Almere City from ‘black sheep’ now debutant in premier league: ‘Are ready for it’

Almere City from ‘black sheep’ now debutant in premier league: ‘Are ready for it’

NOS Football

  • Jonna ter Veer

    editor of NOS Sports

  • Jonna ter Veer

    editor of NOS Sports

Almere City FC can prepare for its debut in the premier league after winning the nacompetition, as the youngest professional soccer club in the Netherlands.

The potential is there, at the club from the eighth largest city in the Netherlands with a population of some 220,000. “We are ready for it,” said general manager John Bes, who has been with Almere City since 2016. “We have slowly grown to an premier league worthy club. This is the result of a plan that started some time ago.”

What kind of club is actually joining the top level?

At Almere City FC, many things go a little differently. Is the weather nice? Then the players just go outside on the exercise bikes, right? As a supporter, do you have an idea to make the club better? Go ahead and do it. The main stand? It’s not on the long side of the field, but behind one of the goals.

And they don’t do artificial turf in the stadium. There is already a natural grass pitch, a requirement in the premier league from season 2025/2026.

Young, headstrong and ambitious

So the club’s credo is “young, cocky and ambitious. “We see ourselves as a challenger,” Bes says. “We do things a little differently. That sometimes results in some mistakes and it costs blood, sweat and tears when things are not going well athletically, but it is often also the beginning of new success.”

Things can move fast. The club has only been playing professional soccer since 2005. And if we go even further back in history, Almere City began as the Amsterdam soccer club Zwarte Schapen, a premier league club that moved to newly built Almere in 1995.

After all, what was the fastest-growing city in the Netherlands to do without a promising soccer team? “There was a grass field and two goals. We didn’t even have a canteen; we got a tent and then a construction shack,” says René ter Borch, who was president from 1995 to 2011.

The biggest achievements during that time, according to Ter Borch? Those came from two youth teams. “We started without youth, but seven years later we were playing in the A-Juniors premier league. Nobody ever managed that in such a short time, not even Ajax and Feyenoord.”

Entry into professional soccer soon followed, although the ambitious plan was still in doubt.

FC Omniworld

What was the deal? The soccer club was renamed FC Omniworld in 2000 as part of the Omniworld project of the municipality of Almere. The plan was to put Almere on the map with top sports such as volleyball, basketball and soccer. “They invested heavily in that. They got players for 100,000 euros,” says Ter Borch.

“Everyone thought we had rich little boys playing soccer with us, too, but we had to support ourselves.”

Almere City’s rise did not go smoothly with Omniworld

And then came the bummer. After the municipal elections, there was no political support to contribute financially to professional soccer in Almere.

A number of investors, including Ter Borch himself and billionaire Lesley Bamberger, pulled out their wallets. They ensured that Almere could still debut as a professional soccer club in the first division. They also made it possible to attract players like the then 19-year-old Nordin Amrabat.

In 2010, Bamberger decided to take over the club. He changed the name to Almere City. Another tipping point, Ter Borch says. “He doesn’t throw money around, but his financial support allowed us to make strides.”

The now honorary chairman cites commitment and passion as a key reason for today’s success. And, of course, money. “Believe me, money gives internal peace of mind. We don’t have any hassle with salaries, the guys get their money neatly deposited on the 25th. That’s different at many professional clubs.”

Strong youth

In the current selection, left winger Anthony Limbombe and striker Jeredy Hilterman are the tastemakers. But players from our own youth, such as Damian van Bruggen and Stije Resink are also important. “There are as many as 10 other youth players involved in the selection,” said Robin Sack, manager of youth training.

Anthony Limbombe is one of the tastemakers at Almere

That there is talent in the youngsters is obvious. The Almere Under 21 team has already won the national championship twice. Sack: “Players want to play soccer with us because we have a plan with them. They are not so quick to choose the bigger clubs these days, we notice.”

Yet a year and a half ago Almere was still dangling at the bottom of the first division. How is it possible that success has been so long out of reach? “A case of selection-doesn’t-fit-the-trainer,” say those involved. Only since Alex Pastoor was hired, the results improved.

“We are playing our best season so far,” says current chairman Bes. “In 2018 we were also almost promoted, but only now are we really an premier league worthy club.”

At least the public already believes in it. All season tickets for next year are already sold out.

Kayleigh Williams

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