Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Tale Of Fred & Louis

FC Lienden  0  GVVV Veenendaal  3

Tweede Division

If you didn’t have your wits about you then it would be very easy to miss the home of Fred Baars in the Gelderland village of Braamt.

We drove past the entrance first time round, and only when we doubled back did we see the two flagpoles in front of a house right at the end of a long track.

Those two flagpoles signified that we had found the little known ‘Home of Football’ museum that Fred had created in a modest sized building he’d erected at the bottom of his garden.

Fred's Home
Fred is a fascinating man, essentially a follower of Ajax and the Dutch National Team, I have never met someone so passionate about football and its rich history.

With an instantly infectious personality, Fred and his wife met us on his driveway, where a stray chicken was roaming, and led us to the museum. As you walked in, it felt like you were walking into a football treasure trove, a shrine even, to the beautiful game.

Over numerous years, Fred has set about building a collection of memorabilia, but his methods have been quite different to your average football enthusiast like myself. You see Fred got to know Louis Van Gaal via trips to watch Ajax train, as an exercise to gain some tips as to how to help him coach his own junior team. Now, they are close friends. Fred and his wife attended Louis’s Wedding, Louis then offered to come and officially open Fred’s museum.

The late great Johan Cruyff was another man Fred got to know personally, because as a gift for his birthday Fred decided to send him an audio tape of some of his greatest goals in the form of a compilation. Johan remembered this, because Fred contacted him some time afterwards when a close friend of his was dying, and one of his final wishes was to speak to Cruyff. Cruyff was only too happy to make that call, remembering only too well what Fred had done for him.

Signed shirts, photographs, tickets, scarves, programmes, books, videos, gadgets, toys, you name it, if it was football related, he had it, but not only did he have it, it was displayed in a creative and artistic way, so from an aesthetic point of view, it looked amazing.

Fred - On The Left - Tells His Story
I could go on forever about some of the unique items Fred had, as I would imagine Fred could as well, because the hour and a half we had with him went by in what seemed like ten minutes, yet you felt he had so many more stories to tell, and that was the point, every item had a story behind it.

But why?

Well a large part of it is his enthusiasm and love of the game, but another part is his desire to put his collection on display for others to enjoy, which they can as long as they make an appointment to see it.

Fred doesn’t take any money for showing visitors round his museum, he just points out a collection box for his chosen charities and leaves it with you. Fred is big on his charity work, he’s seen too many people close to him die too young, and that also drives him. Ultimately when his time is up, he doesn’t want his museum to stay open, he wants the items sold, with the proceeds going to his chosen causes.

But in the here and now, he has plans. He has plans to change his displays around, he has an equal number of items stored away as he has on show. He also plans to cater for the younger fans by having screens with recordings of the greats in action, because as time moves on, youngsters may not know who the likes of Cruyff, Bergkamp, Van Basten, Neeskens and Rep were?

Part of you wanted to stay and search for more treasures, to listen to more of Fred’s stories, and there were loads, but we had to leave as more visitors were waiting, and we had a football match to get to.

FC Lienden v GVVV was a top of the table clash in the Tweede Classe of the Dutch League. The league was only formed at the start of last season and is effectively the third tier of Dutch football. 

FC Lienden
Previously the third tier was split across a Saturday and a Sunday division, whereas now the two have been combined and you have to drop to the fourth tier to get the weekend split.

Lienden is around half an hour from Duiven, sitting ten miles to the West of Nijmegen, and to be fair it’s only a very small town, arguably even a village. The weather had turned noticeably colder and with the only cover at the ground being a seated stand on one side, it was a case of braving the elements.

The game had been selected for live television, it appears Fox Sports have got the deal to show the Tweede Classe, but according to Theo the viewing figures are not that spectacular. That said, its great publicity and clearly extra cash for the clubs involved.

If You Look Carefully - You Can See The TV Gantry
The ground was tidy, but quite basic, however it did have the obligatory clubhouse behind the goal and that did keep us suitably refreshed in the build up to the game. A good crowd had assembled by kick off, probably around a thousand, with well over half looking to have travelled the short distance from just North of the Rhine where Veenendaal is located. Of course, as kick off approached we were treated to the blue smoke bombs, from the away fans it appeared but not that easy to work out as both clubs first choice colours are blue!

On the plastic pitch, the hosts started the stronger, pushing GVVV onto the back foot by moving the ball quickly around on the surface and getting crosses into dangerous areas. GVVV had a lot of defending to do, and managed to soak up the pressure and see out the first half. It had been essentially one way traffic and for me there was only going to be one winner, GVVV of course!

Smoke Bombs!
I was right, it was a complete turnaround in the second half, GVVV did to Lienden what Lienden did to them, only with a more clinical edge. In fact as the second half wore on and the goals went in (three of them), Lienden looked completely unrecognisable from the side in the first period, in fact at times they looked in complete disarray at the back.

It had been a superb game of football though, highly skilful with two very fit sides who were totally comfortable moving the ball around at pace using the minimum of touches. GVVV deserved the win in the end, but both sides deserved credit for the performances they put on.

What was also interesting talking to some in the know when it comes to football at this level, is that it is generally accepted that the standard of football at the top end of the Tweede Classe is actually better than some of the football played right across the league above. The reason being is that many of the players would rather be semi-professional than full time professional for a variety of reasons, so in effect the better players can often be found playing at a lower level that their professional counterparts.

Game wise, it had been the best so far of the Football Weekend, and have a guess how we ended up at it? Turns out Fred had suggested it to Theo when he was booking our visit to his museum, this is a man who truly knows his football.

Fred Baars and his Home of Football – if you get the chance, do it.

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