The formation of Heracles Almelo dates to 1902 when a club called Hollandia came into being. The club rented Kortenvoort’s Meadow on the condition that the owner’s son would be picked for the team! At the turn of the century Almelo already had a professional football team called Oranje Nassau, a club with exclusive membership to the bourgeois classes. They played on a ground in Wierdensche Straatweg and it was on this ground that Hollandia played their first ever match. The result against the professional team was unsurprisingly 23-0! It also transpired the dimensions of Kortenvoort’s Meadow was almost half the size of Oranje’s full size pitch. This was soon extended and because of it’s location on a hiking trail began to attract sizeable crowds. In May 1903 a meeting was staged at the Hotel Schreuder between the committees of Hollandia and another team, Inartie. The result was a merger and the birth of Heracles FC.

Heracles moved to a ground called Bonthuis for the 1909-10 season and soon became Almelo’s premier team. Heracles even beat old foes Oranje Nassau 13-0 in that first season at Bonthuis. In 1910 the club adopted the present black and white striped shirts having previously sported black and green shirts. In 1913 the club were on the move again this time to Bornsestraat and the venue that was to become their home for the next 85 years.

In July 1974 a decision was taken to separate the professional and amateur teams of the club in order to protect the finances of both entities and the professional wing was renamed SC Heracles ’74. The present name was adopted in 1998. The club has enjoyed sporadic periods of success including being crowed Dutch National Champions in 1927 and 1941, the competition has been known as the Eredivisie since the advent of professionalism in 1955. Having won the second tier Eerste Divisie in 2004/05, this modest club from eastern Netherlands have commendably spent ten straight seasons in the top flight. Their best performance in their current spell in the top flight has been a sixth place finish in 2009-10. Another memorable season came in 2011-12 when Heracles enjoyed a run to the KNVB Cup Final defeating VV Berkum, De Graafschap, RKC Waalwijk and AZ Alkmaar before succumbing to PSV Eindhoven by three goals to nil in the final in Rotterdam.

Interestingly Heracles have a long history of employing English managers and to date seven Englishmen have led the team. Horace Colclough spent twelve years at Almelo between 1920 and 1932 and he was succeeded by Robert Roxburgh (1932-35). Then came Leslie Lievesley who coached Heracles in the 1946-47 season before joining Torino. Lievesley was subsequently killed in the fateful Superga air crash. Then came Michael Keeping who had been a coach at Real Madrid but was managing Poole Town when Heracles acquired his services for the 1960-61 campaign. Keith Spurgeon coached the club in 1963-64 and subsequently coached in the USA, Libya, Sweden and Cyprus. Les Talbot coached in the Netherlands between 1949 and 1972 and was at the helm of Heracles for the 1966-67 season before joining AZ Alkmaar. The final English coach of Heracles was Ron Dellow who similarly to Talbot spent 25 years in the Netherlands, three of which were at Heracles between 1972 and 1975, Dellow died in Almelo at the grand age of 99.

In June 1999 the club moved to the new Polman Stadion on the outskirts of the town. The old ground in Bornsestraat was largely demolished but thankfully the 1924 wooden grandstand, affectionately known as the “English Stand” was preserved and became part of the facility used by the amateur wing of the Heracles club, AVC Heracles. On July 14th 2011 the magnificent old stand was declared a national monument and as such cannot be demolished. Initially the new stadium had a modest capacity of 6,500 but due to promotion to the top flight at the end of the 2004/05 season this was increased by 2,000. It remains one of the smallest stadiums in the Eredivisie and the club are actively looking at plans to increase the capacity to 12,500.

Tonight’s game sees Heracles once again perilously close to the relegation places with only NAC Breda and Dordrecht below them in the table. Visitors FC Utrecht are twelfth and only seven points ahead of their hosts. A win could prove vital for Heracles in their survival bid. The game starts to a fantastic ticker tape display and some pyro from the small centre section of terracing behind the goal. The first half is low in quality with endless passing between the two teams seeming frightened to make a mistake. The game change with the introduction of  the Swede Denni Advić. Within three minutes of his arrival he had scored and Heracles were in front much to the delight of the home crowd. However, this prompted Utrecht out of their shell and shortly after their French striker Sébastien Haller levelled the scores which in truth was a fair result with neither side doing enough to merit the victory.

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Saturday February 21st 2015 – Eredivisie

Heracles Almelo (0) 1 (Advić 76)

FC Utrecht (0) 1 (Haller 80)

Attendance: 8,197 (at Polman Stadion)

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Sportclub Westfalia 04 e.V. Herne was formed in June 1904 by local factory worker Willi Stens who had been playing for the BV Steele club. He was elected as president and looked to friends from the area around the well to do neighbourhood of Schloss Strünkede to become the first team. The original Strünkede Castle was built in 1243 by the Lords of Strünkede who had been nobility since 1142. The current castle was completed in 1664 and provides a serene and stately backdrop to the huge open terrace opposite the grandstand. Westfalia Herne originally chose red and white stripes as their kit although this would be replaced by today’s strip of blue and white stripes in 1914. The industrial city of Herne soon became well served with competitive teams with Germania Herne being formed in 1909 and SV Sodingen some three years after that. This led to a number of well attended local derbies in the first few decades of the twentieth century. However disaster struck in 1923 with much of the Ruhr still being occupied buy the French, Westfalia Herne were officially dissolved. However, unknown to the occupying authorities the club carried on playing and in 1925 merged with Fortuna Herne and began “officially” competing again. The merger made the club very powerful and two straight promotions in 1929 and 1930 saw Herne rise to the top flight.

In 1933 the club were placed in the Gauliga Westfalia as German football fell under the administration of the Third Reich. It soon became apparent that the meadow rented by Willi Stens had served its purpose and Westfalia Herne needed a home more suitable to their burgeoning support and status. The club opened their new stadium next to the Schloss Strünkede in 1934. Built on an audacious scale boasting a 40,000 capacity the new ground would welcome the likes of Schalke 04, Borussia Dortmund and VfB Bochum on a regular basis. The Second World War became problematic for Westfalia Herne as the British commander in the Ruhr locked the club out of the stadium. Club President Hermann Kracht held conservative views and after negotiations with the military a friendly between Westfalia Herne and the British troops saw the club allowed back into the stadium for good.

The 1940’s and 1950’s were a golden era for football in Herne with both Westfalia and SV Sodingen competing in the top flight for many seasons, unheard of outside of the major metropolises like Berlin, Munich and Hamburg. To celebrate their fiftieth anniversary in 1954 Westfalia Herne opened the newly built grandstand increasing the seated capacity at the Schloss Strünkede. In 1958 three Westfalia Herne players, Hans Tilkowski, Helmut Benthaus and Alfred Pyka played together in the same German national team. A year later under the guidance of Fritz Langner, Westfalia Herne became champions of the top flight Oberliga West. In May 1960 a crucial match against Hamburger SV saw an all time record 35,000 pack into the Herne stadium. Westfalia were runners up in the league the following season and despite consistent league performances the club missed out on election to the new Bundesliga in 1963.

The advent of the new national league really spelt the end of the glory years for Herne football, Westfalia were relegated to the third tier and SV Sodingen slumped even further and currently play in the seventh tier Landesliga. The 1970’s saw the club sponsored by the petroleum company Goldin, the stadium was renovated and Westfalia competed in the 2.Bundesliga-Nord. Four great years followed with well known players like Lutz Gerresheim, Jochen Abel or Sören Busk played for Herne. A famous 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund was witnessed by 27,000 at the Schloss Strünkede.  However disaster struck the club once again when the sponsor went bust and Herne pulled out of the league after just one game of the 1979/80 campaign. The club handed their professional licence back to the DFB and regrouped in the Amateur Westfalen Oberliga.

Also in 1980 the club played a central part of the film “Theo Gegen den Rest Der Welt” where the lead character has a ticket for the (fictitious) DFB Pokal match between SC Westfalia Herne against Schalke 04 but has to miss the big game when his truck is stolen.

This season has been a real struggle for this once mighty club. Competing in the fifth tier Oberliga Westfalia Herne have won just one of their fifteen league games and sit rock bottom of the table with just six points. Today’s visitors VfB Hüls are thirteenth in the 18 team division and Herne’s hopes of victory take a dramatic early blow. In just the third minute defender Yusuf Kilic handled a goal bound shot and despite him protesting his innocence he was shown a red card and Marko Onucka clinically despatched the penalty kick. Hüls doubled their lead before the break and despite Herne pulling one back after the restart with a penalty of their own in truth Herne were second best from start to finish. Today the magnificent Stadion am Schloss Strünkede echoed eerily with a crowd of around 400 (officially stated as 250) and the sixth tier trapdoor is well and truly open for this great club.

Despite their on field woes Herne still have their truly incredible ground, for me it’s a set of floodlights away from being the best ground I have ever visited. Just go there, they really do need the support.

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Sunday February 22nd 2015 – Oberliga Westfalen

Westfalia Herne (0) 1 (Mützel pen 49)

VfB Hüls (2) 2 (Onucka pen 4, Schröter  37)

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Sportsclub Preußen 1906 e.V. Münster started life in 1906 as FC Preußen, adopting the current name in 1921. The sports club which also fields teams in handball, tennis, athletics and fistball and was initially born in the Johann-Conrad-Schlaun Grammar School. The club moved into the Preußenstadion in June 1926 and their new home initially boasted a capacity of 45,000. The record gate at the stadium however is put at 40,000 for a 1975/76 2.Bundesliga match against Borussia Dortmund which Münster won 4-1. Nowadays, with modernisation to the main stand and limits placed on the terracing, the Preußenstadion now has a listed capacity of 15,050 of which 2,931 are seated accommodation. There were plans in recent years for a new stadium, dubbed the Preußen Park Arena, but instead the club has begun modernising the existing venue, new seats in the grandstand and roofs for the two terraces opposite.

In 1933 when the Third Reich reorganised German regional football Preußen were placed in the Gauliga Westfalen but then suffered a period in the doldrums. The immediate post World War II proved to be a golden era for the club with the team returning to the top flight Oberliga West for 1948/49. The team boasted a front line known as the “Hundred-Thousand Mark Line” and featured the attacking quintet of Siegfried Rachuba, Adolf Preissler, Rudolf Schulz, Felix Gerritzen and Josef Lammers. Gerritzen in particular was an idol of the Preußen fans and the curva where today’s ultras groups, the Deviants, gather is named in his honour. Gerritzen also played for VfB Oldenburg and Saxonia Münster and won four caps for the Nationalmannschaft. The team reached its peak in 1951 when Preußen reached the national championship final but lost 2-1 to Kaiserslautern in front of 107,000 people in the Berlin Olympiastadion.

Their steady performances in the highly ranked Oberliga West saw them elected to the newly created Bundesliga in 1963. However, despite spending big, the club were relegated at the end of the new competitions inaugural season and as yet they have never returned to the top flight. In truth the Bundesliga season led Preußen into two decades of financial trouble, tax fraud issues and a steady decline into the amateur Oberliga Westfalen III by 1981. Apart from two seasons in the 2.Bundesliga in the early 1990’s the club have mainly competed at the third tier. After relegation to the Oberliga Westfalen in 2006 the club again spent big to try and regain third tier status but the plan failed. The following season youngsters replaced the highly paid veterans and Preußen stormed to the Oberliga title.

This season has so far proven to be Preußen’s most successful in some time, the club going into today’s game sitting in second place, four points behind one of their biggest rivals, Arminia Bielefeld. Today’s visitors, Holstein Kiel, are also in contention for promotion five points behind Preußen in sixth place. The form table initially went to plan when Preußen’s Turkish striker Mehmet Kara sent the ultras into frenzy with the opening goal in the 35th minute. However, Kiel had not read the script and a two goal salvo just before the break proved decisive. A second goal for Kiel’s Rafael Kiazor midway through the second half was the coup-de-grace and the green and black clad home fans soon headed for an early exit. Until the third goal went in the support of the ultras in the Gerritzen end was superb. Noisy, colourful and relentless they certainly made my trip to the excellent Preußenstadion a visit to remember.

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Saturday February 21st 2015 (14.00pm) – 3.Liga

SC Preußen Münster (1) 1 (Kara 35)

Kieler SV Holstein (2) 3 (Lindner 39, Kazior 42,69)

Att: 8,672 (at Preußenstadion)

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Munster ticket

The roots of Olympic Club de Safi date to 1918 Union Sportive de Safi were formed, making them one of the oldest clubs in Morocco. Organised football had only been introduced to Morocco by the French at the commencement of the protectorate state in 1912. In 1956 following Morocco’s independence, the club changed its name to Ittihad (Arab Union) Club Safi. Thirty years later the present name was adopted following a long term sponsorship deal with Office Cherifian Phosphate which should see sporting facilities dramatically improved in this coastal town famous for its pottery and ceramics.

Today’s match sees the hosts in eleventh place of the sixteen team Botola Pro League, while the visitors from Chabab Rif Al Hoceima are thirteenth. The sheer size of Morocco comes in to focus when the away team have endured a nine hour, 500 mile journey from the town of Al Hoceima on the Mediterranean coast. Safi itself is lies less than half way down the country in the province of Doukkala-Abda. The visitors have played in the top flight for the last six seasons while Olympic Safi won the Second Division in 2003/04 and have remained in the top flight ever since. Prior to this the only silverware won by Safi was a Coupe du Trône success in 1956/57. Their best performance so far in the Botola Pro League has been a fourth place finish in their first season of 2004/05 which was sufficient to see them compete in the intercontinental Arab Club Championship for the first time in their history.

Olympic Safi play at the Stade El Massira which is located on the outskirts of the town on the road to Marrakech. The stadium has also been known by its French name of the Stade de la Marche Verte, a reference to the 1975 government co-ordinated protests against Spain and their ownership of the disputed Southern Sahara region. The stadium is a simple affair a small covered stands houses the press and dignitaries seating where and the rest of the stadium is blue and red stone steps which can either be sat on, preferably with some form of cushioning, or stood on as the majority of the home support preferred to do. Opposite the main stand and bisecting the old tribune is the skeleton of a new stand, grey concrete for now but could look impressive once finished. The club experimented with a 3G pitch in 2011 but the current surface is natural grass. The capacity of the El Massira, built during the French Protectorate period, is variously listed as 15,000 to 20,000, although I doubt it has ever been truly tested or measured.

The boisterous contingent of the Safi support was located in the curved south section of standing to the right of the main stand. Four alternate sections were clad in blue and red for a great visual effect, this was the “Shark Family”, an ultras group formed in 2006. Their support was magnificent, a tifo at kick off saw them looking through what appeared to be televisions. The ultras were loud, colourful, well organised and made compelling viewing. The south corner of the pitch was regularly adorned with ticker tape and late in the second half around a dozen flares, despite stringent searches on entering, were lit and most of them were hurled onto the pitch. There was also a smaller section of younger ultras, the “Re Del Mare” located in the Curva Tornado. The majority of the rest of the support was from an older generation and used the half time break for a communal prayer session.

The match itself was a tame affair on a decidedly bobbly pitch. The hosts were clearly the superior side and took the lead on sixteen minutes when a generous looking penalty was awarded. Abdelghani Mouaoui converted comfortably for an early breakthrough. I understand that Al Hoceima were so incensed by the penalty awarded by referee Mounir Mabrouk that they have subsequently submitted a formal written complaint to the Royal Moroccan Football Federation to register their dissatisfaction. However, it should be said that overall the visitors were poor and reflected their lowly league position. They barely mustered a shot in anger with only Abdelkarim Benhania providing any threat in the final third. The hosts plugged away for a second goal but it never came but at least the superb ultras got the result their unrelenting support deserved.

In truth the Botola Pro League table doesn’t lie, the big clubs like Moghreb Tétouan, Raja and Wydad Casablanca are perennially at the top with provincial sides like Safi and Al Hoceima seeing mid table as a decent season. The quality of play was hindered by a poor pitch and as we know any truly talented Moroccan players are spirited to Europe as soon as possible. All said and done, however, my trip to Safi was truly memorable for fantastic, noisy support and a decent stadium painted liberally to give a real sense of identity and home.

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Botola Pro League – Saturday January 24th 2015

Olympic Club de Safi (1) 1 (Mouaoui pen 16)

Chabab Rif Al Hoceima (o) o

Att: c.8,000

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safi ticket

 

Until the opening of the Grande Stade de Marrakech in 2012, the Stade El Harti was the biggest football ground in this great city. Built in the period of the French protectorate it would still easily hold 10,000 spectators. Situated just outside the old city walls in the Avenue du President Kennedy, the old stadium is the very definition of fading elegance.

Since Marrakech’s biggest club, Kawkab Athletic Club, moved into the new Gregotti Associates designed arena, which is situated some way out of town in Ouahat Sidi Brahim, the El Harti has been reduced to hosting games for Marrakech’s clubs that currently compete in the third and fourth tier competition, the Moroccan Amateur League. Of the tenant clubs, Olympique Marrakech are best placed to bring Botola Pro football back to the El Harti. In fact they only dropped out of the Pro League Second Division at the end of the 2012/13 season when they finished bottom of the table ten points adrift of safety. It was a year that saw Kawkab win the Second Division to return to the top flight. Olympique were formed in 2001 by the owner of the famous Marrakechi restaurant Chez Ali, and currently stand in a promotion place for a return to the Pro League. The city’s other third tier club Najm Marrakech still play at the Stade 20th August which is in Avenue Oued Lmakhazine in the suburb of Menara.

The El Harti’s other occupant is today’s host club MCM Mouloudia Marrakech who play in the fourth tier of Moroccan football, the Amateur League Second Division. It’s been a sharp decline for Mouloudia who spent a single season in the Moroccan top flight in 1980/81 but finished next to bottom of the eighteen team league. The club were formed in 1948 as Alioria Marrakech with most of the team coming from the Bab Doukkala district of the old medina. They initially played at the old Terrain Akecich before sharing the Stade 20th August with Najm Marrakech. All their first team games these days are played on the 3G surface of the El Harti. The Mouloudia club have a currently much more successful handball team.

The Stade El Harti is built from the distinctive terracotta coloured stone associated with Morocco and has an impressive main stand with a roof supported by some seriously reinforced concrete. The stadium in its heyday would have looked great, the external stairways are artistically decorated and the entrance to the stadium is a real masterpiece. Today the fascia of the stadium bearing its name has been smashed and a chunk of masonry has fallen off the stunning arch. It’s a shame big crowds no longer gather here and little maintenance, save for the installation of an artificial pitch, has taken place in recent years. The rest of stadium is made up of two end curves of open terracing and a terrace opposite the main stand which is partially covered to provide some shade from the unrelenting Maghreb sun.

Today’s game sees Hilal Tarrast make the long four hour trip from Agadir for this fixture. No admission is charged and no information is available as to who is playing for either team. There was a goalless first half which was held up for seven minutes when the manager of the visitors was asked to leave the technical area and refused to do so, encouraging his team to leave the pitch instead. Order was eventually restored and the coach cut a solitary figure sat alone in the covered terrace for the remainder of the game. It was the hosts that took the lead after 67 minutes when their captain nodded in a dangerous corner. It looked like that would be the winner until four minutes from time when the opposition’s centre forward, who had spent the entire game play acting and diving, gleefully lashed home a loose ball which really should have been cleared. It was a poor quality game on an artificial surface that has not been maintained well and had some disarming bounce to it.

Should Olympique successfully return to the Pro League it would be nice to think some money could be lavished on the old El Harti in its dotage.

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Moroccan Amateur League Deuxiéme Division – Sunday January 18th 2015 

Mouloudia Club Marrakech (0) 1

Hilel Tarrast Agadir (0) 1

Att: c. 160

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There has been a football ground at the site of Kantrida since 1911 when HŠK Victoria played their first match there against HŠK Građanski Zagreb. The football field was laid out in the bottom of a former stone quarry on the banks of the Adriatic Sea, giving the Kantrida its iconic and distinctive cliff side location. Following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, Rijeka became part of Italy while Sušak, then a separate town, where the Kantrida is situated, remained part of Yugoslavia. This meant HŠK Victoria could no longer use their own stadium and the Kantrida was occupied by Unione Sportiva Fiumana, a club competing in the Italian league system. Fiumana played at the stadium between 1926 and their dissolution in 1945. During their stay the Kantrida was renamed Stadio Comunale del Littorio, but was also called Borgomarina, the Italian name for the area of Sušak. Following World War II, Rijeka was returned to Yugoslavia and both Fiumana and Victoria were disbanded. A new town club, NK Kvarner were formed and in 1954 they changed their name to NK Rijeka.

Rijeka never won the Yugoslav League and indeed have never won the Croatian League since it’s inception in 1992. The club have been runners up on three occasions but just seem unable to break Dinamo Zagreb’s stranglehold on the domestic championship. Out of the 23 seasons of the Prva Liga, Dinamo have won sixteen of the championships (five as Croatia Zagreb) while Hajduk Split (six) and NK Zagreb account for the remaining seven successes. The Whites of Rijeka, however, have won the Croatian Cup three times and also took two successive Yugoslavian Cups in 1978 and 1979. To their credit Rijeka have qualified for the group stages of the Europa League for the last two seasons. Prior to this their greatest success in Europe was a Cup-Winners-Cup quarter final place against Juventus although they went out 2-0 on aggregate with goals coming from Juve legends Franco Causio and Roberto Bettega.

During the 1950’s the Kantrida underwent extensive renovation and had a new capacity of 25,000. However, UEFA safety standards saw this capacity slashed by half in recent years. This did not stop the May 1999 Prva Liga clash with NK Osijek attracting an all time record 25,000 spectators to the stadium. The Kantrida gained its unique double gantry floodlight pylons in 1975. The two pylons on the sea side of the ground were designed to replicate ships masts while the two on the top of the cliff are mounted at street level. For cars passing on the Istarstka Ulica it must be a truly bizarre spectacle.

Tonight’s match against Lokomotiva Zagreb is televised and feels like a really big deal. The crowd is excited from the start and the support from Rijeka’s ultras group Armada is boisterous and unrelenting. The ultras group were formed in 1987 and have their biggest rivalries with Tordica (Hajduk Split), Bad Blue Boys (Dinamo Zagreb) and Kohorta (Osijek). Armada’s murals around the Kantrida are really stunning. The match itself panned out to about one man, the Rijeka striker Andrej Kramarić. He scored five goals in a truly stellar display of the art of the centre forward play. His clinical finishing had the result of the match out of sight by half time, the pick of his strikes being a superb volley for his fourth goal.

Kramarić started his career at Dinamo Zagreb and scored in excess of 450 goals at youth level before turning professional. His career started well but he fell out of favour with manager Vahid Halilhodžić and was loaned to Lokomotiva for a season and half. His fall out with Dinamo turned into Rijeka’s advantage when he joined the Whites in August 2013. He currently has 21 goals this season and to put that in perspective the Prva Liga’s next highest scorer is Dinamo’s Duje Čop with nine! In 58 appearances for Rijeka he now has 54 goals. What is equally baffling is his haul of just three caps for Croatia, while seven of his Rijeka team mates were involved in Croatia’s international against Argentina at Upton Park, 23 year old Kramarić was left at home. He is definitely one to watch for the future. After Kramarić left the field to a standing ovation from the Rijeka fans his replacement Josip Ivančić scored the sixth goal of the night with his first touch. A truly impressive display from Rijeka and so fitting to see such a great home performance in this most wonderful of venues.

The last game to be played at the Kantrida in its present from is currently scheduled to be a Prva Liga game against Osijek on November 30th. This means there are just two games left at this amazing venue. From the resumption of the Croatian League season after its winter break Rijeka will play at a newly built temporary ground called the Rujevica Stadion. This will be a 6,000 all seated stadium on Ulica Hosti. The Rujevica will be home until the new Kantrida Stadion is completed which is scheduled to be June 2016. The new Kantrida will be a fully covered arena style stadium, its architect Gino Zavanella was one of the architects of the Juventus Arena. The new stadium will have seats for 14,438 people and will comply with UEFA’s category 4 status. The cost of the stadium has been privately funded and has a budget of €22 million.

Of course much of the natural beauty of the Kantrida will be lost with the redevelopment, beauty that saw Eurosport name the stadium as one of the Top 20 most beautiful sports venues in the world in April 2014. The need for the club to push on and try and challenge Dinamo’s domestic dominance is clear but what a cost they will have to bear to achieve this. I feel so eternally thankful to have been able to visit beautiful, beautiful Kantrida.

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Sunday November 9th 2014 – MaxTV Prva Liga

HNK Rijeka (3) 6 (Kramarić 21, 22, 38,49, 62, Ivančić 84)
Lokomotiva Zagreb (0) 0

Attendance: 6,000 (at Stadion Kantrida)

Rijeka:

25. Ivan Vargić, 8. Mato Jajalo, 10. Anas Sharbini ©, 11. Ivan Tomečak, 13. Marko Lešković, 15. Matej Mitrović, 16. Ivan Močinić, 20. Zoran Kvržić, 22. Marin Leovac, 88. Moisés Lima Magalhães, 91. Andrej Kramarić.

Subs: 32. Andrej Prskalo, 14. Goran Cvijanović (for 16, 74 mins), 19. Miral Samardžic, 28. Josip Ivančić (for 91, 84 mins), 29. Marko Vešović (for 20, 79 mins), 89. Vedran Jugović, 99. Ivan Krstanović.

Lokomotiva:

12.Simon Sluga, 3. Mario Musa ©, 5. Tomislav Mrčela, 6. Josip Ćalušić, 7. Damir Šovšić, 9. Ante Rukavina, 10. Domagoj Pavičić, 11. Karlo Bručić, 16. Jerko Leko, 19. Herdi Prenga, 21. Mirko Marić.

Subs: 1. Oliver Zelenika, 4. Jakov Biljan, 8. Luka Begonja (for 21, 28 mins), 13. Filip Mrzljak, 20. Petar Mišić (for 10, 65 mins), 22. Marko Kolar, 25. Jan Doležal (for 19, 81 mins).

Yellow Cards: Kvržić, Tomecak (Rijeka); Begonja (Lokomotiva).

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Rijeka

The original club dates it original formation to a 1918 merger of FC Trieste and Ponziana. However, in a catalogue of financial disaster the club reformed in 1994 only to collapse again eighteen years later. The current club are now known as Unione Triestina 2012 Società Sportiva Dilettantistica and currently play in Serie D, level four of Italian football. This competition is the last level that is realistically deemed to be semi-professional, and is the trap door to the regionalised amateur Eccellenza levels.

With a population in excess of 200,000 it seems baffling that an historic city like Trieste does not have a highly successful football club. The local commune must have felt the same when in 1992 the new municipal stadium, the Stadio Nereo Rocco, was opened at an eye-popping cost of 100 billion lira. With an all seated capacity of 32, 454 Trieste now boasted one of the finest stadiums in all of Italy. Named after the famous Italian coach and Trieste native, Nereo Rocco, the stadium is a dazzling construction of interlinked steel girders ingeniously designed to cut out the effect of the katabatic wind, the Bora, so prevalent on this coast. It really is a stunning piece of architecture by three Trieste natives Carlo and Luciano Celli and Dario Tognon. Built on the site of the municipal slaughterhouse, the new stadium was opened on October 18th 1992 with a Serie C1 match between Triestina and Vis Pesaro. The venue has held four full Italian international matches to date and numerous concerts by acts such as Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen. The Nereo Rocco also staged some matches for Udinese while their own Stadio Friuli was renovated.

The Nereo Rocco is based on the English style of rectangular stadia with four interlocking stands and no running track. The two ends are identical and are named the Curva Guglielmo Trevisan and Curva Stefano Furlan, the first after a former Triestina player and coach and the latter after the “capo” of Ultras Trieste (formed in 1976) who died in 1984 from head injuries received during a beating at a police station. The culprit was jailed for only twelve months. This is where the predominantly right wing ultras gather and there is a strong nationalistic leaning to their stickers, flags and chants. There is a firm belief that Dalmatia and Istria should have remained in Italian hands after the conflict with Yugoslavia.

The Nereo Rocco is sited adjacent to the clubs’ previous ground the Stadio Littorio which was opened in 1932 in time for the 1934 World Cup held in Italy. The stadium which held 8,000 hosted the match between Romania and Czechoslovakia. In 1943 the Littorio was renamed the Stadio di Valmaura, and 24 years later was changed again to honour Superga air crash victim Giuseppe Grezar who had been with Triestina before transferring to Torino. Triestina played at the venue from 1932 to 1992 but the Grezar remains in use for minor football and athletics and was itself renovated substantially in 2004 at a cost of €13.4 million. It now has 6,200 seats.

Triestina were highly successful and were founder members of Serie A in 1929 remaining in the top flight until relegation in 1957. By 1971 they had slipped to Serie D but by 1991 were back in the second tier and looking forward to a bright future at their new home. Three years later they went out of business and were forcibly relegated to the fourth tier. The reformed club, US Triestina Calcio, forced its way back up to Serie B but symptomatic of the clubs modern era, the club went through no less than five coaches in the 2005/06 season. At the end of the 2009/10 season Triestina finished in a relegation place but were spared the drop by Ancona’s insolvency. By June 2012 the court of Trieste declared the club bankrupt and the team was disbanded. The reformed club started back in the regional Eccellenza competition and gained promotion to Serie D in 2012/13.

Yet again though the current team struggles at the wrong end of the Serie D (Group C) table. The first half is evenly contested with Congolese striker Kabangu holding the ball up very well and looking a threat in front of goal. However, with an early strike in the second half from the visitors, Triestina visibly wilted and heads went down. Cecchel made it two for Montebelluna and then Loperfido got himself sent off for a second yellow card to compound the hosts’ miserable day at a soggy Nereo Rocco. The defeat left them bottom of the Serie D table after ten rounds of matches, with just three points accrued so far.

So what does the future hold for Triestina? Will they persist in underachieving or will someone come in and back the club financially. One thing is for certain this magnificent stadium deserves to shine rather than becoming one of Europe’s overlooked leviathans.

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Sunday November 9th 2014 – Serie D, Gruppa C

US Triestina Calcio 0
Calcio Montebelluna 2 (Masiero 52, Cecchel 71)

Attendance: 1,000 (at Stadio Nereo Rocco)

Triestina:

1. Nicholas Di Piero, 2. Federico Celli, 3. Eugenio Gianetti, 4. Daniele Proia (c) 5. Luca Piscopo, 6. Anselmo Antonelli, 7. Luca Crosato, 8. Davide Giorgino, 9. François Kabangu, 10. Stefano Aquilani, 11. Andrea Loperfido

Subs: 12.Damiano Pontrelli; 13.Francesco Zucca; 14. Crasso Mauccio; 15. Simone Pennicchi; 16. Stefano Spadari (for 4, 73 mins); 17.Marco Sittaro; 18. Domenico Giordano; 19. Massimiliano Lionetti (for 10, 59 mins); 20. Giacomo Gasparotto (for 8, 83 mins).

Montebelluna

1. Nicola Rigo, 2. Gabriele Fabbian, 3. Nicola De Fido, 4. Nicolò Severgnini (c), 5.Marco Guzzo, 6. Marco Bressan, 7. Manuel Perosin, 8. Matteo Nicoletti, 9. Nicolò Masiero, 10. Matteo Giglio, 11. Mattia Cecchel.

Subs: 12.Matteo Baù, 13.Matteo Biral;14.Luca Frassetto (for 5,46 mins); 15.Giacomo Cusinato; 16. Tiziano Slongo (for 8,81 mins); 17.Luca Gerini;18.Davide Scarpa (for 9,76 mins).

Yellow Cards: Loperfido, Gianetti, Giorgino, Gasparotto (all Triestina), Nicoletti (Montebelluna).

Red Card: Loperfido (Triestina).

Gallery

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Triestina