Eccentric De Waard waves goodbye to Telstar on loan bike after 17 years: ‘Bad at goodbyes’
reporter NOS Sports
reporter NOS Sports
On a drizzly Thursday morning, Pieter de Waard stands in front of ‘his’ Telstar’s stadium tinkering with a loaner bike. In his hand a – clearly visible – used saddle that he tries with some difficulty to attach. “That is my own saddle, on which I ride daily from Haarlem to IJmuiden. A bike-in saddle.”
For the occasion, De Waard put the saddle on an electrically powered two-wheeler to take him from the Telstar stadium to Maastricht, where Friday’s game against MVV was scheduled. Accompanied by about 25 people with an equally large Telstar heart, De Waard experienced a farewell ride. After seventeen years, he is stepping down as director and chairman of the premier league club.
That the company travels the marathon ride with the support of fully charged batteries does not bother the eccentric clubman. “You still have to pedal. And the comments about electric bikes usually come from car drivers. Yeah, that’s a big sneer,” De Waard says with a smile.
‘Long live Pieter de Waard!
The starting gun for the ride to Maastricht will be provided by Peter Zoontjes, better known in Velsen-Zuid by his stage name Jomanda. Zoontjes – an elderly supporter – is a household name at Telstar. He sets the mood in the stands. Before hooting away the cycling club, he shouts: “Long live Pieter de Waard. And long live Telstar! On the way to victory!”
Zoontjes describes De Waard as a real entertainer. “He always has these brightly colored clothes on and a hat on. It looks like one of those characters from a cowboy movie.”
But, emphasizes a lady next to Zoontjes: De Waard is more than that. “He is a man who tells it like it is. And some find that cocky or call him the clown of Telstar. But it is not a clown, it is an immensely beautiful man, who is with his heart at Telstar.”
That De Waard, as the longest-serving club executive, is leaving Telstar is a conscious decision. But the period of actually saying goodbye makes him wistful.
“The last few weeks I’ve been suffering from that. I’m very bad at saying goodbye. Not so long ago my parents passed away. I don’t want to say I’m still struggling with that, but it’s not completely processed yet. And Telstar has been thrown in with a lot of blood, so maybe this will be a similar experience.”
Showing character and persevering
When the party of cyclists – most in sportswear, a few in jeans – set out at 9 a.m., the drizzle has given way to downpours. Of necessity, a shelter break is taken. Nevertheless, five hours later, the couple arrives at the lunch address in Woerden feeling fit.
“It was pouring from the sky,” says one of the participants, who was felled by equipment failure to make matters worse. “But these are the real supporters, eh. Showing character and persevering.”
It marks the togetherness De Waard has always preached as club boss. “I see the club as a binding agent. Bringing people together while enjoying a game of soccer. And then winning the third half, because we always do that in IJmuiden.”
Recognized and recognized BVO
In addition, the chairman cum director knows he is leaving the club healthy. “I think the club is in slightly better shape than when we started it seventeen years ago with dozens of people. As far as I can see, we are one of the healthiest clubs in professional soccer. So I think we are leaving behind a stable, recognized and recognized BVO.”
As the journey south continued, De Waard led the Telstar pack. At his side rides Jeroen, who is active as a jack-of-all-trades for the club. He has been the “basket man” for years. During games he hoists a fish basket in the air at every goal, by way of a traditional scoreboard. “I am a great friend of Pieter. He’s also my boss; I’m employed by Telstar five days a week. I’m working nicely over there.”
Jeroen didn’t have to think long when De Waard asked him to join him on his heroic bike ride. “Heartening that I can do that with him. It is very unfortunate that he is leaving. I will miss him quite a bit. It will take some getting used to for me.”
At the campsite
After spending the night at the campsite in Andel, Brabant, where De Waard, as captain of the Telstar party, is assigned the front tent, the second day of cycling has a drier course. The level of difficulty, however, does rise, literally even, when the Limburg hills present themselves.
To get De Waard and consorts to the MVV stadium in time, the TDT-Unibet Cycling Team jumps in. They keep the Telstar club out of the wind, and the outgoing clubman in particular. His battery is running low. An hour before the White Lions kick off against MVV, De Waard and his entourage arrive in Maastricht after all.
His presence in itself is unique. De Waard usually avoids away games. “When I come to an average of two games per season, it’s a lot. On the one hand because my wife and my family also wanted to see me once in a while. But besides that, I find it very annoying to see our own matches. I tolerate that tension badly.”
Wet final chord
After a mostly dry day, a downpour on arrival in Maastricht provides a wet final chord. After the pouring rain at departure, the circle seems complete. As it does for De Waard, who has to look for new challenges after seventeen years in Telstar service. He already has plenty of plans.
“First I am going to kelp on the beach near IJmuiden for three months. In addition, I once started my working life as a forklift driver. I want to do that again for five months.”
Earlier, De Waard also seemed to have a shot at a career as a standup comedian, but he puts that into perspective somewhat. “I’m never going to make it to that level. I do regularly give humorous speaking engagements around the country. For a nice, playful story, you can call me.”
De Waard returns his loaner bike. Only his cycled-in saddle he still wants back. A 263-kilometer mission is accomplished. “It’s done.”