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The pride of the south

Maxim: it’s silly and naive to try to merge two old football rivals like Roda JC and Fortuna

There will be no merger of Roda JC and Fortuna, the professional football clubs of Kerkrade and Sittard. Lack of money – the local government won’t support them – is the main reason. The fans of the competing clubs must have had a party after this ‘good’ news. Isn’t it somewhat silly and naive to think that two old rivals could make a brand new start together in the Dutch soccer competition?

Yes, is the answer of Pierre Bessems, who works for UM’s Estates and Buildings division (UM-vastgoed). Don’t put two rivals together, that won’t work. Bessems loves football and never misses a game of the Dutch national team. “I’m fan of Oranje; I’m not so engaged with the small clubs. But I think it would be a good plan to form one big team for the whole province of Limburg. Merge MVV, VVV, Roda JC and Fortuna and name the club DSM, or Maastricht University as far as I’m concerned. It depends on who’s the biggest sponsor.” Nowadays, a football club needs lots of money, and that’s why they should pool their power, Bessems says. “You’ve got to attract good players and create a training centre where young players from Limburg can have their chance.”
Maurice Evers, head of the Admissions and Registration Office, lives in Kerkrade, the home of Roda JC. “I’m a Roda fan”, he says with a big smile. Every second week he and his son watch the home game in section 17 south, row 5, seats 12 and 13. The merger was “a very stupid idea”, according to Evers. “Fortuna is our arch-enemy. There is no solidarity at all between the two supporter groups. We sing every two weeks in our stadium: ‘Whoever doesn’t jump is a Fortunees’. Every Roda fan jumps; nobody wants to be named a Fortunees. That’s a major insult.” Roda JC is important for the identity of the people of Kerkrade, Evers says. “We don’t have so much to be proud of in Kerkrade. Roda is the pride of the south. The club has existed for almost 50 years, I’m glad we can celebrate that.” He is relieved, but there are still some dark clouds. “There’s still the danger of relegation – we are second last at the moment – and there’s also the danger of bankruptcy.” 
John Hagedoorn, a Maastricht professor specialising in mergers and alliances, doesn’t think the coalition of the two clubs is a bad idea. “It wouldn’t be for the first time it happened in Dutch soccer. FC Den Haag is a merger of Ado and Holland Sport, and I can assure you – I’m from The Hague – that they weren’t best friends. FC Utrecht is also a fusion club, so are Roda and Fortuna, so is the rest of the Dutch competition.” Some time ago, he gave a lecture for the Limburg employer’s federation in the Fortuna Sittard stadium. “Afterwards we had a dinner in the business club, and we could see the game from there. I saw more people at our dining table than in the stands.” Hagedoorn imagines that the fans are happy their clubs will stay alive. But for how long? he asks himself. “The financial problems still haven’t been solved. From a business perspective, there’s really only room for one professional club in this area.”

 

Riki Janssen

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