Red's Feyenoord Rewind
Matt Pollard looks back on attending the Feyenoord Rotterdam-Willem II match and seeing Cole Bassett off the bench for two seconds.
It’s been a week since I got back from my trip to the Netherlands and Belgium. On April 2, I attended the Feyenoord Rotterdam-Willem II match at De Kuip. Feyenoord won 2-0 with goals in the 67th and 90th+2 minutes after a first half full of chances but no finishing. (Sound familiar Rapids fans?)
Red's Feyenoord Rewind: De Kuip atmosphere, a beer shower, and Cole Bassett
Let’s start with getting to the stadium. I could feel the energy exiting Rotterdam Centraal to catch the light rail #23 to the Rotterdam Stadion Feyenoord stop. I immediately noticed supporters wearing gear. My dad and I didn’t need to ask or look around for which platform our train was on. We followed the red, white, noise, and trickles of spilled beer. (Ok it wasn’t that bad, but there was a group of guys enjoying some cans on the way there).
Every stop we made, the tram got more and more crowded. By the fifth stop, we were packed in like sardines. The train started skipping stops once we were at full capacity. It was a festive atmosphere inside, the likes of which I’ve only had better going to a game in London or at Wrigley Field.
De Kuip: What a stadium, what a fanbase
De Kuip is an old school football ground: The exterior is nothing fancy. You have to enter a certain gate depending on what section your ticket is in. The concourse is sectioned off so one cannot walk a lap around the entire stadium.
The atmosphere though was the best I’ve witnessed at a club match in my life. The lowest sections are similar to the bleachers that used to be at the north side of DSG, right up against the backside of the advertising boards. Stadion Feijenoord has three tiers with a simple roof on top for a total capacity of 51,117, making it the second largest stadium in the country.
Still, it didn’t feel cavernous. The 47,500 in attendance made sure of that. So did the dueling supporters, with the loudest of Het Legioen to my right behind the south goal, which Feyenoord attacked to in the second half and two loud sections of Willem fans in the highest tier to my left. Both chanted for most of the game, sometimes at each other, in Dutch and English.
It was a loud, engaged, and intelligent crowd. Their reactions showed they know the game and their team’s tendencies. This team matters so much to the city. It was a must win game the crowd brought the 12th man in ways I’ve only seen in MLS in Cascadia.
Pregame the speakers played Sweet Caroline and Maria (I Like It Loud) by Scooter, which you know as the Doop song for Philadelphia Union. Feyenoord fans have their own lyrics specific to the club in Dutch to Sweet Caroline.
I got my press credential (which looked like a fancy ticket) at a portacabin outside the fan shop then entered the gate and went up one level to the press box.
The press seating in European Football is usually better than in America. Rather than being high up and sometimes in the corner, we’re often front and center. Imagine the press sitting in the upper third of 130 at DSG. That’s where I was at.
I was just under the roof, in front of some outdoor suite seating. The press section looks like it was once spectator seating and was retrofitted for media coverage of the modern game. And I loved it. They even installed clear plastic cover that went over the desk to keep your electronics and game notes dry. Brilliant idea for an area that gets 35 inches of rain a year.
The match: Feyenoord handles business, eventually
I got settled in my seat and began to watch warmups. Cole Bassett was warming up with the other substitutes. The home side looked locked in, with relegation fodder Willem in town. They’d dropped points in the last two games and needed a win to retain third place and secure playing in Europe next year.
De Stadionclub started brightly. Dessers had a breakaway off the kickoff that was sent over the bar. Nelson missed the far post on a shot nine minutes in. Sinisterra had a great header just before halftime on a corner but it was saved. It could have easily been 2-0 at the break.
The Willem net was peppered with 30 shots in total, most of them going wide or right at the goalkeeper. The dam finally broke on 67 minutes. Sinisterra got the ball at the top of the box, made a great solo run, then beat Wellenreuther at the near post.
The visitors had to come out of their shell after that but struggled to threaten the Feyenoord goal. They were most dangerous in transition, but even then only managed three shot attempts, none of which were on goal.
In the second minute of stoppage time, Feyenoord cleared their lines. Bryan Linssen pressed forward as the last defender messed up a back pass to the keeper. Linssen collected the ball, took a touch to round the keeper, and passed the ball into the net to make it 2-0.
The crowd erupted as the speakers blasted the club’s goal song. One person from the tier above me decided to throw his beer in the air such that much of it landed on me. Feyenoord fans seem to like doing this. The desk shield I mentioned earlier saved my electronics. I wasn’t even mad.
With the win secured, Bassett subbed on for the final minute of stoppage time for Guus Til.
Press Conference: Little Similarities and Cole Bassett
Manager Arne Slot kept the media waiting for 30 minutes after the fulltime whistle. There were about 10-12 people in the press conference room that had a socially distanced seating capacity for 20. Given the size of the country, a lot of coverage is national. There were more significant games earlier in the day in the Eredivisie, so the Dutch variant of Tom Boggart was probably at the Twente-PSV match (fourth vs. second).
For those who care, the food was good. There were croquette and cheese sandwiches. There was also this container of finger foods with various dipping sauces. At least one had meat. One appeared to be just bread. Another was cheese based. I have no idea what to call any of them, but each was delicious as were their sauces.
I was charmed and humored by the many similarities I noticed between Feyenoord and Colorado Rapids. Both teams have finite resources. They are working with what they have when it comes to their stadium in an ever modernizing game. At the end of the night, the head coach took his time, spoke to the handful of regular members of the press, and gave thoughtful answers. Most importantly, the home team got a win and the supporters had a good night.
Here’s my exchange with Slot:
“Ah, de Amerikaan.”
“Hello coach. I know Cole Bassett only played a few minutes tonight. What have you seen so far from him at the club? What more does he need to do to get more playing time? Thank you.”
“I’m not sure he has to do so much more. He has strong competition at his position with Guus Til who is an international for Holland and Jens Toornstra. What we see from him now is what we saw from him in America as well. He has a very good character, a lot of fighting spirit, a lot of running, a lot of times that comes inside [the box] similar to Toornstra and Til. What he has to improve in my opinion is his ability to play in small spaces. His technique is quit ok when he has time but when there's not so much time and the spaces are quit small, he should improve in that in my opinion.”
I wrote a whole breakdown of where Bassett stands in the squad for Last Word and why it’s encouraging. You can find that article here.
Arne, if you’re reading this, thank you for playing Cole on behalf of this football writer and his narrative.