FC Amsterdam – A Failed Alternative

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The birth of a new club

When, in the early 1970s, the Dutch Football Association KNVB considered it time for a thorough rearrangement of the existing football landscape, this had a heavy impact on the continued existence of a whole series of football clubs. The KNVB wanted to reduce the number of leagues in professional football from 3 to 2. The most important parameter used in the reorganisation was the average attendance. While in Utrecht the clubs Elinkwijk, DOS and Velox merged into the “FC Utrecht”, other clubs with small fan bases such as De Baronie and SC Gooiland were forced to quit professional football. In those days, the capital Amsterdam had three, popular, professional clubs in addition to the illustrious Ajax. The north of the city was represented by De Volewijckers, while on the other side of the river IJ, in the south, DWS and Blauw Wit had to distribute the remaining crumbs of the Amsterdam football cake among themselves.

The KNVB’s ruling brought the three clubs representatives to the negotiating table, but they did not come to an unanimous agreement. Only after the 2 clubs from Amsterdam South joined forces the new club FC Amsterdam was born on June 20, 1972 . The third involved party next to both club boards was the management of the Olympic Stadium. They were looking for a team fit for their accommodation and hoped to draw a large crowd to the South with this new professional club. FC Amsterdam was to become an alternative for the very successful Ajax. A white shirt, red trousers and red socks were chosen as club colours. Club emblem became the Amsterdam Lieverdje (sweetheart), the symbol of the Amsterdam street boy that had been adopted earlier by the provo movement.

The debut in the Eredivisie

As the successor of DWS, the Amsterdammers could immediately start their first season, 1972-1973, at the highest level. After the merger, DWS coach Pim van de Meent remained in charge of the team and was immediately allowed make a fitting selection from the 60 professional players that had brought both clubs together. The biggest name in the selection was undoubtedly that of the Dutch National Team goalkeeper Jan Jongbloed. More famous newcomers included Abe van der Ban (AZ ’67), Chris Dekker (NEC), Leen van der Merkt (FC Utrecht) and the then unknown Nico Jansen (SDW). In order to create even more hype for their first home game the team did their entire preparation outside of Amsterdam. The first league game, out at Telstar, was lost 2-1. However, what every football fan in Amsterdam was eagerly looking forward to, was the first home match in the Olympic Stadium against the neighbors of Ajax. The turnout of 40,000 football fans made the club believe in a bright future. The merger seemed to appeal to the Amsterdam crowd which saw a 1-2 Ajax win, but they would see something remarkable as an own goal by great Mr. Johan Cruijff. Although he would never play for the Lieverdjes, Cruijff scored the first home goal for FC Amsterdam ever! FC Amsterdam would end their first season squarely in mid table. A moderate success that was completely overshadowed by low public interest. Despite the promising debut match the Lieverdjes were only able to draw an average of 4,000 spectators in their home games (excluding Ajax and Feyenoord). A dramatic low was reached in the last home game against FC Groningen when barely 800 people passed the turnstiles.

Successful in Europe

The administrators never found a solution for the moderate interest of the Amsterdam public. Even after some European success in the 1974-75 season (De Volewijckers had been merged into the new club as well) and after a 5th place the year before, the stands in the Olympic Stadium remained mainly empty. At the sporting zenith of FC Amsterdam the great inspirer of the club, Dé Stoop, realised that his Lieverdjes might not last long. In sporting terms, however, the European campaign in the autumn of 1974 was a direct hit. After the Maltese Hibernian was beaten twice in the Olympic Stadium, the Amsterdam club was paired up with the great Internationale from Milan. The unthinkable happened, thanks to 2 goals by Nico Jansen, the white shirts defeated Inter with 1-2 in San Siro. Two weeks later, in the Olympic Stadium, the Lieverdjes did not give up their lead in front of 15.000 fans. A small miracle had happened. The next opponent was called Fortuna and came from Düsseldorf. What should have been another great night in Europe turned out to be a great disappointment. While the Germans were defeated 3-0 but the sight of the empty stands that night in November probably made something snap inside chairman Dé Stoop. Barely 2.500 spectators showed up to see the team that had eliminated the famous Inter! What more can you offer a football fan? The European adventure would eventually end one round later against the 1. FC Köln. A real battle in the Dom city ended in a resounding 5-1 win for the Germans who then finished the job Amsterdam with another 2-3 win. A much-discussed double encounter in which the Amsterdam club disappointed on and next to the field.

A breeding ground for Amsterdam’s talent

FC Amsterdam was a nice club, known for its humour. But you can’t run a professional club on humour alone. The club could not survive on just the gates. To the great frustration of the administrators, the city of Amsterdam did not give its professional clubs any financial support, unlike most other football cities in the Netherlands. The people of FC Amsterdam therefore sought refuge in the exploitation of local football talent. It was the renowned talent scout Tonnie Bruins Slot who brought talent such as Geert Meijer, Nico Jansen, Gerard van der Lem, Heini Otto and Japie Visser to the surface. As the purveyor of major Dutch clubs, the Amsterdammers were able to keep their heads above water for several seasons. In 1978, when Ajax and Leo Beenhakker started looking for upcoming talent in their own city, times became hard again in the Olympic Stadium. The exodus of talented players that had taken place since the successful matches in the UEFA-Cup tournament could no longer be met by attracting equally talented players. To make matters worse, the Amsterdammers relegated to the First Division at the end of the 1977-78 season after a dramatic all-or-nothing game at Go Ahead Eagles.

The downfall

With a healthy dose of Amsterdam’s self-confidence, everyone within the club was firmly convinced of an immediate return to the highest level. A portion of setbacks and an underlying tension in the group unfortunately took the red-whites no further than a 9th place in their first season in the First Division. The only remarkable achievement of the Amsterdammers in the summer of 1979 was their performance in Japan at a tournament organized by television channel Tokyo Channel TV. Because the Dutch National Team was not available for the tournament, FC Amsterdam was allowed to show up as an alternative. Both the Japanese organizers and the Amsterdammers themselves left the football audience in the land of the rising sun under the illusion that they were indeed the real Oranje. The season following the Japanese adventure, the Lieverdjes continued to muddle along in the First Division. As you would often need binoculars to spot fans in the far too large Olympic Stadium, more and more home games were played on the small side field that would become their new home base from the 1980-81 season onwards. In the run-up to the 1981-82 campaign, the Amsterdammers made an ultimate attempt to get the alternative part of the capital city’s football audience with the slogan “FC Amsterdam: a cosy alternative”. The slogan was a cry of distress, because when Dé Stoop mentioned the possible end of the club in February, the death struggle had already started a long time ago. FC Amsterdam was beloved throughout the country but was only truly loved by few and little of the set-up of the merger remained after 10 years. On Ascension Day 1982 the Lieverdjes played their last match at home against Telstar in front of 1,400 spectators. The circle was complete, 10 years after their debut match against the same Telstar FC Amsterdam was now taking the field against the club from Velsen for the last time. While the visitors celebrated the 0-1 victory and qualification for the playoffs, the disappointed Amsterdammers retreated to their dressing room for the last time.

A new FC Amsterdam?

Twenty-six years after the disbanding of the club, the name ‘FC Amsterdam’ was dusted off in September 2008. After the murder of Türkiyemspor chairman Nedim Imaḉ, his successor, Sahin Gerdan, decided that a name change might not hurt the Sunday premier league club that played their home games in the Olympic Stadium. The name ‘Türkiyemspor’ was all too often associated with matters that couldn’t see the light and it was precisely this reputation that the new chairman would rather have than lose. Sahin Gerdan proved he was serious by offering some old FC Amsterdam legends such as Nico Jansen a board position within the club. Meanwhile Türkiyemspor is no longer active either and after only 2 years the name FC Amsterdam is again gathering dust.

Dingemans “Dé” Stoop

A name that will undoubtedly remain associated with the club until the end of time is that of inspirer, financial backer and first chairman Dingemans “Dé” Stoop (22/10/19 – 12/02/07). As director of “Starlift”, the lift manufacturer, he was a successful businessman but above all Dé Stoop was a football lover at heart. As a board member of the Dutch Professional Football Association (NBV) in 1953, the headstrong businessman sat at the cradle of professional football in the Netherlands. Being a chairman of FC Amsterdam and formerly DWS was not Dé’s first experience at the helm. In the fifties he was the chairman of another club from the capital, the rebellious professional club BVC Amsterdam. During that period, Dé Stoop lived at odds with the KNVB for a time, but many years later, at the end of the seventies, he became a member of the ‘Sectie Bestuur Betaald Voetbal’ (Paid Football Section Board) of that same KNVB. At that time, the Amsterdammer mainly made his mark as an advocate for the introduction of sponsors on shirts and as a negotiator for a larger contribution by the NOS for the broadcasting of match footage. After his passage at FC Amsterdam, Stoop was also chairman of FC Den Haag for a while. Besides football he was also active in volleyball.

Sources:

“De Lieverdjes: Opkomst en ondergang van FC Amsterdam”. HOOF Marcelle van, Sportbibliotheek – Uitgeverij Thomas Rap.
“Euthanasie op De Lieverdjes”. HORN Martijn, in “50 jaar betaald voetbal”, Uitgeverij De Boekenmakers.
“Om ’t Spel en de Knikkers: 40 Jaar Betaald Voetbal in Nederland”. VERKAMMAN Matty & VERMEER Evert, Smulders Print en Video.
“Er ligt goud in de Amsterdamse voetbalmodder”. CUILENBORG Cees van, in Voetbal International, jg. 10 nr. 27 30 juni – 5 juli 1975.
“Naam FC Amsterdam keert mogelijk terug”. www.depers.nl

Foto: Dé Stoop (1981) – Hans van Dijk / Anefo used under CC BY-SA 3