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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