‘I’ve had to play without fans twice in my career, with Groningen against Cambuur and with Holland against Cyprus. I’m bound to say that it didn’t influence me then, because I was concentrating on the game. But not all players are the same. It’s a pity it had to be like this, for the supporters and the players. Hopefully, the people involved will think about the consequences of their actions in the future.’
Kuyt agreed with his coach’s diagnosis. The club captain also admitted that the game was no as much fun any more. ‘The best thing for a footballer is playing in full stadiums. That can really help too. It has an effect at Feyenoord in particular, because the crowd normally wins points for us. I think it’s terrible that we now have to do without them, for them and for us. European football always has a special feel, but that’s not there now. Because the fun has gone out of it. I think we shouldn’t talk about it any more. We have to do our job and win. Because we really want to make the group stages and then of course with our supporters in the stands.’
Feyenoord will take on the Romanians without their regular 40,000 plus fans, but they’ll be missing some important characters on the pitch too. The absence of Alfred Schreuder and Tim Vincken is no surprise, but the unavailability of Shinji Ono is a big blow. The midfielder has been back in training on Maasside for the past ten days and he even managed a game with the reserves Tuesday. ‘But the match against Rapid is not one for unfit players,’ explained Koeman. ‘Rapid have a team whose players will play all out and that’s why I’ve left him out. But Ono is on the way back, that much is clear.
There was better news for Koeman with the arrival in the squad of De Guzman, the Canadian who only became eligible to play Tuesday when he turned 18, although he’s been part of the squad since preseason. ‘Him and Owoeri are available domestically and internationally, which is nice,’ confirmed the coach, who prepared for his first European encounter in Rotterdam by taking his 19-man squad to a one-day training camp. One of those players will drop out of the final squad on match day.
Feyenoord can look forward to a stiff test against a Rapid side that suspended three players after they partied rather too hard during a night on the town. ‘The disciplinary punishment could have an effect,’ Koeman admitted to an inquisitive Romanian journalist. Otherwise, the home coach knows his side are in for a tough game. ‘They are difficult to beat. It’s up to us to put the pressure on in midfield from the start. It won’t be an easy match. We’ll do everything we can to win, because we really want to make the group stage. That’s why we shouldn’t talk about an empty Kuip, but about football. Because qualification for that group stage is the only thing that counts.’
Uefa Cup First Round First Leg
Feyenoord – Rapid Bucharest
Thursday 15 September, 19:00 at De Kuip
Referee: Hrinak (Slovakia)
How they may line up
Feyenoord: Lodewijks; Östlund, Greene, Bahia, Bosschaart (Snoyl); Ghaly, Paauwe, Pardo; Castelen (Boussaboun), Kuyt, Kalou.