The history of sc Heerenveen starts on 20 July 1920. On that date, the club starts playing football in an organised fashion under the name of ‘Athleta’. On 30 May 1922, the name changes due to a merger with the students of the HBS-school in 'De Spartaan'. Yet this is short lived.
On 25 October 1922, the NVB (the ‘Nederlandse Voetbal Bond’ or ‘Dutch Football Association’), informs the club that it is recorded in the books as v.v. Heerenveen (v.v. is short for ‘voetbalvereniging’ or ‘football society’) instead of 'Spartaan' . The how and why of this has never become clear. Probably, there must have been a society with the same name. Heerenveen accepts the name change without dispute and so v.v. Heerenveen becomes a fact.
In 1928, the club moves to a new building complex on the JH Kruisstraat, which remains the home of v.v. Heerenveen till today. The club’s sporty achievements are not consistent until Abe Lenstra’s appointment in 1936. In 1936, trainer Syd Castle joins the club together with Lenstra, who was only 15 at the time. Also Henny Jonkman, a talent from the merged club, named VAC, joins Heerenveen. It was the start of many beautiful years of football glory.
During the German occupation in WW II, v.v. Heerenveen captures the northern title three times in a row. After the war, the club gains six more Northern titles. In spite of the presence of star player Abe Lenstra, v.v. Heerenveen never manages to capture the national championship. Although Heerenveen poses a direct threat to Dutch football power houses, such as Ajax, DWS, NAC and Haarlem at the time, the team never manages to obtain the crowning achievement in the championship finals.
The team’s successes are largely due to the brilliant Abe Lenstra, yet not to him alone. V.V. Heerenveen is a strong team. Lenstra would not have been able to excell without other players such as: Jan Lenstra, Frans Wuyts, Mollo de Jong, Jan Ploegh, Wim Molenaar, Gilles Veenstra, Germ Hofma, Henny Jonkman, Tiemen Veenstra, Jan Bosscha, Sietse Bosscha, Marten Brandsma and Sietse van der Laan.
In the early fifties the supremacy of v.v. Heerenveen comes to an end. Instead, the club has to be content with playing a more modest role in the first class. The introduction of profeesional football to The Netherlands in 1954 becomes a hotly debated topic for Heerenveen. Abe Lenstra is offered a contract in Italy, yet refuses to sign. Eventually, these ups and downs lead to Lenstra’s transfer (in 1955) to Sportclub Enschede.
The Sixties: the Lean Years
In a sportive sense, the sixties may be classified as the lean years. V.V. Heerenveen languishes, due to its average performance. Yet there were some exceptions, such as the team’s promotion in 1960. The absence of sportive accomplishments brings v.v. Heerenveen close to the edge. Particularly at the time when the troubles reach a peak, the local population commits itself in great numbers to the club that is slowly pining away. Thanks to their spontaneous assistance, culminating in the foundation Actie ‘67, the fans collect funds in every possible way to preserve professional football in Heerenveen.
The fan’s assistance comes at the opportune moment. V.V. Heerenveen gains a new momentum and just as in the fifties, the team finishes the decade with a championship along with a promotion to the first division in 1970. This team is the only one in the club’s history managing to become a champion while being promoted to the premier league as well.
The Seventies: Solid Performance
V.V. Heerenveen demonstrates a solid performance in the seventies. In the seasons 1971-1972 and 1973-1974, the Frisians are even in the race for promotion to the premier league. Unfortunately, finishing third in both seasons is not sufficient for a spot in the Dutch premier league.
The sportive performance is great, yet financially the team faces some issues. In 1974, it is all hands on deck in order to avoid bankruptcy. In order not to endanger the club’s survival, they decide to split professional football from amateur football in 1977. So the professionals continue (as a foundation) under the name of sc Heerenveen.
The Eighties: Success with Van Brussel
sc Heerenveen closes the seventies as a solid performer in the mid section of the competition. For three seasons in a row, the Frisian club manages to obtain the eleventh position. Trainer Henk van Brussel reinvigorates sc Heerenveen in the early eighties. Van Brussel is a trainer who directs his players to the front without ado. This bold style proves profitable, since the fans attend the stadium matches in great numbers since sc Heerenveen is a sportive force to be reckoned with and participation in the play-offs is more the exception than the rule. In 1982 sc Heerenveen almost qualifies for the promotion to the premier league.
In 1985 Van Brussel leaves the club for De Graafschap. Chairman Riemer van der Velde appoints Foppe de Haan as the new trainer. A Frisian himself, De Haan, familiar with the region, polishes and refines sc Heerenveen. In 1988 Ted Timmers replaces De Haan while De Haan accepts a role in the background to help shape the club’s technical policies.
1990: Promotion to the Premier League
In the first season under Immers’ leadership, sc Heerenveen does not quite manage to be promoted. Yet in the season 1989-1990 the Frisian club finally manage a spot at the highest national level. After the crazy play-offs, in which sc Heerenveen start out in their group with two defeats, the club of trainer Fritz Korbach have to settle with FC Emmen in two matches. In Emmen, sc Heerenveen is beaten in the closing minute by 1-0. At home, sc Heerenveen manages to overcome the defeat by goals of Verbeek and Dijk – the club’s promotion is a fact.
Yet the party is short-lived as sc Heerenveen is relegated shortly afterwards. It takes the club two full seasons before requalifying for the Dutch premier league. In 1993, under the leadership of De Haan, who succeeds Korbach mid-season, sc Heerenveen obtains a promotion via the play-offs. The first division team manages to impress by reaching the cup finals in which Ajax beats sc Heerenveen 6-2.
Permanent Value at the Highest Level
Since 1993, sc Heerenveen have been continuously active at the highest level, when the Frisian club commences the construction of a completely new stadium. A tremendous waiting list for fans as well as for sponsors explains the need for the expansion. A new era begins thanks to the new stadium, which officially opened in August 1994 as the ‘Abe Lenstra Stadium’.
sc Heerenveen achieves an excellent performance. A permanent value within the premier league, sc Heerenveen develops into a stable and well respected second string competitor and a regular player on the European stage. The highlights include sc Heerenveen’s participation in the Champions League in the 2000-2001 season and a win in the cup finals at the expense of FC Twente on the 17th of May 2009.
Even beyond the lines, sc Heerenveen experiences fine progress. The Abe Lenstra Stadium, offering space to over 13,000 spectators in 1993, undergoes various renovations. 26,000 fans can watch the home matches of sc Heerenveen in 2012. Business club OSSH continues to grow. Numbering over a thousand members, it is the largest business club in Dutch professional football.
The fact that even sc Heerenveen may run into some adversity seems evident from the 2009-2010 season. In the year following the cup victory over FC Twente, the Frisian club hopes to make a sportive step ahead under the leadership of the Norwegian trainer Trond Sollied. Yet finishing a disappointing 11th in the competition, Heerenveen seems unable to force its way into European Football, going through no less than three trainers. In the summer of 2010, trainer Ron Jans, who had a successful career with FC Groningen, accepts an appointment to reinvigorate sc Heerenveen.
Initially, his efforts meet with little success and the commotion due to a lost sports season leaves its marks. sc Heerenveen finishes 12th and has to abandon European football once again. Since the team is too large, with too many expensive players, sc Heerenveen faces financial difficulties during the economic recession. The Frisian club has to implement financial changes and reduces the size of the group of players. The road to recovery opens up in the second year under Ron Jans’ leadership. This turns out to be a success, for the Frisian club places 5th and qualifies directly for European football.
In the 2012-2013 season, Marco van Basten starts out as the team’s new main coach.
Abe Lenstra: Great and Quirky
Beyond any doubt, Abe Lenstra is the most famous and best home-grown sc Heerenveen football player that ever lived. In the forties and fifties, Lenstra emerged as the architect of the champions team of Heerenveen and of the Dutch national team. A typical celebrity, Lenstra actions were quirky, unpredictable and peerless on the pitch.
Born in the same year that sc Heerenveen was established, Lenstra (27-11-1920) displayed a natural talent. Moreover, he excelled in several types of sports. He was an excellent ice-skater, great at billiards as well as a capable athlete on the long-jump and in running. At age 15, Lenstra made his debut in the second class main team. With 19 goals credited to his name, he quickly evolved as the team’s top scorer in the 1936-1937 season.
Thanks to Lenstra’s excellent abilities, sc Herenveen ruled football in the Northern Netherlands in the forties. SC Heerenveen ruled as the unbeatable champion in the Northern Netherlands for nine consecutive years, winning their first title in 1942. SC Heerenveen’s supremacy did not come to an end until 1951. At the close of World War II in 1945, Heerenveen joined the battle for the Dutch title in earnest. Given the presence of Lenstra’s super talent, the Dutch championship remained elusive to the Frisian football club Heerenveen.
Lenstra proved to be of exceptional class, mastering all disciplines. He possessed speed, insight, a hard shot, an excellent dribble, was two-legged and performed great headers. When Lenstra was up to his game he was unstoppable, though quirky. At times, he failed to respond, driving team members to dispair. A lazy football player, Lenstra regularly saved his energy for one or two brilliant actions in a game. Although Lenstra was not a true goal grabber, and not overly concerned about scoring, he was Heerenveen’s absolute top scorer (523 goals) and the top scorer in Dutch football. In competitive football he scored 700 goals (in approximately 730 duels) in the period ranging from 1936 to 1963. In the 1946-1947 season he scored no less than 46 goals. All in all, Lenstra scored over 850 goals when the games for representing teams and cup duels are also taken into consideration.
Various foreign clubs attempted to lure Lenstra into signing up with them. An international icon during the early years of World War II, the Frisian football genius was approached by various Italian top clubs willing to sign him up, however, to no avail. Fiorentina even presented Lenstra with a blank cheque, yet the stubborn Frisian refused to sign.
Though Lenstra played in 47 games for the Dutch national football team, he should have played more often in view of his capabilities. While at the peak of his career, Lenstra’s tragedy was the fact that international football games were cancelled due to the war. Moreover, he continuously disagreed with the committee in charge of setting up the Dutch football team. Steadfastly delegating him to the wing, they would not allow him to play at his favourite inside left position. Due to this, the Frisian player declined several times the honour of playing with the Dutch National team.
Twenty years into his career, having played over 500 games for sc Heerenveen, Lenstra singed up to play as a professional with Sportclub Enschede in 1955. Almost at age forty, he transferred to Enschedese Boys for an amount of NLG 45,000. In 1963, at age 42, Lenstra ended his professional football career. All in all, the Frisian icon played 27 years at the top level.
Lenstra suffered a cerebral haemorrhage resulting in paralysis in the spring of 1977. The Netherlands mourned his unexpected decease on 2 September 1985, two days prior to the scheduled interland match Netherlands-Bulgaria in the Heerenveen sports park.
Yet Lenstra was never forgotten and still lives on in the hearts of Dutch football fans. Particularly sc Heerenveen, the club benefiting most from Lenstra’s achievements, still honours the former football icon. On 15 March 1986, the old football stadium on J.H. Kruisstraat was named after Abe Lenstra. And even the new stadium, officially opened in August 1994, carries his name. A bronze statue of the famous football player was unveiled during the opening ceremony.
Riemer van der Velde, the Basis of Success
The name of Riemer van der Velde is inseparably linked to sc Heerenveen. Although a club’s success is never the work of a single man, nonetheless, the former chairman’s part in the sportive and professional growth of the Frisian club may be labelled as truly exceptional.
A businessman from the Frisian town of Bakkeveen, Riemer van der Velde (born, 28 October 1940) handled the chairman’s gavel from September 1983 to 1 October 2006. The club approached him in 1983 to help with its financial overhaul. It turned out to be an excellent choice. Thanks to Van der Velde’s business acumen and contacts, sc Heerenveen managed to purge a debt of millions in a short time.
Van der Velde initiated the process of developing professionalism within sc Heerenveen. Semi professionals are turned into full professionals and the technical and medical support of the football players are optimised as well. Moreover, the OSSH, association for entrepreneurs, is established under Van der Velde’s supervision. OSSH, a businessmen’s club, evolves into the largest club within Dutch professional football. Van der Velde is also credited for introducing Foppe de Haan as a trainer. Although De Haan had a difficult start, yet Van der Velde’s choice was no mistake. Under the wings of the Bakkeveen businessman, De Haan developed into a successful and well-respected expert, leading sc Heerenveen to the Dutch premier league, two cup finals and the European football fields.
The sc Heerenveen chairman is a man of vision and ambition. Although he does not publicly broadcast his ideas, Van der Velde wants to definitively make a name for sc Heerenveen. As early as Heerenveen’s first promotion to the premier league, May 1990, Van der Velde shares with a few intimate friends that sc Heerenveen must become a star team within the Dutch first division and set its sights for Europe.
The construction of a new stadium proves to be an important impulse for the implementation of these plans. In 1994, sc Heerenveen leaves its trusted home base on the J.H. Kruisstraat to take possession of the brand new stadium on the edge of the town of Heerenveen, with Van der Velde as the great promotor of the new construction. The Frisian club is a trendsetter with their completely new stadium. Later, many Dutch professional football clubs follow sc Heerenveen’s example.
A new stadium is great, yet it amounts to little without a good team and excellent players. Even in this respect Van der Velde pays an important role for sc Heerenveen. Not only a man of good business sense, he also has a healthy dose of football expertise. As a chairman he understands the game as no-one else. Thanks to his eye for talent, many great players are drawn to Friesland. The Dane Jon Dahl Tomasson is the first in a host of top talents with Ruud van Nistelrooy and Klaas Jan Huntelaar among others leading sc Heerenveen not only to sportive successes yet also benefiting the club’s coffers by millions.
In the meantime, Van der Velde has been appointed as the honorary chairman, actively advising the club.
Foppe de Haan
Employed by sc Heerenveen from 1985 to 2004, De Haan is the best known of all trainers involved in coaching sc Heerenveen. Of all trainers in Dutch professional football, De Haan has the longest tenure with the same club. As a trainer/coach of the Frisian club, he reached the milestone of 500 competitive football matches in the 2003-2004 season.
De Haan, born in the Frisian village of Lippenhuizen (26 June 1943), succeeded Henk van Brussel as a trainer in 1985. Chairman Riemer van der Velde was responsible for his appointment. Van der Velde steadfastly trusted De Haan’s capabilities in spite of the fact that previously, De Haan had worked only for amateur clubs.
And although Van der Velde’s decision ultimately proved to be correct, De Haan experienced a difficult start in professional football. In the first season, the Frisian club under De Haan’s directions ended up 17th in the competition though performed much better in the following seasons. Eventually, having to make way for Ted Immers in the summer of 1988, De Haan takes a role in the background shaping the club’s policy. In October 1992, De Haan is in the floodlights again, replacing Fritz Korbach who had to leave, due to a disappointing performance. A long and successful period for club and trainer begins. In a sportive sense, sc Heerenveen beats the drum; in the 1992-1993 season, the Frisian club finishes second in the competition, after the champion VVV, and winning a promotion to the Dutch premier league.
Moreover, sc Heerenveen creates a great stunt by gaining access to the cup competition of the premier league finals. Ajax beat sc Heerenveen 6-2, yet sc Heerenveen definitively establishes its reputation thanks to the De Haan’s strong commitment.
De Haan coaches sc Heerenveen for over thirteen seasons. His leadership period is marked mostly by success, even though the club experienced difficult times. In the season 1996-1997, the coach and his team again reach the cup finals (4-2 loss against Roda JC). With De Haan at the wheel, sc Heerenveen forces its way into European football (European Cup 2) for the first time in the club’s history.
In the season 1999-2000, sc Heerenveen surprises friend and foe alike by ending in second place and gaining access to the prestigious Champions League. In July 2003, Foppe de Haan announced his decision that this would be his last season as the first sc Heerenveen coach. In May 2004, he passes the baton to Gertjan Verbeek. De Haan’s farewell occurs in style with sc Heerenveen finishing fourth in the competition, thereby guaranteeing his successor a place in the UEFA Cup.
Since October 2011, De Haan has returned to his familiar club and now serves within the football academy. De Haan coaches, assists and helps the development of top talents while being responsible for the development of youth trainers.
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