the friendly with Belgium. Kluivert and Davids on fire, and Frank Rijkaard as NT manager.
Another memorable game – or two games – was the double vs England for the 1994 World Cup. The 2-0 win at home with Koeman and Bergkamp scoring for Holland. The away game at Wembley was memorable for the Jan Wouters elbow on Gascoigne and the Peter van Vossen run, foul and penalty kick.
Feyenoord played some amazing home games in the 2002 season when they won the UEFA Cup at home. The finals vs Borussia Dortmund were exhilarating of course. The Freiburg away match is legendary due to Van Hooydonk’s incredible free kick. I was present when Feyenoord beat Glasgow Rangers in a very tight game (two red cards) at home: 3-2. The next match up was the quarter finals against PSV Eindhoven. That would be an epic tie. 1-1 in Eindhoven and Feyenoord on their way out, 1-2 down when in the final seconds of the game PSV didn’t clear a ball out but gave away the ball to Feyenoord. The cross was converted by Van Hooydonk (who else) and Feyenoord won the penalty shoot out. The semis were vs Inter Milan. Feyenoord won away 0-1 and drew 2-2 in Rotterdam to reach and win the finals.
My earliest memory of a Feyenoord game in De Kuip… I was 7 years old and Feyenoord was on its way to win the Europa Cup. Not that we knew that at the time, of course. TV coverage was limited and lots of people enjoyed listening to games on the radio. AC Milan was the opponent and one of the ruling elite in Football Europe. We’re talking the 1/8 final and Feyenoord lost in Milan, 1-0. We needed a 2-0 win and I don’t think I saw the game live. It might not have been televised even, who knows. But I heard it on the radio, and that radio commentary was published as a record (a 45″ single) and became a huge hit! Feyenoord won at home 2-0. A misplaced cross from Wim Jansen sailed into the net and Willem van Hanegem headed home the 2-0. Famously, in the post-match interview (part of the recording I owned and listened to 1000 times…), Willem responded to the question “And Willem, you scored the 2-0!!” in typical De Kromme style: “Ah yes, well, I was going that way anyway, so….”.
I was able to to perform the 3 minute commentary to the game word for word, copying the commentator’s style and entertained my friends and family regularly in that role… Ah, the good ol’ days….
Here is the grainy footage:
The best game in De Kuip EVER!!
This might shock you, but the best game I ever saw live in De Kuip was actually a testimonial, or a tribute game. A game without any real significance in terms of result. It was Willem van Hanegem’s farewell game. The WC1974 Oranje vs Feyenoord. It was unforgettable, and not just because De Kuip farewelled it’s best player ever, but also because during that game – at the end of the 1982-83 season – Johan Cruyff was introduced to the Feyenoord Legion as the successor as playmaker for next season. Cruyff had walked out of the negotiations with Ajax and his Oranje team mate Van Hanegem was working behind the screens to get the legendary #14 to Rotterdam.
In the game, Van Hanegem scored, a header from a JC corner and he was jokingly red-carded when the time was up for him to accept the standing ovation – and Cruyff did as well! A header. Like he did famously in 1971, winning the Europa Cup in Rotterdam for Ajax. It was a real football celebration, a full Kuip and mixed reception for JC.
Not long after the game, the confirmation came that Johan would join Feyenoord for one season. I went to check him out at the first training session with the team. I’m sure I told you about this before, but I’ll do it again. They started with a rondo (piggy in the middle), with the full team. Approx 5 in the middle and the rest in a circle. The first ball that was passed to Johan was too short. Deliberate? It invited a sliding tackle from defender Stafleu, studs forward, directed at Cruyff’s ankles. The Feyenoord fans cheered for the tackle. The 37 year old simply jumped up, controlled the ball and played it on. The fans cheered even more. Not much later, JC retaliated with a sharp sliding tackle back on Stafleu, who couldn’t avoid the clash and had to limp off to the dressing room. The fans were convinced! Welcome to Feyenoord, Johan Cruyff.