Glorious past, coaches and supporters… Two clubs and the same trajectory

From our special correspondent in Rotterdam,

A row of small glass chapels revealing the famous tulips of the Netherlands. Small canals that separate the equally famous polders on which cows and sheep graze. And soon the stationsplein of Rotterdam, and its business district erected with glass towers. Fortunately, orange, the color of the country, is in order on this King’s Day to counterbalance the gray of the buildings. But difficult in this atmosphere to spot the supporters of Feyenoord Rotterdam. Tomorrow they will swap orange for red and white, their colors, without neglecting the beer which is already flowing freely, to host Olympique de Marseille.

The people of Rotterdam swapped their red and white color for orange for King’s Day. – Adrien Max / 20 Minutes

The second city of the Netherlands is preparing to welcome Marseille, the second of France, for a place in the final of the Europa League Conference. And that’s not the only point in common between these two port cities, since the people of Rotterdam have a “visceral hatred” for the capital Amsterdam… Well, well. And the comparison between the two cities even goes as far as the trajectories of their club.

A glorious European past

“Voor altijd de eerste”. Feyenoord Rotterdam and Olympique de Marseille share this same motto since they are “forever the first” to have conquered the European holy grail in their respective countries. Rotterdam, with the European Cup of champion clubs in 1970, the ancestor of the Champions League which the Marseillais themselves won in 1993. But the last title on the European scene for the people of Rotterdam dates back to 2002, when the Marseillais won the Intertoto Cup in 2005.

The objective of winning the first edition of this new Europa League Conference motivates these two former European leaders to the fullest, to repeat the motto. “The ‘never the first’ also comes from the fact that as soon as a new competition is created, we win it. They had created a special trophy for the Eredivisie, it was the last time we were champions in 2017. So this new European cup is necessarily for us, ”recalls Erwan, host of the French page of Feyenoord on Twitter, and supporter since 2002. “For the fans, there is only one thing now: to qualify for the Conference League final on May 25 in Tirana. They have already booked a lot of tickets and blocked hotel rooms. They believe in it,” says Mikos Gouka, a journalist who follows Feyenoord for Algemeen Dagblad, the second largest daily in the Netherlands.

Difficulties in the league

A glorious European past, but a much less prestigious present. Olympique de Marseille has been on a diet on the national scene since the takeover of PSG by Qatar in 2011. Their last title of champion of France dates back to 2010, just before the takeover of QSI.

The Feyenoord comes up against the two leaders of the Netherlands, Ajax Amsterdam and PSV Eindhoven. “2017 was the last title, but the last time this prize was won was in 1999, recalls Mikos Gouka. Feyenoord are a big club, but a lot has gone wrong for years. They have little money and when they do they buy bad players. But this season with Slot as coach and Dane Frank Arnesen as technical director, things are going better than expected.

New life

Arne Slot, the coach of Feyenoord and Jorge Sampaoli, that of Olympique de Marseille, share many points in common. Beyond being bald. They are living their first full season at the head of their respective club, with a hell of a breath of fresh air. “After a good start to the season with Dick Advoocat, during which we really believed in the Championship – Cup double, the championship ended with the Covid. And the next was one too many. Arne Slot was not experienced, but it works,” recalls Erwan. When Sampaoli came to replace a resigning André Villas Boas, and out of breath, a little over a year ago.

The younger of the two also confided in admiring his elder in a pre-match press conference: “Eight, nine years ago, many young coaches followed the example of Sampaoli with Chile. I really like this kind of very offensive coaches. He even ended up climbing a tree. I’m a fan of the game and I respect that kind of fanaticism.” To the point of sharing the same philosophy of play, while Sampaoli “loves this coach a lot”. “Arne Slot plays a very attacking game with Feyenoord. He hunts the opponent and puts pressure on him as high as possible on the pitch, in this respect there are similarities with Sampaoli”, executive Mikos Gouka.

The supporters

It’s simple, it’s the hottest supporters of their respective countries who will compete in this semi-final of the European Cup. Feyenoord went so far as to remove number 12 from its squad, in tribute to the 12th man formed by “Het Legioen”, the legion in French, supporters of the De Kuip stadium. “The most fanatical in the Netherlands, who can move up to 10,000 people anywhere in Europe,” recalls the journalist from Algemeen Dagblad, the second daily newspaper in the Netherlands. That’s good, opposite they will have to deal with the best public in France and the 2,000 supporters who come from Marseille by bus.

The comparison goes even a little further. The Dutch club called on their supporters to calm down for this match against OM, after having received a dozen fines from UEFA since the start of the season, for an amount of almost half a million euros. “In particular for the use of fireworks against opposing supporters,” explains Mikos Gouka. Either one of the reasons for the closure of the north corner of the Vélodrome stadium for the return match.

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