Archive for the ‘Holland’ Category

Football Statues

No 30 (in a series of several): The Strange Case of the Missing Nine Foot High Feyenoord War Memorial

De Kuip Stadium

Simon Kuper’s ‘Ajax, The Dutch, The War: Football in Europe During the Second World War’ is so far the only book that I’ve persuaded both my wife and mum to read. As the title suggests football is the central theme running through the text but the book covers such a wide range of other issues – particularly that of the fate of Holland’s many Jews during WWII – that it deserves to be read by a non-footballing audience too (as I’m sure it has been).

It is not just Ajax that are covered as the activities of Feyenoord, Sparta and other clubs during and in the immediate aftermath of the war come under Kuper’s scrutiny. He suggests that they have tried their very best to ignore the fact that the war ever happened (the Dutch league carried on almost unhindered during Nazi occupation incidentally) and as one example of this tells the story of the ‘disappeared’ war memorial at Feyenoord’s De Kuip Stadium.

On May 3rd, 1947 a monument to twenty-two Feyenoord club members killed during the war was unveiled beneath the grandstand. The memorial, by sculptress Rie Elias, stood nine feet tall and was of a figure sowing seed in a field (I would imagine that this was to signify a new beginning – particularly apt for Rotterdam which had been flattened by the Luftwaffe). Shortly after the unveiling it was taken away and has not been seen since!

Apparently Feyenoord officials had failed to get a permit for the sculpture (permission was required for the erection of any war memorial) and they were ordered to have it removed having failed in their request to have permission granted after the fact. It didn’t help either that, according to Elias, officials said the sculpture “offended the standards of sober taste”.

A small plaque has since taken its place.

[Footnote: the picture shown here is of Feyenoord’s De Kuip stadium in 1979 taken during the tour of the stadium that I mentioned here.]


Football Statues

No 29 (in a series of several): Abe Lenstra (1920-1985)

Abe Lenstra

This statue of the legendary Dutch footballer Abe Lenstra – made in 1994 by Dutch sculptor Frans Ram – stands just to the right of the main entrance to the Abe Lenstra Stadium in the Friesland town of Heerenveen.

Junior and I spent a day and bit in Heerenveen back in 2007, for the Under 21 Championship game between Israel and Belgium, but a group of inconveniently placed hospitality tents, for UEFA dignitaries no doubt, and a number of muscular gentlemen in dark suits and sunglasses prevented us from getting anywhere close to the statue.

Born in Heerenveen in 1920, coincidentally the same year that SC Heerenveen (then VV Heerenveen) were formed, Lenstra made his debut for the club at fifteen. With Lenstra firing in the goals the club enjoyed an unprecedented run of success that saw them win the Northern Netherlands title nine times in a row between 1942 and 1950.

VV Heerenveen were an amateur side and while both they and Lenstra did their level best to avoid the inevitable money eventually led to his turning professional with Enschedese Boys. There he scored 89 times in 135 matches and after spells with a number of other clubs finished his career on 523 goals. One of his most famous club matches was against Ajax in 1950 when he inspired his team to overcome a 5-1 deficit and win 6-5.

Lenstra also hit the back of the net 33 times in 47 international appearances over some twenty years. WWII limited the number of caps he would no doubt have won otherwise as did his battle with the Dutch Internal Selection Committee who he would refuse to play for unless he was named in his favoured position of inside-left.

Picture from here, while more football statues can be found here and here.

[Footnote: Frans Ram, incidentally, has created an interesting and varied range of public art installations across the Netherlands including the Dike Alert Monument at Ballumerbocht Ballum on the north Dutch coast.]

Feijenoord Stadion

I’m spending a couple of days on a business junket in Rotterdam. My employers HQ is at the southern end of the Waalhaven harbour, one of numerous harbours that form the Port of Rotterdam. It’s just up the road from the home of Smit, a Dutch marine engineering company best known for its involvement in salvage operations such as that of the Herald of Free Enterprise and the Russian submarine Kursk. It owns some pretty serious waterborne kit some of which can be seen tied up on the quay’s right outside our office window (sans camera on this trip so picture shown is from Wikipedia).


Just a short distance away is the Feijenoord Stadion, or ‘De Kuip’ as it is better known (Dutch for Tub), which back in 1975 was the venue for my first ever European adventure with Ipswich as they took on, and beat, Feyenoord 2-1 in the first round of the UEFA Cup. I was reminded of this great night by the brochure in our hotel lobby advertising tours of the stadium (something I did during my second visit to Rotterdam in 1979).

De Kuip

The victory over Feyenoord ranked as their finest in Europe at the time, although it would later be eclipsed by many other memorable nights, not least a 4-1 victory over Michel Platini and St Etienne in 1981. In torrential rain on that September night in 1975, David Johnson headed the winning goal a quarter of an hour from the end. It looked as though Town were to be denied victory, after the home side had equalised Trevor Whymark’s opener, but Jonty, with a looping header from the edge of the area, sent myself and the 2,000 traveller Town fans into a state of near delirium.