Internazionale may arguably see a fourth UEFA Cup final in 10 years as little more than a consolation prize; Feyenoord has a very different perspective. Midfielder Shinji Ono expresses it well enough: ‘Tomorrow we play the semifinal of the UEFA Cup and I think it’s something we can be proud of. We have achieved a lot and now I really hope we can take that last step and reach the final in our own Kuip. That would be fantastic.’

‘I have to be truthful and admit that at first I didn’t understand what the UEFA Cup meant. The Champions League I knew of course, but I didn’t grasp completely that you could start in one and end up in the other. As the season progressed I started to get a better understanding of it and now I want to get through. ‘I have come to realise that European cup football is something special. You see it in the supporters and the atmosphere in the stadiums. It also has to do with us playing in the evening of course; the atmosphere is different, almost charged. Against PSV and against Rangers I really felt that the supporters and us fought our way to victory together and that was a very beautiful feeling. ‘The game against PSV was the most appealing in my opinion, not least due to the way it went. When Mark van Bommel, my direct opponent, scored, I thought, ‘This is my fault. I have to do something about it!’ And then came that fantastic header from Pierre, which ultimately took it to penalties. ‘I took the first penalty and that was a conscious decision. At that moment I was still composed and I don’t think I would have been able to stay that calm if I’d had to wait much longer. I knew for sure I wouldn’t miss. The feeling was very strong, even though Waterreus went the right way. I didn’t miss either. The joy after our last penalty was enormous. The supporters and the players were one at that moment and I got a real ‘tori hada’ from it. That is Japanese for goose pimples. I want to experience another moment like that and so I genuinely hope that we reach the final. Although I do realise that it’ll be difficult, because Inter aren’t leading the Serie A for nothing. No one can say if we’ll win, but we’ll be doing our utmost anyway. ‘It’s the first time I’ve played against an Italian club and that’s very special, just like a lot I’ve experienced this year. And I have noticed I’m getting better and better. The games against PSV were a good measure of that. In the league at the end of last year I allowed myself to be bluffed out of it completely by Van Bommel, but I think I’ve learned how to arm myself. I’ve learned to move differently and to use my body and I go into challenges 100%. I really feel I’m getting better and that was precisely why I came to Feyenoord.’
Feyenoord Business CLub