Holland's 10 Most Intimidating Football Stadiums

Many people think that all Dutch supporters are the same as the orange clad hordes of Oranje who follow the national team - all painted faces, welcoming smiles, pairs of clogs around the neck and always ready to dance with the Brazilians, even after defeat. And what about that famous Dutch tolerance ? They've all got it, haven't they ? Perhaps not, as a trip to many Dutch stadiums, particularly in the 80's and 90's, proves that these are common misconceptions. Here's our take on the most intimidating venues in Dutch football...

No.1 De Kuip / Feijenoord Stadion - Feyenoord

One of the greatest footballing arenas in world football, Feyenoord's de Kuip makes for an intimidating place for opposition players and fans alike. A temple to the working class identity of Rotterdam, it's classed as one of the most atmospheric not just in Holland, but also Europe. Het Legioen (the Legion) are a rowdy bunch, and are renowned for their vocal backing and loyalty, and standing in 'the Tub' as 50,000 of them belt out their anthem, "Hand in Hand", is a wondrous thing. Their main rivals are obviously Ajax, and when their players step onto the pitch they know they're going to be given the bird for the full 90 minutes. But even against the lesser teams of the Eredivisie the Feyenoord fans like to make it uncomfortable experience for the opposition, and being sat next to them in the away end can make for a long 90 minutes. However, over the years Feyenoord's hooligan element, Vak S, has also gained a notorious reputation, and their clashes with Ajax in particular have started to resemble something more akin to a war, than a football match.

No.2 Zuiderpark ADO Den Haag

Whilst Utrecht's Galgenwaard may at times have felt like the old Den in the 60's, ADO Den Haag as a club almost feels like the Millwall of Dutch football, with its "no one likes us" attitude and rough image. And to be honest it's hardly surprising. The city may be the home of the Dutch Royal family, the Houses of Parliament and European Justice, but Den Haag (The Hague) also has a reputation for being one of the most violent places in Holland. And a trip to their old ground, the Zuiderpark, often reinforced this. The Zuiderpark may have been only small, but hey, they knew how to make some noise. And throw fireworks. And bottles. And anything else they could get their hands on. The Zuiderpark already had a reputation as a tricky away trip before 1982, but when Den Haag's own fans set fire to their own main stand following relegation, completely gutting it, it became a place that many opposition players and fans feared. And when opposition fans decided against the trip, the home fans battled it out with the police instead. For years after many argued that something should be done, particularly the stadium's North Side, the section of the ground where most of the venom came from. Things reached a head in 1987 when a game against Den Haag's main rivals, Ajax, descended into a pitch battle that forced the game to be abandoned after just 45 minutes. In the end the government intervened and requested that the North Side terracing be changed into seating. The club initially agreed but then bizarrely (amidst talk of fan threats) left a section of terracing in the middle of the stand, with seating either side of it, and this lead to the Midden Nord (Middle North Terrace) becoming even more notorious. The North Stand ran along the length of the pitch, so you had 'normal' fans sat at each side of it, and then a section of lunatics stood up in the middle, all baying for blood. Surely one of the most bizarre compromises a club had made. Will things improve when the club moves to their shiny new stadium in 2007 ? Only time will tell, but don't expect things to be too pleasant.

No.3 Stadion de Meer - Ajax

Taking its name from Watergraafsmeer, a dodgy area in the south-east of the city, the Stadion de Meer was Ajax's home before the move to the Amsterdam Arena in 1996. For a club of such standing it was a strangely small ground, holding just under 25000, but Ajax's fans loved it - it was home. It sometimes seems strange that they played their big games at the city's Olympic Stadium, because the atmosphere in de Meer, especially from the notorious F Side was almost worth a goal start. However, the Olympic Stadium was deemed a safer venue after the Stadion de Meer gained an unhealthy obsession with fireworks and even small home-made bombs. The Diemen side of the ground seemed to find it particularly amusing to lob them at the opposition players as they warmed up, or even during the match, and it became quite regular for games to be held up by the referee as players were checked out. Matters came to a head in September 1989 when, during a UEFA Cup game against Austria Vienna, their goalkeeper Roland Wohlfahrt was pelted with everything, including a 4 foot iron bar that had been ripped from the terrace fencing. Nice. Ajax were banned from Europe for a year, and decided to play their future European matches at the Olympic stadium.

No.4 New Galgenwaard - Utrecht

When their new Galgenwaard stadium opened it's turnstiles for the first time back in 1982 many thought the club would lose a bit of the edge that it had always had during it's time at the old stadium. But if anything they gained even more of an edge, and despite having a moat built into it to stop the pitch invasions it was even more atmospheric, and despite the moat it still felt like the fans were right on top of you, and that they might manage to navigate their way onto the pitch at any point. Back in those early years of the 80's Utrecht's fans and players had a similar philosophy - make it as tough as possible for the opposition. Jan Wouters orchestrated the teams physical game on the pitch, and the Galgenwaard's Bunnik Side orchestrated things in the stands. This combination made for some epic, gruelling battles (off pitch, as well as on it), particularly in the Dutch cup, and the club and fans revelled in this no-nonsense reputation, with Utrecht-away becoming a tough fixture for the big 3. Ajax in particular, found this a tricky game, and it's a testament to the Galgenwaard and its fanatical support, that many Ajax fans still consider Utrecht as more of a rival than PSV.

No.5 Oosterpark Stadion - FC Groningen

Before FC Groningen moved to their new Euroborg Stadium at the start of 2006, their home was the legendary Oosterpark Stadion, sited in a rough neighbourhood in the north east of the city. The Oosterpark was a tidy British-style ground, with the stands really close to the pitch, that could hold just over 20,000 in the mid 80's before it was gradually transformed into an all-seater. And whilst the proximity of the fans to the pitch made for an intense atmosphere, particularly against arch-rivals FC Twente or the big 3, it was mainly the ground's location, in a neglected area of run-down housing, that made a trip to the Oosterpark an unnerving one for many rival fans. In-keeping with the 'old school' feeling of an inner-city British stadium, coaches of both the rival team and their supporters often came under fire as they made their way through the streets before or after the game. And whilst the main reason for the club moving to the fantastic Euroborg was for commercial reasons it's also expected that its design and out of town location will stop some of the nonsense that was occurring in and out of the Oosterpark, particularly from the infamous group of fans known as the Z Side.

No.6 Old Galgenwaard - Utrecht

Legend has it that the old Galgenwaard stadium (pre-1982) was nicknamed Walgenwaard, as it translated as "punching place", although a quick translation on our Dutch to English dictionary brought it up as "disgusted landlord". Either way, the old Galgenwaard was a rum old place, and if it wasn't for the cycle track around it, it could have been transported directly from the east end of London. And similar to the sort of stories coming out of grounds like the old Den and the Boleyn Ground, the Galgenwaard could tell tales of pitch invasions, players being accosted, and regular battles on the terraces (even between home fans) dating right back to the 'pleasant' 1950's, when it was home to 2 other Utrecht clubs, Hercules and DOS. By the late 70's the Galgenwaard had almost earned a tag as a no go area for normal fans, who were not used to such a threatening atmosphere at Dutch football grounds. In 1981, the club prepared to play its last game in the old stadium against PSV, and the owners breathed a collective sigh of relief - surely that was the end of all the trouble ? Surely they could now crack on with building a new, state-of-the-art stadium, innovative enough to help prevent trouble ? Well sort of. What they hadn't expected was for their fans to actually give them a helping hand on the last day - as they went about demolishing the stadium by hand!

No.7 Aan de Beatrixstraat - NAC Breda

The Beatrixstraat was famous for its 'Avondje NAC' (NAC night), named after its legendary Saturday night league matches, where the black and yellow army would turn up in force and literally roar the team on for 90 minutes. Whilst much of this was good natured, it was, at the time, quite an eye opener for the opposition, with the NAC fans being one of the first in Holland to embrace an English style atmosphere, complete with chanting, mass-singing, the shouting of abuse towards the opposition, and the occasional outbreak of yobbish behaviour. The sheer scale of the atmosphere, 'the Breda Roar', became renowned throughout Holland, with the supporters in the B-Side section of the ground often acknowledged as the loudest and most vocal in the whole of Holland, whilst those in the Ei-Side weren't far by behind, even if they were rather more concerned with barracking the opposition than supporting their own players. Located in the city centre, the Beatrixstraat was not the largest of stadiums, but what it lacked in capacity it more than made up for in volume.

No.8 Arke Stadium - Twente

The club's previous home, the Diekman Stadion, was closed in 1998, and although it had twice the capacity of the Arke, it's oval shape and distance from the pitch made it one of those vast bowls where the fans seemed detached from the players. Not so the Arke, with the fans closer to the action, FC Twente's partisan support now creates an atmosphere and a half at it's home games, especially for the games against Feyenoord and FC Groningen. However, a section of their support was much criticized after intimidation towards their own fans and players in 2002 resulted in Twente fans tearing up their own stadium after a season in which they'd expected some success ended disappointingly.

No.9 Old Stadion de Goffert - NEC (Nijmegen)

A cold, stark, rather bizarre ground, the old Stadion de Goffert, was an oval affair, similar to the Old Galgenwaard, with what looked like the remnants of a banked cycle track going round it. These banks gave the ends of the grounds a strange feel to it because even if you were at the front of the terrace you were still perched high above the ground and miles from the goal. Not the basis for an intimidating atmosphere, but the home fans, particularly those in the Hazenkamp stand, were mostly at pitch level (the cycle track didn't ramp up on the straight sections along the pitch length), and liked to make things uncomfortable for the opposition. Cue scenes of madness involving fans battling it out on the banked cycle track, not the sort of thing you get at the Manchester Velodrome one presumes, unless, of course, hardcore fans of Chris_Boardman and Bradley Wiggins have taken exception to a time trial result. In January 2000 they moved into a re-modelled Goffert, and whilst the fans are now much closer together at least it doesn't feel quite as unruly as the old one did.

No.10 Amsterdam Arena - Ajax

Ok, so the Amsterdam Arena gets the same sort of criticism that's applied to the stadiums of so many big clubs nowadays - namely that the corporate prawn sandwich brigade has taken the game from its roots and had a detrimental effect on the traditional atmosphere, but the Arena deserves to make our list if only for the atmosphere when Feyenoord come to town. With Feyenoord's de Kuip getting almost universal recognition as one of the world's great "proper" football grounds, this has prompted the fans of Ajax to up the ante when those working-class scallywags from Rotterdam come to their lovely city. Ok, so the build up to the game may resemble something more akin to a military operation, and you're unlikely to see much atmosphere outside the ground as 'the Legion' are shipped in by train and tunnelled straight into the away end, but inside the atmosphere is awesome, with the Ajax fans giving the Feyenoord players a reminder that it's not only de Kuip that can be an intimidating venue.