Rob from the Rovers team reincarnates in Deventer, where Go Ahead makes short work of Vitesse

Mats Deijl from Go Ahead is pushed aside by Vitesse player Ramon Hendriks.Image Pro Shots / Erik Pasman

Anyone who wants to make a film about an ultimate old Dutch football evening can richly draw on the images of Go Ahead Eagles-Vitesse from last Saturday evening. The people of Deventer are lured by four black-painted light poles that cast their light on the asymmetrical stadium Adelaarshorst and the surrounding old, charming houses.

Around the stadium are murals of club and cult heroes, a black, cast-iron fence with the club name in gold letters and authentic cash register booths. In an adjacent supporters’ home there is a Persian carpet on the table with well-thumbed comic books of the also red-yellow football hero Rob of the Rovers and an old-fashioned rotary telephone.

On the roof of the main stand, made of red bricks, is a so-called gable, a triangle with the club name. All four stands are different in appearance, age and height. The approach from Vetkampstraat, full of workers’ houses with stone eagles and red-yellow flags on the facades, is especially beautiful.

Over by author
Bart Vlietstra has been writing about football since 2015 de Volkskrant. He also worked for various sports programs on television.

For the record: not all of it is authentic, most of it has been renovated or added in recent years. Before that, Go Ahead also had plans for new construction elsewhere. The romance, more old English than old Dutch in fact, even bothers some supporters such as columnist and TV maker Özcan Akyol. But in the Dutch football landscape, where many other professional clubs have actually switched to rather soulless, uniform boxes on industrial estates, it is undeniably something special.

Vitesse slips away

Vitesse is the ultimate opponent. It resides 40 kilometers away in a slightly larger city and thought it could storm the national top with a grand multifunctional ‘football theater’, foreign owners, international collaborations and the necessary risk. But Vitesse is slipping further and further away in terms of goodwill, future prospects and position in the rankings.

Yet Vitesse has not lost in the Adelaarshorst for over forty years. With the snow-white away kit and the acclaimed former player Phillip Cocu on the sidelines, Vitesse still looks much more sophisticated than Go Ahead, where the relatively unknown Drent René Hake, previously fired at Twente and Utrecht, stands in front of the dug-out.

The rain gives the evening extra cachet, not only because it swirls so beautifully through the beams of light, but also because a corner of the field is completely muddy. That corner is right in front of the most fanatical stands. The laughter is devilishly loud when, in the 10th minute, Vitesse player Million Manhoef kicks half into the mud, causing his corner kick to end up behind the goal.

In this squat stand, English and Dutch songs are constantly sung and large red-yellow flags are waved. Not only by overgrown teenage boys in black clothes, but also by elderly people in faded red-yellow shirts, by women and children. Comfort is lacking. Every now and then people walk outside to urinate, get beer, smoke and then quickly return to their place.

Rob from the Rovers team

Because the economical Go Ahead is performing sensationally at home this season. Just like in the past, a real Rob van de Rovers team has been set up, with an Icelander taking on the role of protagonist Rob Ridder. Willum Willumsson is tall, handsome, intelligent, handy with the ball, which he can also give a good beating. The Viking from Vetkampstraat scores the 1-0 from a difficult angle. Afterwards he extensively thanked principal Bas Kuipers, but also the ball boy who had quickly thrown the ball to Kuipers.

The goal comes just before half time. Afterwards, Vitesse gets into the game better, but Go Ahead remains the most dangerous. That happens more often. Go Ahead even has the lowest percentage of ball possession in the entire Premier League, but also enters the opponent’s sixteen meter area most often.

As old-fashioned as the housing may appear, coach Hake and captain Kuipers also have a modern view. Because of his actions, half the team sticks a plaster on their mouth before going to sleep to promote a good night’s sleep.

Edvardsen & Edvardsen

Opportunities are also being looked for on the field. The 2-0 and 3-0 are striking examples of when chasing Vitesse goalkeeper Eloy Room pays off. Attackers Oliver Edvardsen and Victor Edvardsen score. They are not related, not even compatriots, but they are both Scandinavians, just like the agile right winger Jakob Breum. With the help of data and the naked eye, they were tracked down by scouting and technical manager and former Go Ahead player Paul Bosvelt. Images of the Adelaarshorst helped to convince them. In Scandinavia, English football stadiums are constantly on TV.

Behind that northern attack quartet is a close-knit Dutch-speaking bloc. The distances between them and the moments to apply pressure or break out are almost always correct. Once this happens with a series of endless one-two punches, which also seems to be copied directly from a boys’ book.

It will preferably be 5-1. In the attractively lit stadium lounges, on the dilapidated forecourt and in the city center of De Brink, people talk for a long time about that ‘top’ Go Ahead, which scored no fewer than 16 out of 18 points at home and is still fifth. “The result of policy,” director Jan Willem van Dop says proudly over the telephone a day later. ‘Not a euro is spent too much and we remain approachable to everyone. Maybe that’s unusual these days, but it’s actually very Dutch.’

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