‘Sun shines again in Almelo’
Saturday, May 21, 2022, almost a year ago, tears flowed profusely on the artificial turf in Almelo. After 17 seasons in the premier league, in which the modest Heracles grew into a stable sub-topper, there was suddenly relegation.
A few weeks earlier no one in the East had reckoned with that disaster scenario, but the 3-1 home defeat against Excelsior on the last matchday killed the club anyway.
With bowed heads, the players walked off the pitch in disbelief, while jeers and black smoke billowed down on them from the stands. Almost a year later, routinier Thomas Bruns and debutant Diego van Oorschot were carried across the field on shoulders.
“Last year the supporters also came onto the field when we were relegated,” defender Justin Hoogma told me. “Then they encouraged us and were already talking about next year. Now they came onto the field again for a celebration and then it’s nice when you can give them something back.”
Hoogma enjoyed promotion party with supporters: ‘Nice to give something back’
Coach John Lammers also remembers his first weeks in Almelo well. “The confidence was gone last year, you have to work on that. Telling the boys that they are good enough to get promoted. I came here with a goal. We have to radiate every day what we want: promotion. Everything had to give way to that. And the boys have become part of that.”
Midway through the second half, Lammers came off the bench momentarily furious, afterwards for a nobody call on the field. “I enjoyed this. Not during the game, because then I’m really busy with other things. But the last two minutes were wonderful. Also when you can bring in Diego van Oorschot, a kid from the club. That’s just enjoyment.”
“And then next year against Twente, yes. But also Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV. But first we just want to be champions. Even now, with three games to go. We’re going to do everything for it.”
Mission accomplished for Heracles coach Lammers with promotion: ‘Everything had to give way for that’
That precisely Ismail Azzaoui was the standout in the promotion match was also special. On Dec. 1, 2021, he tore a cruciate ligament for the second time in his career at De Kuip against Feyenoord. His rehabilitation lasted almost a year and even after that, the Brussels dribbler’s number of playing minutes did not stop there.
Against Jong PSV, he once again started in the starting lineup, scoring two goals. “At the end of the match you want to party, but then the emotions come too,” Azzaoui says. “Then you think about the injuries and all the difficult moments. But now the sun is shining again.”
Until tonight his season total stood at one goal, after a good half hour against Jong PSV he had already made two. And there was still more in it. “Then I missed two more big chances,” Azzaoui knows, “I was incredibly angry about that. But of course it’s about promotion. And then when you see the supporters on the field…. This is what you play soccer for.”
Outperformer Azzaoui overjoyed with promotion Heracles: ‘The sun is shining again’
Van Oorschot is a nephew of assistant coach Hendrie Krüzen. Justin Hoogma is the son of technical director Nico-Jan Hoogma. The latter returned to Almelo from the Zeister woods.
“I really enjoyed working with my father and also with my brother, who is also here,” said the newly 24-year-old Hoogma, who has already experienced many clubs from the inside after his first stint at Heracles.
“I deliberately came back to get some rest in my career. But I also indicated from the beginning that it’s for a longer time, so after the relegation I didn’t doubt for a moment that I wanted to stay. Then it’s nice that it works out.”
“I do love a party,” Hoogma continued. “We worked hard for this all year. We’ve been on top all season, even though things have been difficult at times. What has made us very good is our scoring ability. We scored 95 goals and had big wins, even though the game wasn’t always good. It’s just very clever that it worked out.”
“Promotion was the most important thing, but we have another goal,” Azzaoui concluded. “We want to become champions. I’ve never been champion before. And Ramadan is over, so we can party. And that’s what we’re going to do! With a beer? No, I don’t drink alcohol.”