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FOREVER FEYENOORD Almost half of the Netherlands squad at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil learned their trade in Rotterdam. Sarah Steiner visited the starmakers at the Feyenoord Academy to find out more. Photos by Luc Schol.

The rain falling on Rotterdam casts a grey pallor on the entire city. Even the stiff breeze blowing through the streets cannot shift the thick blanket of cloud.

Although this less-than-inviting weather is fairly typical of autumn in Holland, it somehow seems to suit Rotterdam particularly well. As the Netherlands’ biggest industrial centre, the city is known for being slightly rough around the edges, its working-class credentials bolstered by the urban legend that shops around these parts sell shirts with the sleeves already rolled up.

Nowhere is this mentality more apparent than down by the river. Europe’s largest port lies on one of the world’s busiest seaways, supporting 180,000 jobs, handling 450 million tonnes of freight every year and covering 12,500 hectares – figures that are almost impossible to comprehend. The people of Rotterdam are proud of their city.

They are equally proud of their football club, Feyenoord, part of Dutch football’s top trio of teams alongside arch-rivals Ajax and PSV Eindhoven.

De Stadionclub have won 14 Eredivisie titles and 11 KNVB Cups as well as lifting the European Cup and Intercontinental Cup in 1970 and the UEFA Cup in 1974 and 2002.

Nerves of steel are a prerequisite for any player wishing to take on the fanatical crowd, electric atmosphere and expectant fans inside Feyenoord’s home ground, De Kuip.

Although the club has run into financial difficulties several times in recent years, with several expensive signings failing to live up to expectations, it is now on a stable economic footing.

Despite still struggling to live up to the expectations created by their illustrious past, Feyenoord are slowly but surely battling their way back to the top of the national and continental game.

Meanwhile in Brasilia, the sun is shining, showing off the city in all its glory. A moderate wind makes for comfortable temperatures and perfect footballing weather – all part and parcel of the Brazilian winter.

It is the day of the Match for Third Place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, where the hosts face the Netherlands. Of the 23 men in the Oranje squad, 11 have a direct connection to Feyenoord.

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