Linda Koster, 23, loves leopard print, her boyfriend Joost, her family, going to the gym and buying shoes, but what she loves most, possibly, is Feyenoord, to the point where she is certain her heart is coloured red and white – the colours of the Rotterdam-based football club she supports.
Linda is (probably) going blind: ‘Despite this uncertainty, I want to work towards my future’
The next time first-year student Linda Koster wakes up, she may be blind. This is a…
“Being a Feyenoord fan is not something you do for fun”, says Linda. “It’s just who you are. You support your club in good times and in bad times. Feyenoord fans aren’t people who only support their team when they’re successful.” The club won the Dutch premier league for the first time in eighteen years in 2017. Thirteen more years to go until the club’s next premiership title, she says jokingly. “This year we probably won’t be able to do it. We’re ranked third, but the club from 020” – she lowers her voice to the point where she is barely audible – “is too far ahead.” She would rather not speak the name of Feyenoord’s arch nemesis, or of the city where it is based. In her family home, they are the club that shall not be mentioned.
In the stadium
Z3, row No 1, on the long side, just behind the opponent’s dug-out, is where Linda, her father and her twin brother always sit when they attend Feyenoord games. This is the best place for Linda to actually be able to see the game. Due to her eye disorder, retinitis pigmentosa, she is slowly losing her vision. She is already night blind. From the Z3 stand, she is able to follow games played during the day, provided she stays focused. She has more difficulty following games played in the evening, despite the fact that the stadium has bright lights.
She will soon switch to the X stand, behind the goal. Not because Linda will be better able to follow the game from that stand. On the contrary, she won’t able to see the game at all from there. “It’s where my boyfriend Joost always watches the game. There’s a great atmosphere there, so lively. I’ve already got used to yelling with the others whenever I miss something. You can really tell in a stadium when a goal is about to be scored or someone has committed a foul.”
Football stadiums, and particularly The Kuip, are Linda’s favourite places. Of course it’s nice to do something relaxing, in addition to attending online lectures and working at Kruidvat, but there’s more to it than that: it feels comforting. No matter how unpleasant her week was, she’s able to recharge her batteries at the stadium. “It’s the place where you can release all your emotions. You get rid of your frustration by yelling. No one gets judgemental if you’re not feeling great.” The latter is something of which Linda has gained ample experience in recent years. She has struggled with both her parents’ poor health, her own health issues, seeing how sad everyone was because of her disease, and the death of her dog, who used to console her. Whenever Feyenoord are playing, that sadness fades into the background.
Stronger through effort
Linda always liked ‘Sterker door strijd’ (‘Stronger through effort’), the motto of many Feyenoord fans and Rotterdammers, in general, but she has felt the truth of the words more keenly since she received her diagnosis. “I now understand that you’re also strong when you allow yourself to feel your grief”, says Linda. “When you pick up the pieces afterwards, you have grown stronger through effort.”
Linda has quite literally taken ownership of the motto. She has the words ‘sterker door strijd’ tattooed onto her midriff in an elegant font. Her thigh features a tattoo of a dreamcatcher with the words ‘dream, believe, achieve’ in it. To Linda, ‘stronger through effort’ means never losing your dreams, never giving up hoping, and continuing working towards your future. Yes, she may grow completely blind at some point, but she wants to go on living. Blind or not, her red-and-white heart will keep beating. As it happens, she has a tattoo of that, too. Her left arm boasts a tattoo showing a cardiac waveform as seen on heart rate monitors in TV shows set in hospitals, except this particular waveform comes with a Feyenoord-style ‘F’ at its centre.
Part of life
Linda has no idea what a life without Feyenoord is like. Her parents in Maastricht have proudly flown a Feyenoord flag every day of their lives for ever, and have done so for as long as Linda remembers. If she and Joost ever have children of their own, they will receive a ton of Feyenoord merchandise. It will start with a romper suit, and before you know it, the children will have a closet full of Feyenoord T-shirts, jumpers, trousers, scarves, socks and what have you, like Linda herself.