De Kuip – Unique Look
The choice of Rotterdam as the host city for the EURO 2000 denouement would have certainly delighted the old Feyenoordpresident Leo van Zandvliet had he still been alive. It was Van Zandvliet, after all, who had trie dream of building a football ground in the Netherlands’ biggest port city to rival the Olympic Stadium constructed for the 1928 games in Amsterdam.
The new arena was to have a unique look. Given the economic depression of the 1930s and the damp terrain of the chosen site close to Rotterdam’s Varkenoord shipyard, the architect LC van der Vlugt and constructor JP van Eesteren decided on a steel framework to support the two-tier structure which – unlike other stadiums of the period — would have no internal columns.
In September 1935, the first pile was driven into the ground by Puck van Heel, the legendary Feyenoord captain and hero of their first Dutch title success in 1924. Come the following July, some 1,500 human “guinea pigs” were stepping into the new 61,500-capacity stadium to test the stability of the stands. They were rewarded for their assistance with gin and cigars. De Kuip officially opened its doors to the public on 27 March 1937 when 37,825 spectators saw Feijenoord – as the club was known until the early 70s and the introduction of a more Euro-friendly spelling – defeat Belgian side VAV Beerschot 5-2 in an exhibition match. Six weeks later, on 2 May, the stadium staged the first of over 100 internationals involving the Netherlands national team, who marked the occasion by beating Belgium 1-0.
It was fitting that Belgium were the first international visitors given some of the famous Low Countries derbies that De Kuip has witnessed since: the Oranje’s 7-6 victory in 1951 remains the highest-scoring game in Dutch national team history, while their 9-1 drubbing of Belgium in 1959 was subsequently dubbed the “Feyemoord” – or “Feye-murder”.
The 1950s also brought the installation of floodlighting, Feyenoord’s first evening match coming against English side Bolton Wanderers (in November 1957). De Kuip soon became a regular venue for the finals of the major continental competitions, including the European Cup finals of 1972, when a Johan Cruyff-inspired Ajax defeated Inter Milan 2-0, and 1982, when Aston Villa beat Bayern Munich 1-0.
Of course, Feyenoord have their own proud tradition in continental competition and after capturing the European Cup in 1970 under Ernst Happel, they lifted the UEFA Cup for the first time in 1974 by beating Tottenham Hotspur in the final. Following a 2-2 draw in London, a packed De Kuip saw Feyenoord prevail 2-0 in the return leg thanks to goals from Wim Rijsbergen and Peter Ressel. If Ajax, their great rivals from Amsterdam, enjoy greater renown internationally, Rotterdammers will claim with confidence that no Dutch club can rival the fervour of the Feyenoord fans and the atmosphere they create at De Kuip.