Standing in the away section of a football stadium—especially De Kuip—is a bit like what it must feel like to be a gorilla in the Blijdorp Zoo, except, rather than being gawked at by tourists holding selfie sticks, you’re constantly getting harassed by sunburnt bald men who love to flash the middle finger—amongst other things. Standing safely behind plexiglass walls and security guards, Trebski watches the circus around him with amusement.

“The vulgarity amongst De Kuip crowd is pretty astounding,” laughs Trebski, who recently graduated with a Masters in Innovation. “Got to love the fact that they’re blasting hardstyle through the speakers to get the people pumped. Only in Rotterdam would you hear hardstyle in a stadium.”

Having just promoted from the second tier of Dutch football, Sparta are the clear underdogs going into this fixture. Regardless, it is the Sparta faithful, including Trebski today, that are making all the noise in the stadium once the hardstyle music faded out. Once the referee blew the whistle, we pause the interview and focus our attention on the match.

Half time

A tense 45 minutes resulted in no goals, but Trebski feels optimistic that the second half will be more fruitful. As we wait for play to resume, the recent graduate opens up a bit about his life in Rotterdam.

“Moving to Rotterdam was also my first time in Holland—I hadn’t visited before coming to study here,” said Trebski, wiping the sweat from his forehead. “My first impression was that Rotterdam reminded me a lot of Scandinavia where I had lived before, but then as soon I started interacting with people I realized Dutch people are a lot more open and hospitable. And just like in Sweden, everyone speaks English so I felt right at home.”

Trebski belongs in the category of internationals who don’t necessarily have a place they truly call home. He is Polish by blood, but bounced around the US, Sweden, Poland, and Germany before making Rotterdam his surrogate home base. But while Rotterdam is home, Trebski’s social circle is made up most of internationals rather than local Dutch people.

“During my IBA days I sort of divided the student body into three different factions: Internationals, local Dutch people, and Dutch Internationals. The few Dutch friends that I have are also internationals who have spent time out of the country or attended international school, except for this one guy from my masters. His name is Bob—of course.”

Before anything more can be said, an inebriated Sparta fan standing next to Trebski suddenly projectile vomits on the concrete below.

“This is so savage”, said Trebski while shaking his head, unable to contain his laughter.

“Anyway, it’s too easy to get stuck in a social circle within one study. I did IBA, and it always felt like it’s the one faculty that gets the most revenue, is the most reputable, and is most favoured in a sense. I never liked that we were treated like some privileged, special type of student.”

“I don’t agree with this sort of coddling of IBA students and the fact that IBA is put on a totem. It bothers me because when you meet people from other studies, they already have this preconceived idea of you and they put you into this IBA-mold. It doesn’t need to be like that.”

Second half

Celebratory beers were soaring above the away section just minutes after the second half got underway when Sparta nicked the first goal of the game. The lead wouldn’t last long, however, with Feyenoord’s Steven Berghuis knotting the score at one goal apiece. Minutes later, Sparta’s striker snuck the ball between the legs of the keeper and reclaimed the lead—much to the surprise of everyone. With fifteen minutes to go, the scoreboard read Feyenoord 1 – Sparta 2.

The derby was an absolute nail-biter. Image credit: Ivar Laanen

It was 19 years ago since Sparta last won in De Kuip. Before that victory, there had also been a 19-year gap between their last victory in Rotterdam Zuid. Would the trend continue?

“I’m a sucker for superstitious stuff like this,” Trebski admitted. “C’mon boys!”

The sucker punch

Sparta supporters were in seventh heaven as the clock kept ticking, bathing in the clear frustration of the Feyenoord faithful. And then it happened: with just one minute remaining, Feyenoord somehow scored a scrappy goal to tie the game—providing a proverbial sucker punch to the away section. The match may have ended in a draw, but it felt like a loss considering just how close Sparta was to tasting glory. Even Trebski, who was at his first Sparta match, looked deflated.

“I usually support Arsenal Football Club so I’m used to teams giving it away like this,” Trebski admitted after the final whistle blew. “Still, I’m crushed. We were better than Feyenoord.”

Notice the use of the word we. It seems this Polish international feels one with Sparta Rotterdam.

“Oh yeah. After today, Sparta is my club.”


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