Police call off friendly
Yesterday I had planned to watch the friendly NEC v Blackburn Rovers during the Open Day of NEC, only to find out that the match had been cancelled on orders from the police.
According to The Independent, Sandra Bronkhorst, spokesperson for the deputy major of Nijmegen, said: “We heard from the police (after) there was a Blackburn match against Go Ahead Eagles on Friday night and some supporters got in some incidents in the city of Deventer. On Saturday night a group of around 80 supporters of Blackburn Rovers got into a fight with some 30 NEC supporters in our city – probably caused by the Nijmegen supporters and not by the English. The police had some information that both the English and the Dutch supporters had threatened another confrontation today. With 8,000 people in the park, a lot of families and kids, and a big threat of another confrontation between the hooligans meant the mayor and Nijmegen and the police decided that’s not a good combination so we had to cancel the game for today.”
The teams of NEC and Blackburn Rovers then secretly went to a ground in Hoenderloo with both coaches still eager to play their last test for the start of the new season. In front of ten, illegal, spectators it ended in a goalless draw.
To understand the police action, it is important to know about an incident two years ago. NEC were about to play Germinal Beerschot from Antwerp on an amateur ground near Nijmegen, when suddenly a group of about 30 boneheads from Belgium started hitting people without any provocation. The few policemen were completely outnumbered and could not make any arrests. After years of carefree friendly games in and around Nijmegen, but elsewhere in Holland as well, the police have become more nervous recently. Several games have been cancelled since, each time when there were hints of trouble coming up.
The Nijmegen police was especially careful as the Open Dag of NEC brings a lot of families to the park. Even the smallest fight might have caused a panic between the kids with grave consequences. The mixing of NEC and Rovers supporters may not have been the problem, but probably intelligence on outsiders bargeing in looking for trouble, a rather new and unfortunate fenomenon. Not willing to turn up in great numbers on what is supposed to be a family day out, the police decided to call the game of.