Feyenoord awaits a hot evening in a Romanian stadium that has thrived thanks to Mourinho
It’s going to be “big,” “hot,” and “cool.” Roma fan and fanstore employee Francesco Bari’s eyes light up as he takes in the atmosphere at the Stadio Olimpico on Thursday night when Roma host Feyenoord in the Europa League quarter-finals. For the past year and a half, that atmosphere has hung over almost every important game in the antique, partly rusted stadium that opened in 1937 when Roma play at home. Feyenoord starts with a 1-0 lead, which they got in the first leg. But Roma have an extra 67,000 players Roma coach Jose Mourinho hinted at the fanaticism of Roma supporters during Wednesday afternoon’s press conference.
For decades, the “Olimpico” was a rather unpleasant container that was at most half full. Even for the capital’s derby between Rome and Lazio, tickets were always available. But a fire has been burning among Roma fans since Mourinho became coach there in the summer of 2021. “Mourinho is God,” says Barry, registering in front of the packed fans’ shop in the Prati district.
About the author
Bart Fleistra has been writing about football since 2015 De Volkskrant. He also worked on various sports programs on television.
Mourinho brought Roma their first European trophy by defeating Feyenoord in the Conference League Final. But before that there was an unprecedented yellow-red color Obsession arouse. “Mourinho has a good reputation in Italy,” a Roma follower told the Italian sports newspaper. La Gazzetta dello SportMassimo Cecchini. He worked for a year in Italy at Internazionale and immediately won all the prizes. It gives fans the feeling that it could finally become a thing with their club.
Mourinho is an attraction
Mourinho is an attraction in itself due to his open demeanor. “It also attracts a lot of tourists,” says Claudio Bisiglia, a Rome fan and interpreter. “During matches, you see a lot of people who don’t look at the pitch at all, but only at the dugout, at Mourinho. Art for them is to photograph Mourinho.
There is another fairly simple reason for the sharp increase in visitor numbers. American owner and billionaire Dan Friedkin immediately decided to lower admission prices. “A smart move,” says journalist Cecchini. “Friedkin’s goal is to make Rome very popular, and that’s why the big names are drawn.”
It may cost a little. Roma has been losing between 100 and 200 million euros for years. The club anticipates the arrival of a new stadium in 2027 when Roma has existed for a century, and the fall of Juventus, the most popular club in Italy. Juventus is exposed to a financial scandal that has also seen raids on other clubs, including Roma. Cecchini: “The fans don’t care. They just want to have fun now, good players, great coach. They don’t care how they get paid.”
A new stadium would be a pity somewhere. The Olimpico, although the stands are fairly flat and there is a covered cinder path around the pitch, is only symbolic of the drive over the majestic Viale del Gladiatori, the surrounding park with large statues in athletic poses and tall cypress trees. You can taste history everywhere, countless tournaments and major competitions have been held here.
Crowd barriers around the fountain
Roma – Feyenoord is also seen this way. This is partly due to the past. Both clubs played against each other in 2015. At that time, Feyenoord fans damaged the famous Barcacia Fountain at the Spanish Steps, angering the Romans. On Wednesday afternoon, there were many police officers and crushed the barriers around the fountain. “Especially for Feyenoord fans,” assures a police officer. But it is hardly visible there, as well as around other attractions such as the Trevi Fountain.
Officially, Feyenoord fans are not welcome at the match, but many fans have traveled and acquired tickets for the match. Like a group of six guys from Dordrecht. They simply ordered tickets via the club’s website and provided a Belgian home address. On the plane they say they “don’t fuss at all,” but they avoid it. Maybe they visit the Colosseum to blend in with all the tourists.
Coach Arne Sloat said at the press conference that Feyenoord is ready for a hot evening under blue Romanian skies. Intolerance in the stands can certainly affect a team. We also noticed that when we visited Ajax at half time there was also a great atmosphere. When that fell apart a little bit in the second half, we were the better end.
Earlier this season against Lazio, on September 8 last year, Feyenoord were completely in a daze, especially in the first half. With a 4-2 down, the damage was still limited, while Olímpico was only about a third full at the time. But Feyenoord is much further than that now, Slot believes. “It was the only time we were outclassed for half a year. We got better across the board, more stable and fitter too.
Mats Weaver, who sat next to him during the press conference, agreed. “I came on against Lazio for twenty minutes and broke completely after that.”
Last week, Weaver decided the first leg after the break in favor of Feyenoord with a powerful shot. The young midfielder looks up to the players more than the Roma fans, especially in the literal sense of the word. “I was in the catacombs last week and was one of the shortest players, while at 1.90m I’m about the tallest player at Feyenoord.”
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