Spakenburg turns overtime for historic duel with PSV: ‘Even BBC comes along’
editor of NOS Sports
editor of NOS Sports
“Grab a nice piece of cake. It may not be blue, but we always do a bakkie and a plakkie here.”
Marc Schoonebeek, president of soccer club Spakenburg (nicknamed: the Blues), gives a tour of Sportpark De Westmaat on the Monday morning before the historic cup semifinal against PSV. Meanwhile, the so-called debris clearance team of 20 or so volunteers is still busy cleaning up the mess from Saturday’s match.
BBC comes along
The inspired Schoonebeek is working overtime these weeks, as for a while the second division amateur club is the shining center of the soccer world. “I have spoken to just about the entire Dutch press and even the British BBC is stopping by. They’ve been running some coverage on Saturday as well.”
Spakenburg became instantly famous at the end of February after it sensationally knocked premier league club FC Utrecht out of the cup (1-4). This made Spakenburg only the third amateur club in cup history to reach the semifinals.
VVSB managed it in 2016 and arch-rival IJsselmeervogels, “the reds” immediately adjacent to “the blues,” did it in 1975. “But they played an away game then, so this is the first semifinal ín the village of Spakenburg. There is also so much more involved now, just in terms of media coverage and organization of such a match,” Schoonebeek said.
For as long as they’ve existed, the two top amateur teams have been engaged in a game of far-flung peeking. Red and Blue goes far beyond soccer; it is an important part of the lives of Spakenburg’s 22,000 residents.
Schoonebeek is officially “a stranger,” as seasoned Spakenburgers call those who come from outside. But he has now lived in the village for 43 years and has long since become part of the family. “I’ve filled just about every role here, from the gymnastics club to youth training and several terms as president,” he said.
Riots and great unrest
So the 65-year-old entrepreneur did not have to hesitate for long when he had to bail out his club some four months ago. Spakenburg has nothing to complain about in terms of positive media attention these weeks, but that has not always been the case. For years Spakenburg’s hard core caused riots and great unrest within amateur soccer.
“Very serious things happened. That’s why the previous board didn’t like it anymore. That’s when I stepped in. It wasn’t a fun occasion, but I’m doing it with a lot of enthusiasm.”
The success in the cup came just at the right time for Spakenburg, which, incidentally, currently ranks disappointingly tenth in the league. “Because of such a cup success, it has become governing with a tailwind. A huge contrast to when I came in December.”
I have to deal with an inexperienced security official and an acting mayor who doesn’t really want to make any strategic decisions, plays everything safe and has nothing to do with sports. Go figure.
Spakenburg’s rioters have now been expelled, but even so, security measures for the cup match with PSV are not soft. For weeks Schoonebeek, who in addition to the 50 hours he spends on Spakenburg is also a full-time entrepreneur, has been working with his team to make sure the match goes off without a hitch.
“I’m dealing with an inexperienced security official and an acting mayor who doesn’t really want to make any strategic decisions, everything on safe plays and has nothing to do with sports. You name it. And the prosecution is very tight-lipped about it because of our history with supporters.”
In addition to its own supporters, Spakenburg is hosting 300 PSV fans at the sports park, which is not normally set up for that. It would have been a lot easier to play the match at a professional football club, but for Spakenburg that was not an option.
“We didn’t hesitate for a second. We necessarily wanted it at home. For our own members, sponsors, for the people of the village. Here we make our own history. In our own nest.”
As we walk around the grounds, Schoonebeek talks about the extra lights that were purchased (“Otherwise our lighting doesn’t meet international TV requirements”), the disruptive LED boarding that had to be replaced and the command vehicle installed specifically for the VAR. In between, he picks up a sports drink cap that was still on the field. Every detail has to be right.
“In professional soccer, you have protocols for everything. To give you an example, the protocol of public speaking alone runs to 31 pages. And so it is in all other areas. What if the lights go out? What if severe weather comes? Everything lands on my plate first, so everything is in my head now.”
About an hour and a half before kickoff, Schoonebeek hopes to be really done with all the preparations and instructions. Then, above all, he will try to enjoy himself. Does Spakenburg actually stand a chance against PSV?
“I assume we’ll go off. Those guys have a player on every position who is five times better. Coach Ruud van Nistelrooij has put things on edge. This is the only way for them to win another prize. Of vital importance for PSV. And we will keep our pants up, you know. The chance of us winning? Two percent.”
Schoonebeek gets a call. Reporter Jaïr Ferwerda of talk show Beau is downstairs. “I was just finishing up. I’ll be right down.”