The Feyenoord playing, coaching and management staff welcomed guests from the business community, VIPs, former players and prominent supporters of the club to the fifth Feyenoord Unicef Gala Dinner Wednesday. All proceeds from the evening, which was compered by TV sports personality Kees Jansma and graced with interviews with people like Rotterdam mayor Opstelten and coach Erwin Koeman, go to Unicef, the UN’s children’s fund, with which Feyenoord has developed a close partnership.

Management team member Chris Woerts was unable to sidestep the burning issue of the club’s difficult position right now in his words of welcome. ‘We are not experiencing the most pleasant of times,’ said Woerts, ‘but let’s keep in mind that song by Lee Towers that runs: nothing is stronger than that one word, Feyenoord.’

Woerts was not the last person to allude to the club’s resilience in this most stressful of times. Henk Franken, executive director of Unicef Netherlands, was another to broach the subject in his speech, in which he emphasised the necessity of helping children affected by the AIDS emergency in Africa. ‘I hope that Feyenoord and Unicef will be partners for many years to come, also in times when things are not going so well.’

Rotterdam mayor Opstelten revealed that he had called his colleague in Nancy. ‘I apologised for the Dutch people who acted like animals there. I felt the events there were dramatic, especially because it happened to a club I love.’ Opstelten also spoke with minister Remkes. ‘I told him: hurry up with that Football Act, the time is right. In politics you have to strike while the iron is hot and that’s now. Today’s advertisement in [Dutch daily] Algemeen Dagblad is an important signal. That was brilliant of Feyenoord.’

In the same daily Erwin Koeman stated that he would continue to coach Feyenoord, come what may. ‘We have to be together to get this club back on the rails,’ who did not have to think too long when Jansma asked where he got his pleasure from. ‘I’m a football lover and I like to work with young sportsmen. I’m no good at anything else anyway. But above all it’s an honour to work for Feyenoord. Even just because of the stadium, which sends a tingle up my spine every time, and because of the fantastic supporters. And I mean the genuine supporters, not those on the fringes who wanted to destroy this club in Nancy.’

The pending punishment from UEFA was obviously another much-discussed topic among the guests, but it didn’t dampen the atmosphere. ‘Life goes on,’ said Erwin Koeman, ‘and Feyenoord too.’

Feyenoord Business CLub