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Het Legioen (Dutch pronunciation: [ət ˌleː.ɣi.ˈjun], The Legion in English) is the name that is used to describe football fans who support Dutch side Feyenoord.
The supporters of Feyenoord are said to be one of the most loyal supporter groups in the world supporting the team during both good or bad times. They are nicknamed Het Legioen, Dutch for The Legion and can be found everywhere in The Netherlands and far across the Dutch borders. Squad number 12 is never given to a player, but is reserved for Het Legioen instead.
Feyenoord can be called a popular club because they always attract huge amounts of fans. The club's fans excel in European Cup matches played abroad where thousands of fan travel to support their team. Exact numbers on which clubs attract the most fans abroad are not available, but it's known this is a high rate compared to most other European clubs.
In 1963, about 3000 fans boarded on two ships, among thousands of others by train or car and they travelled to Lisbon where Feyenoord faced Benfica in the European Cup. When Feyenoord plays abroad in European Cup about 8000 travel together to support their team. Almost 15,000 fans were cheering for their team in 1996 when Feyenoord played in Germany versus Borussia Mönchengladbach. About 40,000 fans visit a regular match at home while top classes versus Ajax, PSV and European Cup opponents are sold out most of the time. About 250,000 fans showed up when Feyenoord's latest Dutch championship was celebrated in 1999 at the Coolsingel in the center of the city. After Feyenoord beat Internazionale in the 2002 UEFA Cup semi final, Inter midfielder Clarence Seedorf said: "I really enjoyed the atmosphere in De Kuip. As an ex-Ajax player I was really given the bird, but that’s all part of the emotions in football. It also illustrates the intense way in which the Feyenoord supporters experience their club’s matches."
Beyond the Netherlands, Feyenoord opened a fanshop in the center of Tokyo, Japan when Japanese player Shinji Ono was a key player at the club, and also in South Korea when Song Chong-Gug played for Feyenoord.
Feyenoord have one official fan supporters club, the Feyenoord Supportersvereniging. The FSV is completely independent and as of 2006 has a membership of about 23,000. The FSV aim to cater for the wishes and needs of Feyenoord fans, and also operate as a bridge for better communication between the club and fans. Each home game the FSV produce the official match programme rather than Feyenoord itself. FSV also arrange special events known as "supportersavonden" (supporter's evenings), arrange travel for away matches and the mascot for home matches, and participate in Feyenoord projects like Supporters Platform, TIFO team, Kameraadjes and the yearly Open day. The Supporters Platform formed in August 2005 to improve communication between club and fans Within the FSP about 60 supporters are continuously in contact with the staff of the club to discuss club matters. About five times during a season an open meeting is arranged for all other Feyenoord supporters willing to visit and listen to and discuss explanations.
In 1998 the Feyenoord Supporters Vereniging were wondering about whether or not it would be possible to create more atmosphere inside the stadium mainly during important matches. As a result, a few huge flags were produced and brought into the stadium prior to matches played by Feyenoord. The flags were a success, but people started asking for more activities and a meeting between fans and officials were arranged. In 2000 Harry Veth was given permission to establish a group of five Feyenoord fans called TIFO team Feyenoord Rotterdam. Besides creating more flags and small pieces of paper released from the second platform the team also started to organise bigger activities. The first big activity was held on 10 December 2000 when Feyenoord faced Ajax and 40 fog machines were activated when the players entered the pitch. In the following years many different and various activities were held to improve the atmosphere inside the stadium. Feyenoord's TIFO team became famous abroad as well and the Italian TIFO foundation awarded Feyenoord the Best of TIFO Award 2000/2001.
Kids supporting Feyenoord between 0 and 12 years old can join the "Kameraadjes" group. De kameraadjes (The little comrades) get a versatility of little gadgets and advantages according to Feyenoord. Members of the Kameraadjes receive the Kameraadjes magazine, a free stadium tour and a welcoming present. During a season, several events for Kameraadjes members are held, like: a Sinterklaas party, special events during Feyenoord Opening day and the first training of the season, beach soccer tournaments and advantages when visiting a Feyenoord home match. As of 2006 there are 26,500 Kameraadjes.
Feyenoord's Jeugdproject (Youth Project) concentrates on children between 6 and 12 years of age, playing football at schools and amateur teams. To show the kids the importance of sports and sportsmanship, Feyenoord invites the children to De Kuip to see what sport can do to people: happiness, disappointment, excitement, emotions, fear and cosines, it brings people together. In Feyenoord's Youth Project visiting a match is the central point, but there is also an educative and cultural character included. Feyenoord provides schools and amateur clubs with small teaching books and expect these to be filled in by the visiting youth when they enter the stadium on a match day. The groups that support Feyenoord in the most original way and those who can predict the score correctly are awarded with prizes.
Every single year Feyenoord fans look forward to the club's first training of the new season. They show up with thousands together and temporary stands are placed around the training pitch. Players signed during the summer will be seen by the fans in public for the first time and the players take some time to sign autographs after the training. Around the training pitch there are several other activities held before the first and in between the first and second training of the day. No other club in the Netherlands attracts as much supporters towards the first training and the new players are positively surprised every year. Despite finishing 9th in the Eredivisie in the 2006–07 season for instance the first training of the 2007–08 season broke all records when 20,000 fans showed up to support the team and to erase the previous season out of their minds.
A few weeks after the first training but still before the season really starts, the club opens its doors for free for all Feyenoord fans to have fun together and to present the squad for the upcoming season. De Kuip already opens in the morning when there are many activities around the stadium mainly for kids and promotional activities for companies which have a partnership with Feyenoord. Fans can also take a stadium tour and walk on the pitch. The activities inside the stadium itself normally start around noon when there are several performances by various artists. Every year the new Feyenoord ambassador of the year is announced at opening day. A minute of silence will be held for all former Feyenoord players who have died and for known fans who have died in the previous year. Former Feyenoord players return to De Kuip every year to play versus a team of Dutch celebrities. The stadium activities ends after the squad for the upcoming season is presented to the fans. This is always a special happening, mainly for the new signings of the team. They will be flown into the stadium with helicopters when a full stadium is cheering for them when they arrive. Once they are there the other players and club officials enter the pitch one by one. Last but not least, all players are available for autograph sessions afterwards. Feyenoord's open day attracts about 60,000 to 70,000 fans towards Rotterdam, coming from all over The Netherlands, while there's only 51,117 seats available inside the stadium. The opening day is known as a unique event in the Netherlands. Other clubs also organise opening days, but never attract as many fans as Feyenoord does. The opening day at Ajax, for instance, attracts about 20,000 fans.
Famous Feyenoord fansEdit
Besides a lot of former players who still are fans of the club, there are also many celebrities who openly announce to be a Feyenoord fan. Singer Lee Towers and actor Gerard Cox are known as the most fanatic Feyenoord fans around, talking about the team wherever they show up on TV, radio or magazines. Among other famous Feyenoord fans are politicians Wouter Bos and Jan Marijnissen, baseball manager Robert Eenhoorn, kidnapped Arjan Erkel, judo world champion Dennis van der Geest, DJ Paul Elstak, tennis player Raemon Sluiter and TV star Renate Verbaan. Sluiter, Towers, Van der Geest and Eenhoorn have all officially been Feyenoord ambassadors. Verbaan is the current and first ever female ambassador.