Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Final Instalment

De Treffers  0  VVSB  1

Tweede Division

Mention the Dutch town of Groesbeek to anyone and the chances are that if they've heard of it, then it will be because of Operation Market Garden and the 82nd Airborne Division landing close by in the latter stages of the Second World War.

History tells an incredible story of Groesbeek, the Allied forces landed and made their way through the town in an attempt to head off the Nazi invasion as it moved towards the Rhine. The operation, which was powerfully portrayed in the film ‘A Bridge Too Far’, was designed to secure the bridges that crossed the river in the Nijmegen and Arnhem area, but ultimately it failed, and the residents of Groesbeek paid the price. The town was destroyed and its inhabitants forced to flee.

Despite its failure, the Allies were, and still remain heroes in this part of the Netherlands. In Groesbeek itself is the National Liberation Museum which gives a fantastic and poignant insight into the events of the time. Nearby is also the home of the Canadian War Cemetery.

That’s the serious side of Groesbeek, but in a footballing perspective this is one extremely curious town. Firstly some background, the population is just less than 20,000 inhabitants, but, it can boast the following six football clubs.

Welcome to De Treffers
Playing in the third tier are Achilles 29 (who were recently in the second tier) and De Treffers. Germania play in the sixth tier, Rood Wit in the seventh tier along with Groesbeekse Boys, while DVSG are the relative minnows in the ninth tier.

Ok, some of these are at a pretty low level, and some or Saturday clubs, some are Sunday clubs, but at the same time, they still have squads to fill, they still have junior sides, they still need to be staffed, they still need somewhere to play.

20,000 inhabitants is comparably the size of a town like Dronfield. So it would be like having two teams in League One, one in Conference North, two in the Premier Division of the Northern Premier League, and one in the Premier Division of the Northern Counties East League.

Bonkers isn’t it, and yes, the relative standards of the steps in Holland are nowhere near what they would be in England, but all the same, can you think of another town in England of a similar size that could compare? The only one coming anything like close would be Northwich and it’s various districts, but even that’s pushing it based on the fact most of that is due to basket case management and ownership.

We’ve been to Achilles 29, when they were in the second tier, and saw a pretty dull 0-0 draw with Volendam. The crowd was small, but the official figure seemed nothing like the reality. We spoke to a players parent and he told us the wage bill, it wasn’t sustainable from what we could see, and recent history has seen them relegated in what is believed to be serious financial mire.

Many would argue though that in the town, the bigger club is actually De Treffers, and should the opportunity arise, they too would consider a jump to the professional ranks of the second tier. The Dutch pyramid has changed somewhat in the last couple of years so whether that ambition remains is debatable, but, it seemed like it was worth giving them a visit with it being a short distance from base camp.

I have to say, it’s a very impressive set up. A large and spacious car park is easily accessed, and then after buying a ticket you enter the ground behind the goal, and that’s where you are met with the massively impressive site of the two tier clubhouse.

Yeah, Not Bad!
I’ve been in a few clubhouses over the years, from the brilliant to the Beirut, but this place was right up there. Walking in through the main foyer you reach a large room with two bars and a snack bar. It’s plush, comfortable and very well decorated with lots of De Treffers memorabilia adorning the walls. Next door to the main room is a very smart looking business club area, while upstairs are more rooms and a balcony that looks out onto the pitch. Of course, the players and officials are also catered for, with their facilities at the very end of the building.

Pitch side, behind the goal is some terracing, while on the road side is more terracing and a seated stand. Opposite the stand is a long covered terracing area, and that was where we took our places in the first half.

East Side - Give Us A Song.....
It’s not been going so well on the pitch for either team, and in a first half that saw very few chances, it was the visitors VVSB from the Nordwijk area who took the lead with a lofted shot that beat the onrushing De Treffers goalkeeper.

The second half was viewed from behind the goal, and to be honest it failed to capture the imagintaion until the last ten minutes when De Treffers went full tilt for the equaliser. That goal never came, but we did see a pretty tasty scrap!

A De Treffers player went down injured, a visiting playing thought he was faking it so dragged him across the pitch, and this didn’t go down well with the home side. All kinds of handbags were being swung around until order was restored and a player from each side received a red card. The player was actually injured and in the dying seconds he was carried past us on a stretcher, being dragged by one of his legs probably didn't help matters.

De Treffers remain deep in trouble, while VVSB gain some vital breathing space. It hadn’t been as good a game as the previous day, both sides were noticeable inferior to both FC Lienden and GVVV, but it perhaps also wasn’t helped by the fact the game was played on quite an uneven grass surface.

It was a cracking set up though, and a great way to end our famous Football Weekend, however, it wasn’t quite over just yet.

We had our final meal at the place where it began on the Tuesday, Een Mooie Dag, where Edwin and his staff once again laid on a brilliant meal for us. We drank to the Football Weekend, and while it was never discussed, I suspect all of us were hoping we can do it all again next year, for the fourteenth time in a row.

I’m pretty sure we will, Heineken will be most disappointed if we can’t contribute to their profits!

Hendrik - Bob - Edwin - Dad - Theo (The Weekenders)

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