FC Twente is alive as rarely before thanks to ‘the three grandfathers’


De Grolsch Veste last week at FC Twente – Cukaricki (4-1) in the third preliminary round of the Conference League.Image Pro Shots / Ron Jonker

Behind the striking growth of FC Twente also lies the inner peace of ‘the three grandfathers’, as supporter Xander Okhuizen affectionately calls the trio. Technical director Jan Streuer (71), a former player devoted to the club, is the architect of a transfer policy that many clubs are jealous of.

Then there is general director Paul der Kraan (68), who has returned from retirement, knowing that the debt from murky financial periods from the past is still considerable at 37 million euros. ‘We will no longer do things that we cannot achieve. FC Twente must never fall apart like a house of cards again. But we are entrepreneurs. We’re not going to sit on our money. Twente is proud of FC Twente. Everyone feels connected. We are in a nice phase. You hear that, you notice that, you feel that.’

The third of the trio of grandfathers is the very young trainer Ron Jans (63), who came to rest at Cincinnati’s home in Drenthe after being fired due to alleged racism and who rediscovered the meaning of life as a football coach at FC Twente.

Mind full of positivity

As a result of that mood full of positivism, FC Twente with an impressive number of 2,300 supporters and sponsors went to the beauty of Florence in Tuscany, for a presumably equal duel on Thursday with a strong opponent. Fiorentina. I Viola, the Purples. The number 7 of the previous Serie A against FC Twente, who finished fourth.

The contest is a metaphor for the resurrection in almost all its glory. The club is alive as rarely before. Previously, after the unique 2010 national championship, 3,000 supporters traveled to Milan and London for duels with Internazionale and Spurs in the Champions League. Only: the financial and sporting fall in the following years was horrifying.

In 2022, the club has been transformed back to normal proportions with matching ambitions: sub-topper, capable of outliers, with a beautiful, almost always full and lively stadium. Moreover, with an attractive team, formed from a mix of own training, smart transfers, talent from outside and experience.

Experience adventures

Long-time supporter Erasmus Bosch (70) was allowed to join the small plane with players and board on Wednesday. He was already at the very first European competition of Twente, in 1969 in Rouen, for the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. There were about ten of them at the time, he estimates. They were just among the French. “That was still possible then.” He experienced adventures with FC Twente and met like-minded people. Every anecdote is memorable, whether it’s about bitter cold in Moscow or about a horse-drawn carriage with supporters of an opponent from Azerbaijan.

Bosch: ‘The bond with FC Twente is great, also with players. My favorites are the former stars Kick van der Vall and Eddy Achterberg, who are still involved with the club. They are always approachable. If they see you, they raise a hand.’ The club management is candid nowadays. ‘I am very charmed by the current policy.’

Reaching European football last season, concluded with the unexpected fourth place, pushed the budget from 25 to 30 million euros. Director Van der Kraan: ‘We sold more season tickets. The sponsorship attracted a lot of attention and we receive more in TV money. The last five or six games of last season were sold out.’

Castle in the air

In the previous stadium, Diekman, a team played football in the 1970s that was close to the European top, but a full house was not a habit. The current stadium, the Grolsch Veste, witnessed the championship and saw chairman Joop Munsterman’s castle in the air implode due to far too high costs, which almost led to bankruptcy. But the supporters embraced the club extra firmly, even after the relegation in 2018, and endured the cynicism from the rest of the country with straight shoulders.

Munsterman also laid a foundation for the current success, because he believed in the roots in the region. Twente has 29 supporter clubs throughout the region, which transport the supporters to their temple by bus. ‘The club is alive like never before’, says Van der Kraan.

Xander Okhuizen (56) also knows that, no matter how far away he lives in Melbourne. He listens, Friday at 5 o’clock in the morning local time, to Fiorentina – FC Twente via Radio Oost. He attended the Diekman as a child, moved to Singapore for work and later to Melbourne. He is already looking forward to his next match at the stadium. His family has two season tickets. ‘I will be in the Netherlands for Christmas and on January 6 I will be at FC Twente – Emmen. That’s for sure.’

AZ will meet Gil Vicente as the last opponent

After the impressive victory over Dundee United (7-0) AZ will receive the relatively unknown Gil Vicente from Portugal in the last preliminary round for the Conference League on Thursday. Both clubs finished fifth in their national league last season.

At AZ, which expects about 12 thousand spectators, the attackers Jesper Karlsson and the recruited Jens Odgaard are not yet fit. Karlsson, last season’s tastemaker of the team, would be in the interest of other clubs shortly before the end of the transfer period, but technical director Max Huiberts says a departure is not negotiable. The recently recruited midfielder Riechedly Bazoer lacks game rhythm. AZ reached the eighth finals of the Conference League last season, in which the elimination followed by Bodø/Glimt from Norway.