The Spakenburg Derby between SK Spakenburg (the blues) and Ijsslemeervogels (the reds) is like no other match in the world. The Dutch town of Spakenburg has around 20,000 residents and two major football clubs with adjacent 9,000 seat stadiums. Both teams play in the Topklasse (3rd division) where the players are required to be semi-professional. Despite the relatively low-pay, and small size of the clubs, SK Spakenburg and Ijsslemeervogels both field high level footballers.
In its origins, SK Spakenburg was the club of the fishermen, while Ijsslemeervogels was the club of the bakers. These roles are no longer as clear-cut today, but the local pride and sense of tradition associated with the derby continues to define them. We caught up with Spakenburg resident and Ijsslemeervogels faithful Neils Van De Geest to find out more about football in his town.
What does the Spakenburg Derby mean to you?
“It is the most important match of the year. If you can win that one, you go to work and it’s the main thing anyone talks about. If you lose you can’t go to work. There a lot of fishing companies, and particularly amongst those workers the game means the world.”
What was the greatest Derby experience for you?
“We always create big tifos and use flares, but our greatest moment was throwing a pig and a chicken onto the field that we painted blue. They’re players were chasing them around the pitch. On the other side, the Spakenburg fans once dropped toilet brushes onto the pitch from the plane. Then their Tifo read ‘we brush the field with the reds.’ Most of the time, they do the best stuff, but my friends would kill me for saying that.”
Is there a history of violence associated with the derby?
Once, in the 80s an Ijsselmeervogels fan threw a bomb on the pitch and the game was canceled for a couple of years. More recently, in the late 90’s Spakenburg bought 2 of our major players with 2 finals left to play in the season. This created a lot of tension; and fights were breaking in the pubs at night. So they canceled the derby for about 7 years. When we ended up in the same division again, things calmed down. However, there were never any fights during the match, this is for sure.
What about when teams from outside of Spakenburg come to town?
In the past, when we have a derby we organize parties for the reds or the blues independently. But it got too big because fans of Ajax and Feyenoord began attending the game and having fights in the village. This is why we cannot buy alcohol until after the game.
Also, when a supporters group from another town comes to fight against either the blues or the reds we help each other. So when Quick Boys came to town and started a fight with Ijsslemeervogels fans the Spakenburg guys came and helped. The same thing happened with Feyenoord a few years prior.
What is the relationship with Ajax and Ijsslemeervogels versus Feyenoord and Spakenburg?
A lot of Ijsslemeervogels are inside the Ajax fan groups. We are the best club in amateur football, they are the best in professional. We play with the same colours, so it is a natural friendship. Spakenburg is often compared with Feyenoord but there is no real connection there.