When Celainy Obispo enters the field of De Kuip, she touches the grass without thinking. A sense of pride shoots through her. This Saturday a childhood dream of the Feyenoord defender will come true: to play in the stadium, for her club and then also against rival Ajax.
It is the last home game of the Feyenoord women’s first season in the Eredivisie. Playing in the Kuip is a reward for the excellent first year, in which the club was third for a while but has dropped to fifth place. Nothing is at stake for Feyenoord anymore, opponent Ajax still has a small chance of the national title.
Hundreds of green and white flags wave back and forth in the Kuip as both teams arrive. The 14,618 supporters present ensure a spectator record in Dutch women’s football. The Rotterdam club has promoted the match considerably in the region. Especially the number of young fans is striking. Complete girls’ football teams have come to the match and boys also want to experience the Kuip debut of the Feyenoord women.
They see how the home team is pushed away from minute one by Ajax, which has a qualitatively better selection. That of Feyenoord is also on its last legs. After fifteen minutes it is already 0-3 through goals from Romée Leuchter, Nikita Tromp and Chasity Grant. Feyenoord coach Danny Mulder later blames it on the “visible tension” in his team, which is used to several thousand supporters at the Varkenoord sports complex, but not to playing in a stadium. “At Ajax, many players have already played in front of a larger audience”.
The backlog does not lead to a heated atmosphere in the stadium. When Ajax defender Lisa Doorn blunders in the 26th minute by only half playing the ball back to her goalkeeper, Kim Hendriks makes the 3-1. The midfielder, who comes from a real Feyenoord family, thus scores the first official goal of the Feyenoord women in the Kuip. Loud cheers echo through the stadium.
Approval from Arne Slot
The first ideas for a women’s competition in the Kuip arose at Feyenoord last autumn, when the very first Classic among women was completed at Varkenoord. About three thousand people saw Feyenoord stunt with a 4-1 victory. When it was clear that the last home game of the season would be against Ajax, the plans became more concrete. In March, the municipality agreed. Men’s trainer Arne Slot also reacted enthusiastically – if only the turf would be in perfect condition a day later before the match against FC Twente.
This way Feyenoord could start working towards the day when the spectator record had to be broken. In the meantime, the message came in from Spain that the women’s team of FC Barcelona had broken the world record. On March 30, 91,553 spectators attended the match between Barcelona and Real Madrid. Three weeks later, the Catalan club broke the record to 91,648 in the Champions League semi-final against VfL Wolfsburg.
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It is not that far in the Netherlands yet, but according to Ajax midfielder Sherida Spitse, women’s football is clearly on the rise: „This is a beautiful day for women’s football. With all due respect to other accommodations, De Kuip is really a fantastic stadium. There is a fantastic turf and if you walk up the stairs to the field, the noise hits you.”
Soon after Hendriks’ goal, Victoria Palova increased the margin for Ajax to three again. In the second half, Feyenoord keeper Jacintha Weimar prevents worse. Despite the victory, Ajax is disappointed after the final whistle; in Enschede FC Twente has won against PSV, which means that the title chances are almost zero. The Feyenoord players enjoy all the attention. A horde of boys and girls has gathered along the boarding to score another photo or autograph.
After the game, Feyenoord defender Obispo spoke to the media with a hoarse voice. “We had to shout a lot louder than usual in the field. The legion could definitely be heard,” says Obispo. “I don’t think the backlog was due to the tension, but I certainly had nerves. I did not expect that we would already play football in the Kuip in our first season. The gap with Ajax is still too big, but we are on the right track.”
The Ajax women have never played in the Johan Cruijff Arena, while the Amsterdam women’s branch has been in existence since 2012. It would be nice if that were to happen, says Spitse. „Perhaps it would have happened next weekend, if Twente had lost and we could have taken the title. But that will no longer happen.”