FC Groningen likely to crash out of top Dutch football league; Angry fans attack cops

After the Eredivisie match between FC Groningen and FC Utrecht on Friday evening, dozens of people, presumably home team supporters were stopped by police when they tried to start confrontations with others. This led to several incidents against the police officers themselves. Supporters saw FC Groningen lose their 19th match of the season, with the prospect of relegation to the Eerste Divisie now readily apparent.

Police stopped dozens of people after the match for walking on public roads, but dozens of others ran off. They were suspected of trying to start a confrontation with FC Utrecht supporters who were attempting to leave the northern city by coach. Authorities used jaywalking rules to briefly detain and fine about 27 people, but the officers who ticketed the group were pelted with beer bottles by other people from the group of roughly 60 individuals. A torch was also used to start a fire which spread to bunches of reeds along a waterway.

Ultimately, the police managed to prevent a confrontation between supporters of the two teams. The away supporters’ buses were able to safely exit Groningen via a different route.

Only a great miracle can keep FC Groningen in the Eredivisie

Shortly after the match, the speakers at the Euroborg stadium were playing the FC Groningen club anthem, and the lyric, “Laat ons weer eens juichen, FC FC Groningen,” could be heard, which translates to, “Let us cheer again, ‘FC… FC Groningen.’” The song also blared though the speakers at halftime during the match against FC Utrecht on Friday night, but the musical plea did not get the desired response. The home team suffered its 19th defeat of the season by a score of 1-2, and the team is now very close to being relegated from the Eredivisie to the Keuken Kampioen Divisie, the sponsored name of the Eerste Divisie, the second highest league in Dutch football.

If FC Groningen wants to remain in the top league as it has continuously since 2000, it must catch up to Excelsior, FC Emmen or Vitesse by covering at least a seven point gap in the last six matches. That won’t be easy. Because under the current trainer Dennis van der Ree, the club has only won once since the beginning of December.

FC Groningen fans swallowed the defeat with resignation after the first match since the Dutch football association, KNVB, tightened measures that oblige referees to stop matches before the 90th minute if supporters cause serious disturbances. “Shame on you,” shouted the fanatical supporters behind the goal at one point.

“I’m disappointed too,” said an exasperated Van der Ree. “But I will keep fighting as long as we still have a chance” to secure Groningen a spot in the Eredivisie.

No matter who you speak with in Groningen, everyone emphasizes that the club belongs in the Eredivisie. The fallen “Pride of the North” already eliminated Atlético Madrid in the UEFA Cup, and how beautiful were the European matches against Internazionale, Partizan Belgrade and Fiorentina? FC Groningen won the Dutch Cup in 2015 and made a name for itself for decades with both elegant and rough attackers.

From Arjen Robben, Luis Suárez, Milko Ðurovski and Mariano Bombarda to Peter Houtman, Martin Drent, Harris Huizingh, René Eijkelkamp, Rob McDonald, Hennie Meijer, Tim Matavz, Erik Nevland and Marcus Berg. FC Groningen is of course also the club of Ronald and Erwin Koeman and Patrick Lodewijks, now national coach, assistant national coach and goalkeeper coach with the Dutch national team.

But mighty past achievements do not guarantee a bright future. FC Groningen will not get their starting team in order this season. Trainer Frank Wormuth and technical director Mark-Jan Fledderus have already departed. Van der Ree, the current head coach, will have to make way for Dick Lukkien over the summer, who is still fighting against relegation with FC Emmen. A growing number of fans are hoping that he will leave sooner.

“The only positive thing is that the game was not stopped over those stricter measures from the KNVB,” said a disappointed fan as he walked to the parking lot. “That saved us something.”

Reporting by ANP

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