While everyone around him starts shouting and jumping, photographer and Feyenoord supporter Willem de Kam quickly grabs his small Fuji X100 camera, quickly scans his surroundings and presses the button on top a few times. Only then does he fly around the necks of his friends, while trying to keep his balance. The Fuji, which hangs on a cord around his neck, waves happily.
It is Sunday afternoon, November 12, and Feyenoord has just scored against AZ, it is the last home game before next Tuesday’s cracker against Atlético Madrid. As at every Feyenoord home match, De Kam is on the yellow side that literally vibrates with joy.
Here, in the stands behind the goal on the north side of the stadium, you do not have the best view of the field, but three of his greatest loves come together, all starting with an ‘f’: Feyenoord, fanaticism and photography.
On the yellow side, also called the Gerard Meijer stand or North side, the experience is the most intense, the shouting and swearing are the loudest. An immense banner is regularly unfurled here for important matches and the sky is red and smoky due to the fireworks. The yellow side also acts as a conductor for the rest of the stadium, where people enjoy singing a lot.
Over by author
Bart Vlietstra has been writing about football since 2015 de Volkskrant. He also worked for various sports programs on television.
It is the place where it is said that the club management has no control over it, that it is a sanctuary, that you can go as far as you want, that it is even very dangerous. “That is an exaggeration, as quite a lot of what is written about the people standing here is incorrect,” says De Kam.
De Kam is a professional photographer whose clients include banks, theaters, sports brands, music labels, newspapers and magazines. With his round frames, knitted sweater, friendly voice and glance, he is not exactly the prototype hooligan. His previous free work was of a completely different caliber, when he photographed special front gardens.
When he is at Feyenoord, he completely ignores what is happening on the field and concentrates mainly on the people around him. ‘Just because almost everyone is here, you get a different dynamic.’
Everything is reacted more intensely on the yellow side. Not only on goals, fouls or the friendly request to stop offensive chants, but also on the death of a former player or a seriously ill supporter. Impressive tributes then appear and sound on the yellow side.
The machismo around him fascinates De Kam. ‘But there are plenty of reasonably decent guys like me here too. There is all kinds of stuff, all kinds of colors, all kinds of ages, from all kinds of backgrounds. Not just sniffed, black-clad fringe retards, as is often written. I love photographing a young guy where you can see the veins throbbing in his temples because he’s screaming so loudly. But a rain-soaked grandmother with a Feyenoord poncho or an intensely happy girl can also be beautiful.’
He places his photos of Feyenoord supporters on social media or in magazines. After the Conference League final lost by Feyenoord in 2022, he released the large photo book We have it out, after the national title in 2023, it will be just as strong Got you.
Not everyone wants to be photographed here. De Kam has sometimes been called to account by the old guard after he posted a photo of a fanatical supporter playing a game on his phone during a match online. ‘It was made very clear to me that I was not allowed to take the piss out of them. That made me nervous for a bit. But I also get it. They want to move freely. At the same time, I prefer to capture things that I find strange. I think it’s an interesting image of a hardcore fan playing a game on his phone or reading a book.’
It also became exciting when he once photographed supporters setting off fireworks. He was directed to another profession by the neck. But in recent years there has been no friction. ‘I know quite a few people now, they know that I am also a supporter and have no bad intentions.’
What he also experienced: his photo of an older, now deceased supporter that was worn on shirts by his family during his funeral. ‘And I also saw a flag and a banner with the photo on it. For many people here, Feyenoord is literally their life.’
‘Let’s go fucking mental‘, is heard on the yellow side a few minutes after the goal against AZ, while the rest of the stadium has long since fallen silent again. Arms rise rhythmically into the air.
Things will get even wilder on Tuesday against Atlético. Then Feyenoord must not lose to keep an eye on the next phase in the Champions League. De Kam knows: then all brakes are released.
The post first appeared on www.volkskrant.nl