By Jacob Greenwood
It is often said that you don’t find a football team to support, it finds you. Some stories are more common than others. In non-league football, it is usually local fans supporting their local team. With this in mind, just how did a group of football fans from Someren in Holland come to support Woking?
Someren is a small town in the Netherlands situated just 15 miles outside of Eindhoven. Football in Eindhoven is understandably big, with the main team there, PSV Eindhoven, being one of the superpowers within the Eredivisie. Woking seems like a long way from the southern Netherlands. In fact it is just over 300 miles. It may surprise you then that a group of fans do regularly make the 11 hour roundtrip between the two destinations, with the aim of watching the team they follow, Woking FC.
We talked to Robert Breukers, one of the ‘Dutch Cards’, to discuss just how and why there is such an affection for Surrey’s biggest team in one small part of mainland Europe. As Robert explains, it all started with the poplar computer game, Football Manager.
“Me and my cousin Noud used to play Football Manager together. When we got sacked by our Dutch team (in that save it was SC Heerenveen) we were jobless for a while until Woking came up.”
What to many would seem like just another management job on a computer game turned in to much more. Robert and Noud started to follow Woking, who were in the Conference South at the time, via the internet and on the radio. The pair kept an eye, and ear on The Cards, until they decided to travel to watch them play live in 2010. Robert explains:
“We knew all of the players and were listening to radio coverage of Woking games whilst playing Football Manager. Our first visit to Woking was in April 2010, a home game versus Lewes. We won that game 2-0. Both goals were made by Craig Faulconbridge and he was instant our favourite player.”
This was to be the start of something. A group of 15 are now in the so-called ‘Dutch Cards’ and have been over to watch Woking play. The group is made up of friends and family members of the Robert and Noud. Robert will be attending his 25th Woking game next weekend when The Cards travel to Sincil Bank to take on Lincoln City.
“On the 28th of February I’m going to visit my 25th game, away at Lincoln. Beside those 25 games I have also travelled to five games which have been postponed over the years.
“To start with we visited one or two games a season, but it’s getting more and more each year. For example, this season we’ve been to Fulham XI (h), Lincoln (h), Telford (h), Braintree (a), Eastleigh (a), Aldershot (h) and we’ll go to Lincoln (a), Welling (h), Dover (a) and Halifax (h).”
Although football is the main sport in the Netherlands, it isn’t everyday fans of the sport travel to leafy Surrey to watch non-league ties. Robert explained that at first people struggled to understand why they did it.
“When we first started to support Woking, people though it was a bit crazy. But a lot of people we know have been to Woking or know someone who’s been to Woking with us and they all hear how great it was. How friendly the people are, how ‘real’ the football is.
“It’s not about the Messis and Ronaldos of this world. It’s about the effort that players put in. How beautiful is it that local boys like Joe McNerney and Giuseppe Sole are playing in the first team squad? How great is it to see that they all fight for each inch on the pitch? All of this and plus the fact that you can have a drink before the match, at half-time and afterwards where you can talk about football, it is great.
“When tell you people this they don’t think that you’re crazy anymore. They have respect that you go to a club for the real football atmosphere and not the plastic ‘big money’ clubs.”
You will often hear non-league fans talk of the community spirit at clubs. This is something that Robert and the Dutch Cards have felt at Woking and other English clubs.
“We were given a warm welcome by the former chairman Shahid Azeem at our first game and since then the reception has been overwhelming. I think that’s the biggest reason why we come back to Woking every time. Everybody is interested in how you’re doing, how the trip was etc.
“We’ve been to other English clubs and the reception was also very kind, like Fulham, Portsmouth and Brighton.”
The two main clubs supported by the Dutch Cards are PSV Eindoven and Ajax. However, it sounds like they will have an eye on Garry Hill’s side for quite some time to come.
You can follow the Dutch Cards on Twitter – @DutchCards
Photos by David Holmes. A full set can be seen at wokingfc.co.uk