AWAYDAYS : Non-league in professional football

It was the last game of the regular season yesterday for us. And by us, I mean my local team VVVVenlo playing in the 2nd tier of professional football in the Netherlands.
There was really nothing to play for in the last game, we were 2nd in the table and that meant we were going into the play offs for sure.

We were to play Achilles ’29 and that is always some kind of special really. They got into the Jupiler League (That’s the league’s name) 3 years ago from the amateur levels and this season is the last time they will feature in the all professional league as semi-professionals. The consequence of their status is that they don’t have a stadium, but a proper non-league ground.

This was the 36th and final round of the regular competition & this is usual a time to reflect at our season. Whilst driving to our location, about 30-40 minutes from where I live, I could only think WHAT IF? We had a good run this year, for a long time it even looked as if we were to get the first spot. But lacking of quality in the games against the little ones, we drowned our own chances and now we were ‘the best of the rest’.

Personally it was a great football year to be honest, visited a lot of grounds this year. And to finish it off with a non-league club and ground in a professional league? OH MY WORD.
About the game, well. The pitch was terrible and I absolutely loved it. Just seeing the uneven things on the pitch and smelling that grass smell all over.
We were the better side and won 1-3, our striker has put 28 goals in the onionsack this season. He is the topscorer and we go into the play offs with full confidence and desire.

Obviously I have to try the food. That goes without saying. I mean come on mate? I had something to eat at home, but it wasn’t enough and in my opinion you don’t have the proper awayday experience without something to stuff down your pie-hole. So I just ordered a sandwich/bun with a big german sausauge in it. ‘Bockwurst” for those who know what I’m talking about. To be honest it wasn’t the best I had ever had, but fair enough.

It was probably really shit and when I would eat it now, at this point. I would hug the toilet, but in that atmosphere and the game excitement and all, everything tastes better!

I don’t know why, but I like lower league football. It’s pure, it’s honest. Just like at those pictures pal! Okay, okay these are a bit over/under the top. But I like the prices, less restrictions, enjoyable time, friendly people home and away & the culture around it.
Sure it’s still about money, but it is the fans that make the lower leagues. Not the commercial companies, not tv, not champions league or institutions. Just us in the stands.

On the other hand, the thrill of getting in those upper spots and competing for promotion gives me a real buzz man. It’s lovely to get 20+ wins a season and dream of the Eredivisie (the topleague in the Netherlands). Positive vibes all over the city about your results, love it man. Or the other way around and getting relegated, it hurts. It’s like a sword piercing your skin. But those moments are made in the stadiums, in the grounds. It binds people. The supporters are my family and I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world. It’s the only moment when my anxieties don’t seem to pop up and I just can get so emotionally attached to that thing called football.


That concluded our regular season and I for one can tell you that we are super excited for the play offs! Watch this space for my soliloquy about the play offs to come. We’re starting on may 13th and we will get promotion! (I hope)


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