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It is with great sadness that Feyenoord has learned of the passing of Gerard Kerkum. The 87-year-old passed last Saturday. He had been terminally ill for some time. Kerkum was a life-long Feyenoorder, serving the club in various capacities, including as player and chairman. Until recently he was chairman of Stichting Continuïteit Feyenoord.
A life with Feyenoord
‘A life without Feyenoord? That is unimaginable and happily it can no longer happen, because it would mean that I was not at the club any longer.’ With these two sentences in the May 2008 issue of Feyenoord Magazine Gerard Kerkum made it crystal clear how deep his love was for the club. Born in 1930, for Kerkum life with Feyenoord began on 13 November 1946, when he became a member of Sportclub Feyenoord at age 16. Less than four years later coach Richard Dombi handed him his first-team debut in a friendly against Hermes DVS. He played right back, a position he would make his own over the next 15 seasons, only occasionally making way for a teammate.
Rugged. Athletic. Tough. These are words that describe Gerard Kerkum the defender, who made 349 appearances for the Feyenoord first team between 1950 and 1965, most of them as skipper. Capped once by the Dutch national team, Kerkum experienced first-hand how Feyenoord conquered first the Netherlands, then Europe. He was a member of the title-winning teams of 1961, 1962 and 1965, lifted the KNVB Cup in 1965 and made the semi-final of the European Cup, the forerunner of the Champions League, in 1963. On that particular cup run he stepped up to the plate as club captain, tucking away penalties under high pressure against both Servette and Vasas Budapest. In total he would score 13 goals for Feyenoord.
Those spot kicks helped pave the way for what Kerkum always said was the Feyenoord moment that made the biggest impression on him, in 1963. The departure of two ships, Groote Beer and Waterman, packed with 1600 fans, to Lisbon, where Feyenoord were set to face Benfica in the semi-final of the European Cup. ‘We had to train that Saturday morning and would only fly to Portugal on the Monday. I got in the car and drove to the ships with the video camera. Seeing ships depart is a very emotional experience,’ Kerkum would later say.
After hanging up his boots, Kerkum moved into the administrative side of the sport. He soon took a seat on the board of the Vereniging van Contractspelers (VVCS), a professional players union, and of Feyenoord, where he was a director when the club won the European Cup and the Intercontinental Cup in 1970. He was also appointed as a director of the construction firm Voormolen, where he had worked while he was a player. In 1982 Kerkum picked up the gauntlet when Feyenoord sought a chairman. He would hold the position until 1989, alongside the position of supervisory director of Stadion Feijenoord N.V.
In 2006 Kerkum returned to Feyenoord in an official role. The former player was named chairman of the Kerkum Committee, commissioned by Feyenoord’s management to issue a binding recommendation on the club’s new organisational structure. Kerkum would go on to chair Stichting Continuïteit Feyenoord, alongside the Supervisory Board one of the club’s highest bodies, responsible, among other things, for the club’s golden share and custodian of the club’s cultural heritage. Kerkum held this post until shortly before his passing.
The universal appreciation of Kerkum’s appetite for hard work and loyalty is shown by the distinctions he was awarded throughout his life. He was appointed an Honorary Member of Feyenoord as early as 1977 and in 2008, at Feyenoord’s centenary reception, the Royal Dutch Football Association gave him the honorific title of Bondsridder.
Gerard Kerkum Boardroom
On 17 December 2015, on his 85th birthday, Kerkum was surprised with the news that Feyenoord had named the new boardroom after him. In the presence of his partner, children and grandchildren, an emotional Kerkum unveiled a plaque with his likeness. ‘I feel honoured,’ he says. ‘Many of my predecessors – including Cor Kieboom, for whom I have always had the greatest respect – have had a room at De Kuip named after them posthumously. It makes my very proud to have lived to see this.’
For more than two years after that emotional evening, Kerkum was a frequent visitor to that boardroom and a regular in the stands. He barely missed a match, even when he was first diagnosed with a grave illness at the end of 2017. The once rugged captain, who won most of the head-to-heads against his direct opponents, ultimately came up against one he was unable to beat. He could only accept that life inevitably comes to an end for everyone. And come to the same conclusion as he did in that 2008 issue of Feyenoord Magazine: ‘I have had a great life, in which Feyenoord has played a leading role.’