Feyenoord's downfall is painful to watch

October, 25, 2010

There was a time in my life, not too long ago, when seeing Feyenoord lose 10-0 would have put me in the very greatest of moods. Having grown up supporting Ajax, that other Dutch giant, Feyenoord's worst days were my best.

But Feyenoord's complete and utter double-digit destruction at the hands of PSV Eindhoven on Sunday -- for a taste, click here -- only resulted in melancholy.

Feyenoord's gradual downfall has been painful to watch. And not just because it has shaken up the natural order of things in the Netherlands. Feyenoord was once an upper-middle class European club, winning the Champions League in 1970 and the UEFA Cup as recently as 2002. Like big clubs from smaller leagues all over Europe, it could compete. At the peak of its talent cycle, Feyenoord could do damage continentally. Today, the club's squad of inexperienced youngsters -- the result of near-bankruptcy -- will be lucky to crack the top half of the Dutch Eredivisie. Even that might be a tall order, given its 15th place after 10 games.

Most of all, I recognize that it could have happened to my own favorite club just as easily. The only difference between Ajax and Feyenoord is that Ajax was able to package and ship off some of the world's best talent (Wesley Sneijder, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, et al) in recent years and cash in on their talents, keeping the club (barely) afloat and competitive within the Netherlands.

The big money is slowly destroying the sport. Its own success has been the death of its competitiveness. Only a handful of leagues matter anymore, and just a few clubs are capable of winning the biggest titles. The big money has flowed to the already big; everything and everyone else has slid into the grey muck of mediocrity, where surviving is the highest goal achievable.

So today, I mourn not only Feyenoord, but all of Europe's big little clubs. The Steaua Bucharests, the Celtics, the Benficas, the Red Star Belgrades, and all those other European champions of yore that may never win again.

Leander Schaerlaeckens

Contributing writer, ESPN.com
Leander Schaerlaeckens is a contributing writer for ESPN.com. He has previously written for The Guardian, The Washington Times and UPI.



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