I don't suppose anyone will have recognised the logo in the picture. I can't say that I blame you if you haven't. As the title says, we're shit and we know we are. "We" being the Fortunista, the Fortuna Sittard supporters. For those who have no idea what I'm on about, Fortuna Sittard is a football or soccer club in Sittard, The Netherlands. The club currently plays its football in the 13,000 capacity Fortuna stadium and features in the Dutch Jupiler League. The club was a fusion of former clubs 'Fortuna 54' and 'Sittardia' to merge as the Fortuna Sittard Combinatie in 1968.
As I said in the title, we're shit. To illustrate how shit we are, we finished on the bottom of the lowest Dutch professional league three times in a row. It wasn't possible to relegate to a lower division back then, so that's why we're still a professional club. A few seasons ago, it took us twelve league matches before we could record our first win. So yes, we are shit and we're well aware of that fact.
We weren't always shit though, we are what you might call a Traditionsverein (a traditional team, belonging in the highest division). In the past few decades, our youth academy even spawned a number of players that have reached the national side and enjoyed considerable success abroad. The likes of Fernando Ricksen, Mark van Bommel and Kevin Hofland were the products of the academy, whilst the scouts spotted and snapped up young talents such as Patrick Paauwe and Wilfred Bouma. Current Dutch national manager Bert van Marwijk started his professional coaching career at Fortuna as well.
So how does a club that used to have such talents end up at the bottom of the lowest division possible? Some poor signings, expensive players who turned out to be shit, we've all heard of it before. Combine that with high costs for a new stadium and it spells out disaster. In a few years time, a stable top flight club had turned into a struggler at the bottom of the lowest division.
Why would anyone continue to support such a club? For most fans, football is about glory and basking in the spotlight. Football is the glamour of competitions like the UEFA Champions League, the English Premiership, the Spanish Primera Division and the Italian Serie A, hell... maybe even the German Bundesliga. Why would anyone follow a club that's near the bottom in the Dutch Jupiler League?
It's all about regional pride I guess. They're the professional team closest to where I live, so you're pretty much born into being a supporter. No matter how bad things become, you continue to back your club. Which is one of the reasons why I've decided to write this article and I why I hope to write several more.
You see, this may the last season my club exists and I wouldn't want the memory of my beloved Fortuna to fade away should we cease to exist. Allow me to elaborate. In Holland, there's two professional levels at which clubs can compete, the Eredivisie (basically the Dutch Premiership) and the Jupiler League (the Dutch version of the Championship division). Below that, you've got the Hoofdklasse.
This league is divided into two sections: the Saturday section and the Sunday section. This is a result of the traditional "verzuiling", the segregation of Dutch society into a Catholic and a Protestant section. The Saturday-clubs are by and large Protestant Christian clubs, who were not allowed to play on Sunday. The Sunday-clubs were in general Catholic and working class clubs, whose players had to work on Saturday and therefore could only play on Sunday. Although the verzuiling ended in the 1960s and 1970s, the clubs and the league have maintained this division. The Saturday Hoofdklasse and the Sunday Hoofdklasse are divided into three leagues each:
- Clubs in the Saturday Hoofdklasse A and Sunday Hoofdklasse A are from the west of the Netherlands.
- Clubs in the Saturday Hoofdklasse B and Sunday Hoofdklasse B are from the central and southern parts of the Netherlands.
- Clubs in the Saturday Hoofdklasse C and Sunday Hoofdklasse C are from the northern and eastern part of the Netherlands.
The champions of the Saturday Hoofdklasse A, B and C play against each other for the national Saturday championship, just like the champions of the Sunday Hoofdklasse A, B and C face each other for the national Sunday title. The winners of the Saturday and Sunday championships then face each other for the national amateur title.
Clubs can be relegated from the Hoofdklasse to the 1e Klasse (First Class) and can be promoted from the 1e Klasse to the Hoofdklasse, but it's not yet possible to be promoted from the Hoofdklasse to the Jupiler League. From the 2008/2009 season onwards one team will relegate from the Jupiler League to the Hoofdklasse, from the 2009/2010 season onwards promotion from the amateurs to the professional league will be possible. The exact structure for that promotion is not known yet.
This relegation ruling is the reason why I'm writing this article. As I said, this may be our last season ever. You see, if we relegate this season, the club will cease to exist. On a lower level, revenue and sponsor income will decrease dramatically and the club will not be able to pay the costs of maintaining a decent squad or renting a stadium. Since this may be our last season ever, I intend to make sure the world takes notice of us and our struggle for survival. You may expect more articles in the near future.