About ruud

I am an English teacher from Den Haag , Holland. I teach at the most international school in the Netherlands, with about 65 nationalities. I have also organised a sportsprogramme called Sportcampus for the past 25 years. Football, basketball and Volleybal are the main assets of this programme in which we teach kids from all walks of life to become real sportsmen/women, winning and losing, and to make doning sports a part of their lifestyle.

No Tourists But Co Owners: The International Attraction of An English 7th League Team

Over the years of its short existence FC United of Manchester have received an unparalleled amount of attention, given the level that they play at: the Northern Premier League ( the 7th tier of English football). Of course there are numerous reasons for the wealth of articles and (international) documentaries, first and foremost  the fact that they left the most popular club in the world – Manchester United – to build their  “world of our own”.

More than enough has been said about the how and why of the coming into existence of “the rebel club” or “the other United” or even “little United”, both sense and nonsense, but one thing the two teams do have in common is their attraction to foreign fans. With Manchester United it is even one of the reasons why many diehard fans left and joined FC United of Manchester: the endless stream of camera selfie flashing, fortune seeking tourists who only seem to want one thing, be there and gape at the stars. Then go home to tell about it at the office or other workplace, gloating over the pictures that they have taken prematch, during the whole match, and after the match.

Likewise FC United of Manchester attract a great deal of foreign attention, albeit of a rather different kind. Like its big stepbrother it has its international branches, such the German, Polish and Nordic branch. There are visits from likeminded clubs, like Cap de Cuidad de Murcia from Spain and Skt Pauli from Germany. And there are individuals from all over the world who one way or another have been hooked by the FC United feeling and are willing to go long ways to vist  “their”  team.

Coincidentally this weekend will almost bring together the two of the most remarkable foreign fans/co owners, Linus Lind and Ming Fan.  Almost, because the day after the one has left for China again after a 9 day stay with four games to watch, the other one will arrive on  his bike at the almost finished site of the new Broadhurst Park Stadium in Moston, one of the few fan built stadiums in the world ( but that’s another story again).

10585301_776601362362607_1518828767_o (2)

Linus Lind is a psychology student from Uppsala, Sweden, who has been along as a fan for a while and has already visited a respectable number of games, given the distance. This summer he took it upon him the embark upon a Bike Ride for Charity – Doctors Without Borders, a worthy cause – taking him through 7 countries and to the doorstep of the new stadium of his favourite team. Linus is not your typical endurance athlete, looking for the ultimate challenge. In fact he is an easy going, intelligent and well mannered Viking, not with the physique of a bike rider, but rather a compact defensive midfielder. He loves good food, a beer or two and salsa and of course he is raving mad for setting out on this trip.

10602234_776601345695942_423459186_o (1)

However, if this is not remarkable enough in its own way there is at the same time an even more unlikely visitor. It is  Fan Ming,  Ming Fan for many a Mancunian red who are not that familiar with Chinese names,  or just Fan – a poignant contrast to the Van…s at the other United – another thirty  something old FC United fan ( pun not intended) who has travelled 9000 km to see 4 games in 9 days and will leave an indelible mark on the faithful.

14179_746958472034456_2807413852259657150_n (1)

With his FC United Chinese Branch banner , his enthusiastic interest for anything FC – visiting the head office, the new ground etc. – and his charismatic personality he has endeared himself to all and everyone. When he heads home he will leave behind a lasting memory for many a reminiscing over a lager or an ale.


If the two almost coinciding visits show one thing , it is the irresistable attraction of this club with its motley crew of fans calling themselves “a rightful bunch of dicks”. The combination of down to earth, humorous Mancunian stubbornness and the fan owned principle, where everyone has an equal say in club matters, leaves ripples wherever they go – their European trips are legend – and where publicity  presents them. Not very much unlike Manchester United. There is however one big difference, the foreign fans do not come as tourists, but as co owners proud to be a part of the dream.

FC United of Manchester and The Romance of Football

FC United of Manchester and The romance of Football ( a personal story)


I have never been much of a football rebel . Actually, I have never been much of a die hard football fan either. My father first took me to football when i was about 10. It was The hague (Scheveningen  to be precise) in the 60s, the club was called Holland Sport and they were the second team in The Hague, behind ADO-  their great rivals. I remember the team being average, and sometimes well below that. But the big teams never liked coming to Holland Sport, probably because the team always raised their game against the best opponents. Especially Feyenoord always had a tough time away at Holland Sport. The atmosphere was always raucious, with hilarious banter and well meant deprecations of our own players, sometimes deservedly since the defenders used to make mistakes that 3 year old toddlers do not make. Their keeper was about 5.8 and with every low ball we knew there was panic and occasion to despair.

When I was 11 my loyalty was split, since I had started playing for ADO u 12. I divided my time between going to Holland Sport with my father and to ADO with my uncle. My father would never set a foot inside the ADO stadium, I never found out why. It must have been the tribal virus particular of so many football fans. However , Holland Sport quietly passed away in the seventies and their ground was turned into tennis courts and some non league pitches. There is nothing quite as emotionally painful for a supporter as the slow breakdown of a former football ground. All memories appear and disappear with each stone that is being removed.

So that left  only ADO as the club to watch, standing at the Zuiderpark end with some mates, keeping as far away as possible from the hooligan other end. The Zuiderpark saw some strange sights in those days, police with horses on the north stand, numerous pitch invasions, pyro stopping a number of games, it all happened and nobody was surprised. Games against Feyenoord and especially Ajax always produced loads of overwork for the local constables.  But watching it from a distance there was also a lot fun and the Hague humour, the fans always inventing new banter, the most original in the country by far.

Nowadays, football in Holland has changed, as in many countries. ADO has moved to an all seater stadium at the edge of the city, where the local hooligans have no chance to meet their rivals, since they are cordoned of from them.  They play there on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and occasionally other days of the week all depending on the whims of the Dutch FA and Murdoch’s FOX TV.  The stadium is safe, clean  but entirely without atmosphere. The new North Side  fans still refuse to sit down ( which is a  good thing), are still inventive in their banter and banners, but when a game is not exciting for the full 90 minutes – which it seldom is in The Hague –  it is like watching a movie in an open air theatre. You can hear the coaches and players shout and the thuds as they kick the ball. And to put the icing on the cake artifial 3G grass has reached Den Haag.  As the fourth team in the eredivisie ADO play on 3G and after their surprise win vs. FC Twente nobody is moaning about it. Most fans are chauvinists and if your team wins on 3G, it is 3G that is the best. However, for me it was the final stage in getting away from modern football. In my house I do not want posters, but real paintings and I want my football to be on real grass.

When I was at Gigg Lane in August I retrieved a big part of my lost football soul.  The people, the setting – especially the stench of the urinoirs – brought back memories of my first days at Holland Sport. The singing and the banter took me back to real football for the fun of watching. Since then I have intensified my love of the game, but in a very different sense.  I scour the internet for interesting football stories and clips, far away from the spotlights of top flight football. Of course I keep one eye open for the Messis and Ronaldos of this world, but the true feeling comes when reading about the worst team in England, cult clubs like SKt Pauli and Hapoel Karamon or the exploits of the Soccermen in football’s  underdeveloped spots in the world. Already it has given me so much fun and facebook friends from all places in the world that it has turned into a sometimes over- zealous passion. Then my wife and daughter remind me that they are still there and that there is more than  a hobby. However, they understand me and will be there the next time in the new ground. Where Iwill hopefully meet with many people that I only know from facebook. And where we will hopefully discuss the amazing club that binds people from Siberia, Denmark, Germany, Holland,  Spain and a lot of other countries, not as football tourists, but as genuine long distance supporters.  YES, I’VE TURNED REBEL AFTER ALL. Bring on United, for the Romance of Football.

The Romance of Football: FC United of Manchester – Stamford AFC 24/8/2013

Intended as a short trip to London to celebrate our daughter’s 15th birthday, our family outing took a somewhat sinister turn when both my wife´s and daughter’s visa were refused on the fact that there was no marriage certificate included in the pile of documents we had to send as part of the application procedure. As if there are no digital systems to find out within second that we have been happily married for two years and a month now. Since even a partial refund for the money we had invested in the trip was out of the question we decided that I would still make the trip, but then alone. So instead of shopping sprees and showing the sights to my family I found myself visiting the British Museum for the first time and roaming around the impressive area around Liverpool Station, just for a taste of the unique London atmosphere, rather addictive to an English teacher from Holland. One prearranged part of the programme was not to be adjusted though, my maiden visit to FCUM, the club I have gradually come to respect and support , after having seen a documentary on Dutch TV. As a football romantic with a love for the pureness of the game the story of FC stands out as a dreamlike adventure amidst Sheikh overtakings, Corporate Football, Customers not Fans policies and artificial turf, even at top level.

Continue reading