‘Can hardly go wrong’
Feyenoord can become national champions today at the Kuip, in the event of a victory over middle-ranked Go Ahead Eagles. The city is getting ready for the title: the stage for the inauguration at City Hall is already being built and Coolsingel has been closed to traffic since last night.
If Feyenoord do not win today, the club from Rotterdam-Zuid still has two chances in the coming weeks to become champions.
At three places in the city center, the match can be seen on big screen from 4:45 p.m.: those events, at Stadhuisplein, Willemsplein and the Binnenrotte, are already sold out.
City in ‘war of attacks’
In terms of public safety, Rotterdam is currently experiencing turbulent times. The city is in a “war of attacks,” with 39 explosions at homes and other premises already this year. Thirty-six people have now been arrested, including nine minors. The police have their hands full. Can the championship game be played safely this afternoon, and celebrated afterwards?
“The general trend is that we are just going to have a nice party in the city,” says Frank Stevens. He is project leader city marshal in downtown Rotterdam, where he deals with safety “in the broadest sense of the word.”
He keeps in touch with police and hospitality entrepreneurs in the center about the safety situation in the city. “The mood today is exuberantly festive,” Stevens said. “For our city, it’s important that we’re on top of it as well.”
“We are in the unique position that things can hardly go wrong,” says hospitality entrepreneur Thom van Zanten, who runs several pubs in the downtown area. Still, he calls the atmosphere “a little tense.”
In 2017, he saw things go wrong when Feyenoord went down 3-0 against Excelsior in the championship match, keeping them from the national title for at least another week. The mood became grim in the city, some 100 people were detained by police. “Then rioters turned the city upside down. You essentially can’t be prepared for that,” Van Zanten said.
“Everyone is full of excitement, but it’s different from 2017. Then it was very exciting because the club had a chance to win the title after 18 years,” puts City Marine Stevens in perspective.
“There are quite a few places in the city to watch the game. If we divide it among ourselves properly, it will be fairer for the entrepreneurs and safer for the guests,” said hospitality entrepreneur Van Zanten. He will be at one of his own businesses during the match, but as a season-ticket holder, he still hopes to catch a glimpse of the Kuip. “If this afternoon goes well and my colleagues like it, then I dare to sit in the Kuip.”
City Marine Stevens expects a lot of visitors today, “but the city can handle that quite well. The Kuip is already counting on more than 40,000 people. On a regular Sunday afternoon the city already has around 80,000 people walking around, there will be a little more now.”
The city is well prepared, he thinks. “We assume the most predictable scenario, but should things turn out differently, we are prepared for it as well. So I don’t think it’s exciting.”
Alderman Vincent Karremans’ (enforcement) spokesman assumes “that a proud Feyenoord supporter is also a proud Rotterdammer and honors his city.” The behavior of supporters during the championship match may have consequences for the inauguration, he warns. There is a ban on alcohol in the city on Monday until 1 p.m., after any inauguration. But that could thus become even stricter.
Cooperation with the hospitality industry is good, says City Engineer Stevens. There is no reclamation today, either. “Everyone can basically just serve alcohol around the game. Only there will be only plastic cups outside to keep it safe.”
Tineke Speksnijder generously stocked the plastic cups at her café De Schouw. “How much liquor and cups I had to stock no one knew. I really have no idea.”
Her pub in the bustling Witte de Withstraat will close its doors next summer after 82 years. Not a single Feyenoord match was missed in her pub. “It was my last wish that Feyenoord would become champions. It feels like the club listened to this, because maybe my wish will come true today.”