Posted: 2/5/2009


     Tiny Volendam is the strongest club in the Eredivisie, Holland's top league. They are in 18th and last place and hold up the rest of the league, with 50 goals against already and no away wins.

      The village is a fishing port with lots of summer tourists that I have visited a dozen times or more. You can dress up in Dutch costumes for a photo session, stroll the harbour and eat raw herring or hot frits with mayonaisse and take the bus 1km to nearby Edam for a cheese feast and buy some clogs.

      On Tuesday evening they suprised me and the 12,000 Willem II fans in Tilburg as they came from behind for a 2-1 away win. Next to the stadium was a tall chimney sprouting white smoke. I joked to my press box colleagues that maybe they were picking a new Dutch Pope, and near the end  changed my mind and said maybe a new Willem II manager!! The home team is nicknamed The Tricolores, due to their red, white, blue stripes and their fans were not amused. It had snowed all day and the ground staff had painted the lines red just in case of snow, but under soil heating prevented the snow from sticking.

      The next evening I was off to Utrecht, 50 minutes away by Dutch Rail from my base, a hotel 200 meters from Eindhoven station. Utrecht is the centre of the rail network and when you die you have to change there to get to heaven! It's the 4th biggest city in the country with the largest university and more cultural events than anywhere but Amsterdam. The station is a big city in itself with lots of snack bars, pubs, restaurants and shops of all kinds, and a pleasant city centre nearby with a huge church, canals, cobbled stoned streets and bridges. It has the most efficient bus service anywhere as I rode 10 minutes to the impressive Stadion Galgenwaard. I spent some time in the outdoormarket and tried samples of dozens of Dutch cheeses.

      It was built recently and holds 24,000 and was used for the final of the FIFA World Youth Cup in 2005 when Lionel Messi scored twice to give Argentina a 2-1 victory over Nigeria.  FC Utrecht were hosting De Graafschap from Doetinghem-'the Super Farmers', and both needed points badly. Well, the home team didn't disappoint, with 3 great goals two headers, a hat-trick from Cedric Van der Gun in front of 19,500 fans.