Sunday, 6 April 2014

Vitesse Arnhem v Ajax Amsterdam. 06/04/14

"So in this country you can legally consume mind altering drugs and pay a woman to have sex with you, but you can't drink a can of beer on the street without risking arrest."

Vitesse Arnhem 1-1 Ajax Amsterdam. GelreDome.
Sunday 06/04/14
The Netherlands is weird. Weird in a good, Lady Gaga way as opposed to a strange, creepy Max Moseley way. We'd been in Arnhem for little more than five minutes when I was pulled over by a police officer and brutally informed it was illegal to drink a beer on the streets.

Claim it's not open was the first thought that ran through my mind. And so I told said officer. He seemed to believe it, and then asked me to turn the can upside down. Damn. This one was on the ball, as beer leaked onto the street. "DO NOT TRY AND FOOL ME" came the shout. Explaining that it was simply unfathomable that I could walk around the corner and have a joint and sex with a woman for money legally but not consume one can of beer, he told me to pour it away and be on my way. A lucky escape.

Arnhem's very own Diagon Alley. With it's own magic Coffee
By the time we'd arrived in Arnhem, I felt like I'd been punished enough for any future misdemeanours as it was. After two solid days on the drink, the two and a half hour train journey that stopped at what felt like every single village from Essen across the German-Dutch border and into Arnhem had been hell. Trying to stay awake and not be violently sick at the same time is the sort of multi-tasking only a woman can do.

A few beers in Bloopers with the locals
Excellent work from this chap to be in this state before midday
The natural course to feeling better was a beer. A legally purchased one from a bar this time. That bar was Bloopers, in a small square called the Corn Market a short distance from the station where the local fans had gathered for a protest about the civil war that had broken out between former Vitesse owner Merab Jordania and current owner Alexander Chigrinsky. I say gathered, but some were clearly a bit worse for wear with one chap doubled over in a seat with his head in his hands. A bloody good effort before midday so fair play to the man.

Vitesse is ours
Among the allegations launched by Jordania earlier in the week were claims that Chelsea had told Vitesse not to qualify for the Champions League due to the close relationship between the clubs with the Blues sending a multitude of players to Arnhem each season. Whatever the ins and outs, the locals were far from happy and gathered at 11am with a banner stating Vitesse is Ours before marching to the GelreDome.

That march is about two miles over the Nederrijn River and the stadium itself is completely and utterly bizarre. From the outside, it looks more like a giant Nissan factory which is explained away by the fact that the two bloody great half cylinder things on the roof can close to turn the stadium into an actual dome. Not only that, but the pitch can also be manouvered out leaving it to host some of the biggest names in music when Vitesse haven't got a game on.

GelreDome - not a Nissan Car Factory as first appears
How's that for a sustainable transport plan?
With 90% of the crowd arriving 20 minutes before kick off on bicycle (not wearing clogs or carrying Edam to complete the stereotype), it left a right crush to get in. Once inside, there is a scenario that every single person in Greece wishes was existent in their country - the Euro does not exist. The official currency of GelreDome is Munt, which you can purchase in exchange for money at a Munter Machine. One Heineken is two Munt - an absolute steal.

Roll up, roll up - exchange your Euro for Munts
Munts - the official currency of GelreDome
The stadium itself features four stands, all of the same height and all seated. The corners are walled off which means if you are stuck in a corner as we were, you can't actually see what is going on in the stands around you. The Ajax fans, potentially able to see their side crowned league champions, were tucked away opposite us.

Before the game, the biggest flag I've ever seen in my life was hoisted into position in front of us to create an intimidating scene for the visitors. Thankfully, it was taken down before kick off, otherwise there would be no hope of seeing the game which would have represented a waste of Munts on the tickets. What did greet the teams onto the pitch however was the sort of firework display you'd consider over the top at the Superbowl, let alone an Eredivisie clash.

The inside of the Nissan Factory
A firework display that would make the Superbowl blush
Given the near arrest for Beercangate earlier in the day, it was particularly galling then to see one bald man jump from our stand onto the perimeter track, fight three stewards, square up to a further three and then be allowed to simply return to his seat. You can add "Wolverine from X Men impression fighting half a dozen security figures" to things you can seemingly do in the Netherlands over drink a beer on the streets.

Topless man fights gang of steward before returning to
his seat
The game itself was rather exciting. Chelsea man Bertrand Traore put Vitesse 1-0 ahead, Ajax goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen kept his side in it in the the first half (or were Arnhem deliberately missing to not qualify for the Champions League?!) with Kolbeinn Sigthorsson grabbing an equaliser in the second 45. That wasn't enough to give Ajax the title with a point from their next game now needed to secure it. And for any fans of Chelsea reading this, all four of your current loanees featured - Traore, Patrick van Aanholt and Christian Atsu all starting with Lucas Piazon coming on from the bench.

The Chelsea Reserves Supporters section
With the majority of spectators hitting the cycle lanes on their bikes, getting back to the city centre via bus was extremely straightforward and within ten minutes of the final whistle we had a beer ordered in a bar which soon filled up with locals to dance the night away. We unfortunately couldn't join them, having instead to face a train journey back to Dusseldorf and a flight home. Being extremely careful not to be seen with our train beers on the street by any local police, obviously.

Vitesse Arnhem - Munts well spent.

Vitesse Arnhem: Piet Velthuizen, Guram Kashia, Patrick van Aanholt, Marko Vejinovic, Davy Propper, Zakaria Labyad (Valeri Kazaishvili), Jan-Arie van der Heijden, Bertrand Traore 1 (Mike Havenaar), Renato Ibarra (Lucas Piazon), Christian Atsu.

Ajax Amsterdam: Jasper Cillessen, Ricardo van Rhijn, Joel Veltman, Nicolai Boilesen (Christian Poulsen), Stefano Denswil, Lerin Duarte (Ricardo Kishna), Daley Blind, Lasse Shone, Kolbeinn Sigthorsson 1 (Lesley de Sa), Bojan Krkic, Davy Klaasen.

Attendance: 25,500

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