Take the train to Den Haag Laan van Nieuw-Oost Indies train station, and then the #3 tram in the direction of Zoetermeer to Forepark. From there, descend the stairs to the underpass, turn right, walk along the dual carriageway and go past the BMW and other car shops. In the distance you will see a low and gently curving stadium, with small windows. Light towers bend over it. A ticket counter next to narrow doors is doing a quiet trade: it is just before kick-off and there is no queue. Tickets are €7.50, or, if you are a season’s ticket holder, entrance to the game is included in one’s membership. Most of the very few attendees, head straight to the entrance in which they are 3D-scanned. The game to be played is ADO Den Haag vs Veria FC of Greece; it is their second last friendly for ADO before the Eredivisie begins on 8th August. It is a Saturday afternoon start at 14:30, but the trains and streets are as a good as empty. It is a Code Red storm warning. Citizens are expected to stay in-doors, except for urgent business. This is what Marcel, a fellow-runner at Leiden Atletiek told me the week after the game. A month or so earlier, he had also answered ‘between ADO and Feyenoord’, when I asked him which club has the worst supporters in The Netherlands. My question gained the answer I was looking for: I know he is an Ajax fan and that ADO and Ajax have a bitter enmity.
Summer in The Netherlands
The Kyocera Stadium – opened in July 2007 – is the purpose built stadium for ADO: a club I first learned of via the door of a researcher at the esteemed research institute KITLV. On this door was newspaper clippings and what seemed to be a lapsed membership card, as well as a caricature of a stork giving the one-finger salute. Behind the door worked a short, chain-smoking, skinny and wrinkled man, who would sometimes get about in a suit, and on others don a Collingwood Football Club cardigan. No kidding. I never knew this man’s name.
Marcel, the runner, says, ‘the ADO fans have become a little less violent since the Club has moved to Kyocera Stadium.’ And so with this move, something of the Club’s history has disappeared, been demolished in the name of urban and civic improvement. Probably the Zuiderpark Stadium, too, no longer fulfilled the stadium requirements for the Eredvisie. Footage of the last game at Zuiderpark not only includes that of Luis Suarez running around for Groningen, but, also an extremely boisterous crowd, that cannot be silenced or brought under control even at the requests of the players. The game is stopped before time. (Here is some footage, and some more) .Typical of many Eredivisie and Jupiler League stadiums there is a large barrier separating the fans from the pitch. On the inside of this wall, murals are painted depicting ADO’s alliances with other fans: Juventus, Legia Warsaw and Swansea. There is also a mural that serves as homage to the Zuiderpark Stadium: ‘gone but not forgotten’. This wall is an unpleasant reminder of the stadium design elements which seeks to imprison and punish the ADO fans for their history of violent fandom, yet, it has been appropriated – made palatable – through these murals.
Only one side of the stadium is open for fans, and, due to the heavy weather, those who have come occupy the top five or so rows, in hope to shelter from the wind and rain. The wind is strong enough to leave only a few dry. In between each aisle, burly security guards watch the fans: mainly men, but, women and young-ens too. Some security guards, working hard at their job, watch over dozens of empty seats. At half-time, I see that scores of security guards are sitting around talking. The inclement weather has helped the security firm in their crowd management. A group of 5-10 men watch the game standing up; the whole crowd laughs when one of Veria’s defenders is struck in the face by the ball and falls backwards comically; a bird is laughed at too, when it struggles to fly into the gale force winds – but that’s about as nasty as the crowd gets. Oh yes, the linesman is roundly heckled after disallowing ADO a goal – of which the ball had crossed the line. At 0:2 down, nearing half-time, the ADO fans were restless and the incorrect decision was an unnecessary provocation on a bitterly wet and cold summer’s day. The game ended 1:2 after ADO was awarded a (fair) penalty in the last minute of proper time. Suddenly, there was urgency after the kick-off from ADO in order to restore parity. It didn’t happen. There was grumbling from the fans and it was too cold and unpleasant – even by Dutch standards – to stick around and applaud the players, who had at best, underperformed. The announcer cheerfully wished the few in attendance a ‘pleasant afternoon’ and ‘see you at the next game.’
Into these goals the ball will be blown
Neal McClimon, a sports and music photographer states that the Kyocera Stadium is one of the safest in Europe. This accreditation is also included on his website and the official ADO website. Neal often has to field questions from potential ADO fans who are concerned about the reputation of ADO’s supporters (see his article, here). The safety of the stadium was created through the overbearing presence of security guards, the 3D scanning all fans passed through when entering the stadium, the usual searching of bags, the wall/moat between fans and field, the ubiquitous presence of CCTV cameras and the perhaps two meter barriers surrounding the zone designated for the away fans. On this day, thanks to the overwhelming emptiness of the stadium and the bleakness of the weather, the stadium’s infrastructure that served to pacify the fans was domineering and an inglorious reminder of the fate of football fandom.
The visual reminders of the attacks on the freedom of fans to act in a manner that makes sense to them are inescapable. Hooliganism within the stadium is as good as impossible. It is common for hooligans to arrange fights separate from game times or near stadiums – perhaps some ADO fans do this too, perhaps not. ADO’s investors United Vansen International Sports Company are doing their best to make going to games ‘family friendly’ and secure. While, on the other hand, fans such as Ed Slier are producing books that document the history of the Zuiderpark Stadium. This is part of the tension between renewal and a desire to maintain a remembrance of the past and its feelings.
Ed, writes: “The Kyocera Stadium and the Zuiderpark Stadium are just about incomparable; they have a totally different atmosphere, location, and audience. It changed from an ‘English style’ stadium for die hard fans to a place for ‘family fun’. No wonder a lot of fans still long for our old Stadium. For nostalgic reasons we decided to make a book full of memories. Not to rebel against the new stadium, but as an ode to our legendary home base.” Ed is an active archivist of ADO Den Haag, a club, he prefers to call FC Den Haag. His website is regularly updated with club news as well as the activities of supporters. Kyocera Stadium, on game day, appears like this – in stark contrast to the manner in which I experienced it.
You are being watched; one watches oneself
‘Safety’ and ‘security’ in terms of stadiums too quickly lends itself to ideas of sterilisation, pacification and surveillance. This has become the norm in stadiums throughout England. The hyper-evident tools of surveillance calls to mind not only the notion of the ‘panopticon’ (Foucault).Surveillance is not only something that happens outside the self, but, is something that is incorporated into ones actions. Foucault: “He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection.” The ADO fans on this day (although many are big and burly; shaven heads and heavily muscular) are hardly on the brink of a riot. Kyocera Stadium feels less like a site in which play can take place and where fans can participate in the ecstasy of a come-from-behind win, or the thumping of a rival, and more like a site in which they must censor their learned behaviours of supporting ADO.
ADO Den Haag’s shift from Zuiderpark to Kyocera Stadium is a common story of the trajectory of ‘modern football’ – to which so many ultras are opposed. It is the departure of the ‘spiritual home’ to a stadium that is upgraded in terms of its facilities but also heavily so in its surveillance. The home of ADO Den Haag shifted from a relatively central part of The Hague to its periphery. The fans, such as Ed Slier, however, leave no doubt as to where the imagined home of FC/ADO Den Haag remains.