Pyro On The Pitch #13: FC Utrecht vs Feyenoord Rotterdam, Eredivisie, 15/02/1981

It’s high time for another episode of our flagship Pyro On The Pitch series (hence the name of the site), and also high time we revisited the always interesting Dutch (that wasn’t even a weed joke, take it if you want). But surprisingly we are still not yet focusing on the big three, although one of them does feature heavily here.

Instead, FC Utrecht are granted the honour on becoming the first the club or country highlighted in both this series AND People On The Pitch, after their amazing demolition job seen in episode #6, as this is a type of pyro on the pitch that we have not really come across yet (Note: Anderlecht did appear in PeopleOTP#1 as well as PyroOTP#9, but the former featured the visiting Aston Villa in the starring role).

Background:

In a recent edition of the great Totally Football podcast – presented by legend James Richardson – former Chelsea, Everton (among others) and Scotland winger-turned-dj Pat Nevin admitted that coins and other foreign objects thrown from the terraces at games in the 80s were basically part of the fun for the players of a certain ilk, adding to the “terror-dome” like atmosphere (our words, not his) in big games of the era. This was as evident as anywhere in the Netherlands, where as we saw all the way back in Pyro On The Pitch #2 (and will continue to see), supporters were not adverse to hurling projectiles of the pyro variety also.


A firework is thrown from the crowd in De Kuip Stadium, Netherlands vs Republic of Ireland, World Cup 82 qualifier, 09/09/1981.

As we have already discussed the home side of our featured match – FC Utrecht – back in People On The Pitch #6, we will not spend too long on background here. But briefly, Utrecht had been founded in 1970 through the merger of three smaller clubs, and had gained a respectable following in the decade that followed, with especially big crowds for the visits of Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord to their Stadion Galgenwaard.

The ground was noteworthy for it’s eccentric terracing at both ends, featuring steep concrete slopes partially covered with advertising, while the side stands also used unusual “diagonal” architecture for it’s terraces. One end, the Bunnikside (named for the town of Bunnik behind) gave name to the what would be one of the earliest hooligan groups in the Netherlands, formed in the early 70s and famed for their use of bicycle chains and other weapons.

Unfortunately, as we saw in PeopleOTP#6, the ground was not destined to survive in it’s original quirky form past 1981, with a PSV scant on away fans the visitors for it’s last game, but just over two months earlier fellow continental-qualification contenders Feyenoord were the guests on a February Sunday, when the Galgenwaard was treated to one last big-match vibe. It would be an encounter that was memorable for several reasons, on and off the pitch.

The Match:

February 15th, 1981: The day after Valentine’s day, a packed Galgenwaard is rocking as Dutch supporters rally behind their true beloveds, in this case FC Utrecht and guests Feyenoord Rotterdam. To paint the picture, first we see some of the unusual design of the ground itself (and the wonderfully degraded pitch that it surrounds):

The home side are wearing a rather unremarkable kit made by a smaller manufacturer, but interestingly numbers appear on the shorts – a feature usually only seen at major international tournaments:

Denied of their regular red and white halved shirts, Feyenoord are using a basic yet smart Adidas template in white with red trim, that combines with black and white shorts and white and red socks to create a great look. More importantly, a man with two buckets walks by in the background:

Here we get a better view of the jersey in action and a closer look at some of the detailing on the Utrecht sleeves, as well as that fascinating side terracing:

The sizeable away support is located behind the goal to left, with an early chance demonstrating their enthusiasm:
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At the opposite end, Bunnikside is also getting behind their team. The sounds of small explosions from the supporter’s bombs and fireworks adds to hot atmosphere:
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On the bench meanwhile (we’re not even sure of which team) is a classic scene that needs no words:

Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, we come to our featured incident. With “bangs” still going off all around, the Feyenoord goalkeeper (wearing a template and colourway also later used by Ireland in their first competitive game with Adidas) is preparing to take a goal kick when something is thrown and explodes right behind his head, followed by a plume of smoke:

The accuracy is of course met by cheering and jeers as the keeper walks around shocked, holding his apparently damaged ear:

As the crowd continue to sing and the young player doubles over in pain, finally the linesman and a teammate come over to each give a reassuring hand to the shoulder and probaly say “kom op zoon, je bent oke”:

At last the game goes on with no substitution, but the home support clearly now feel that they have the psychological edge:

And it was indeed to manifest on the pitch as soon after as a goal is scored to send Bunnikside bonkers:

But then, with things not going their way at all, trouble immediately sparks up in the away end. It is unclear exactly what happens, but a crowd rush occurs that causes more than one nimble lad to leap to the sanctuary of the massive Nikon hoarding above:

As Dutch hooliganism is already well established at this time – with Feyenoord’s own Vak S group also active since 1970 – the riot squad are of course on hand and quickly move in:

One fan in particular clearly thrives in this type of environment and brazenly stands up the authorities. After passionate pleading his case, he gets a smack of the baton for his trouble, while “normal” supporters can been seen huddled fearfully in the background trying to keep out of harm’s way:

Various police and dog units can also be seen keeping an eye on things throughout the rest of the ground:

With the excitement finally quashed, the game could proceed as normal. The action off the pitch was over, but the second half did produce this extremely unusual dance-like technique for helping an opponent to his feet:

Before we leave it is worth noting one of the greatest advertisements at match of all time also: DRUM SHAG (as in Drum tobacco leaf):

Although we don’t usually highlight match action, the game was tipped off in Utrecht’s favour with a rather bizarre own goal, adding icing to the cake of a miserable day for the keeper:

The 2-0 result would ultimately help Utrecht finish one place above Feyenoord at the end of the season, and only by goal difference. But in 3rd and 4th, it wasn’t to make much difference as both sides progressed to the following season’s UEFA Cup.

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People On The Pitch #6: FC Utrecht vs PSV Eindhoven, Eredivisie, 19/04/1981

To the layman, most incidents of supporter disobedience are classed as one, mainly seen as random acts of violence and thuggery. But the reality is far deeper than this, with pitch invasions being a good example of something that can happen for several different reasons.

As you know by now, we like to cover a variety of different pitch invasion types here in the People On The Pitch series. So far we have seen some classic discordian mischief from a drunk Aston Villa fan in 1982; chaotic joy at Wales vs Scotland ’66; an après match French rugby cup final victory invasion in ’79; an après match Northern Irish cup final running battle in ’83; and more chaotic joy in 1978 northern England (a rarity). And there are more to come.

In this edition, we look at another post-match pitch invasion and the actions that follow, which to the unknowing eye would appear to be a shocking act of destructive mass vandalism and the collapse of western civilisation.

Background:

As we have established early on, the Dutch possessed one of the great crowd trouble cultures of the golden era and as promised we shall be seeing more and more of them. Hence, today’s scene is the Stadion Galgenwaard of FC Uterecht as it was in April 1981 for the visit of PSV Eindhoven.

Like most things in the Dutch league at the time, the stadium was classically quirky and unorthodox and basically like something from a wonderful wet-football dream to us. Some shots from a game vs Feyenoord a couple of months prior give a good look at the unusual architecture of the ground, which includes huge concrete slopes, a “dip” in the middle of the main stand which makes you think you’re tripping, and lots of lovely diagonal terracing.

Incidentally, that Feyenoord match above is notable for some other reasons but, since we are not behooved to linear time here in the Pyro On The Pitch dimension, we will come back to discuss that at a later date.

What’s so special then about the PSV game on April 19th, 1981, is that it was unfortunately the last time the Galgenwaard would be seen in this form as the stadium was to be rebuilt in a more modern style and reopened the following year. This would be slightly more of a big deal but for the fact that the ground, like FC Uterecht itself (founded through the merger of three other local teams), was actually only created in 1970. Even so, with the passionate Ducth football scene of the time, a large and impressive fan culture had grown around the club with the likes of PSV and Feyenoord attracting 15-16,000 and 20,000 for Ajax.

The Match:

We join the action in the dying stages of the game as a 0-0 draw is being played out. Officially approx 15,000 is in attendance, slightly less than the PSV game, but in comparison it looks a greater difference. This is particularly noticeable where the entire left concrete slope is now visible, seemingly cordoned off in preparation for the reconstruction. Perhaps terracing had already been removed leaving the slope bare, but we’re just going to assume that people had somehow been standing on the steep concrete up to this point as it would be much better. A smattering of fans still hang around the edges.

The diagonal terracing around the ground is also not full, giving us another good look at it. But just take a moment to appreciate that beautiful, classic white and black football too.

One last PSV attack comes to nothing and the referee blows his whistle to mostly jeers and whistles, as the Galgenwaard formally completes it’s duty in it’s original form.

As the players and officials shake hands, a multitude of youths (and some older people but we love youths) breach the pitchside fences and teem past. One supporter even appears to attempt a running kick towards the ref, but this was probably only in jest.

A mass pitch invasion follows and to start with, the main destination for many is the right hand side goalposts. In a scene reminiscent of Scotland in Wembley in 1977 (a game pretty much too famous to bother covering on here) the supporters swarm around the uprights and shake them.

They are swiftly joined by others hanging from the crossbar and within seconds the old girl comes crashing down.

The self-inflicted demolition of the Galgenwaard has begun. Doubtless, the goal at the opposite end is subject to similar treatment, but next we see an area where a fence has/is being pulled down and the mob are attempting to tear large sections of wooden seating out of the earth and concrete slope.

They succeed, and the result is a very satisfying wave effect.

Another section is targeted next and, admittedly after some struggle and an aborted attempted, is eventually turned over too.

Anything that can be ripped from the ground is taken and broken, or used as a battering ram, as the supporters pay homage to their “old” ground by destroying it. However, any concerned parent watching the footage may have understandably misinterpreted it as some sort of dystopian, youth uprising against modern polite 1981 society.

One concerned man, possibly a parent completely misinterpreting the situation and unaware that the stadium was to be rebuilt anyway, appears to appeal for calm and halfheartedly attempts to rebuild the stadium.

Like so many instances of 20th century life, the situation has quickly turned into a modern health and safety enthusiast’s nightmare. Indeed in the midst of the chaotic destruction some sort of disaster seems imminent – the likes of which paved the way for the overly regulated world of the future. Along these lines the “danger level” increases, especially for those outside the stadium at ground level, with the smashing of glass panes from inside one of the stands.

The “concerned parent” from earlier can now be seen concentrating very hard on repeatedly kicking down a small pile of bricks, proving my assumptions about him and his mental faculty entirely wrong.

Meanwhile, the destruction of more wooden-board seating continues in several sections with a successful deconstruction technique now established. It really really is an extraordinary sight.

As we prepare to leave the scene, we finally come back around to the now long demolished goalposts. The camera then pans to the middle of the pitch where we see the hundreds still milling about and get one last look at the glorious main stand with it’s random dip in the middle. We salute the Stadion Galgenwaar in it’s original incarnation, 1970-1981.

FC Utrecht played out their three remaining home games at the Nieuw Monnikenhuize stadium (which translates to “New House of the Monks”, excellent) in Arnhem, home of SBV Vitesse, and would finish the season in third (their best ever league position to date ) ahead of Feyenoord and PSV and behind Ajax and champions AZ.

But the main thing to take away here is that we have seen an event that, out of context, could appear to be a shocking series of mindless vandalism and destruction, but in reality is a local bonding exercise of community service and an act of charity for the demolition company who’s job was made a lot easier.

Youtube link