Ijsselmeervogels, Sportpark de Westmaat

Spakenburg is a village in the centre of the Netherlands with a population of just short of 20,000. The fishing village is unremarkable, seemingly normal until Derby Day comes around. Be it Ijsselmeervogels in their 8,000 capacity ground or Spakenburg in their 8,500 capacity ground, Derbies are fiercely contested and always sold out. On Derby Day alcohol is banned from being sold in the village (that doesn’t stop people opening up their houses and selling cans on the sly) as both groups of supporters try and out do each other on and off the pitch. To some people, this is the biggest amateur derby in the world and, has to be one of the closest with both grounds backing onto each other. Be it releasing pigs onto the pitch or dropping toilet brushes on the stadium, displays and antics are daft but enduring. My friend Ben had invited me across to Holland to go to the game, after an early flight from Bristol, I met him in Amsterdam before the train Amersfoort and bus onto Spakenburg.

We arrived in Spakenburg earlyish so we could take in Spakenburg II against DDVA II, the game allowed us to take in Spakenburg’s ground while trying to stay warm in the incredibly Dutch January air. Without beers able to be consumed it was hot drinks and sausages for us. Spakenburg’s ground is smart enough, a tidy stand down one side with bars etc inside and a covered terrace opposite. On the terracing were plaques to show you where fans stood, a lovely if odd touch. Both ends behind the goals were open with small terracing and the artificial pitch mean there was little chance of this early kickoff being off. This game we didn’t spend a whole lot of time watching, it was very cold and there was a bar selling cups of tea.

We made our way to the away end of Ijsselmeervogels’s ground, I picked up a scarf on the way in and once in the ground we were handed masks from the hit TV show Money Heist and blue hazmat suits. Both sets of supporters seemed to have gone down the Money Heist route with Ijsselmeervogels’s tifo being very mask heavy as well. Spakenburg are semi-pro while Ijsselmeervogels claim to be amateur, Spakenburg supporters however didn’t really believe this claiming players had been paid by Ijsselmeervogels, For that reason Spakenburg fans had decided to spray thousands of Spakenburg €100 notes. It was pretty clear to me this derby is all about the shithousery and winding up your neighbours. I guess, it’s like every derby then…

The game was pretty damn poor in all honesty, two poor teams not playing pretty football on a cold day. Without what was happening in the crowd, like the Derby della Lanterna this would have been completely unremarkable. Ijsselmeervogels took the lead after 22 minutes when Mike van de Laar scored after a ball was hooked into the box, not cleared and smartly volleyed into the bottom corner. Spakenburg drew level eight minutes later after a cross into the box from the right was headed beautifully in by Jordi Bitter who then celebrated by climbing the advertising boards and then into the away end. Maikel de Harder saw red for the hosts in the second half for a headbutt, but Ijsselmeervogels managed to hang on for a 1-1 draw.

Derbies all have a different feeling to them, while they are heated, antagonistic and passionate on the whole there’s different reasons why derbies are the way they are. The Spakenburg Derby was a whole new breed, it seemed to merely about getting one up on your mate. Although there were previous examples of violence, hence the booze ban, it seemed friendly until you got into the ground. Even then it was more about taking the piss than anything else. As Ben and I made our way back to Amersfoort, both sets of supporters were mooching around, chatting and sharing fourpacks. On Monday back in work neither party would have bragging rights, neither party could be a shithouse, the wind ups wouldn’t be there, that’s the shame of the derby draw.

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