Older than Feyenoord, SBV Excelsior have benefitted from a player-share agreements with their more celebrated city rivals to help gain top-flight status, most recently in 2014.
Towards season’s end in 2016-17, the former satellite club caused a huge upset by tonking Feyenoord 3-0 at home, the result halting the visitors’ run to a long-awaited title. The unexpected result led to violent clashes in this leafy part of Rotterdam near Erasmus University.
It was here, in this eastern district of Kralingen, where the club was formed in 1902. They played on the open ground of Woudestein, where their stadium of the same name is still located. De Kralingers would eventually acquire another nickname, the Oud-papier club, as Excelsior remained in the hands of owners involved in paper recycling.
In the period between the wars, Excelsior played at nearby Toepad, where today’s Leonidas hockey team is based. It was here that Excelsior embarked on the cup run of 1929-30, which culminated in their only final appearance – a 1-0 defeat to Feyenoord.
Promotion was first achieved in 1946, but Excelsior have rarely had the means to compete with the big boys for any length of time.
A row between a teenager Robin van Persie and then coach Adrie Koster saw the later Manchester United star leave for Feyenoord in 1999 – and Premier League fame.
Local rivalries are somewhat complex, though easily explained where Sparta Rotterdam are concerned, Excelsior’s play-off victory to gain promotion to the Eredivisie in 2010 particularly sweet. As for Feyenoord, various agreements saw the two clubs sharing young players and reserve teams. Under former Feyenoord youth coach Alex Pastoor, Excelsior achieved impressive results in the top flight, including the historic defeat of his former employees.
SBV stayed up that first season, before Pastoor left for Nijmegen and the Rotterdam side were duly relegated in 2011-12.
Former Dunfermline striker Marinus Dijkhuizen then managed to lead Excelsior to the play-offs in 2014, SBV beating top-flight Waalwijk to return to the top flight.
With a stadium, now officially named Van Donge & De Roo, of 4,400 capacity, Excelsior are always the most modest outfit in the Eredivisie. But solid support always seems to work miracles. In May 2017, with Feyenoord expected to clean up and claim a long-awaited title close to their own backyard, Excelsior opened the scoring through Nigel Hasselbaink, nephew of Jimmy Floyd. Two more goals from the home side and a capacity crowd at the Woudestein had witnessed one of the biggest shocks in the Dutch domestic game.
England under-20 international Marcus Edwards, on loan from Spurs, currently bolsters a strong midfield that should enable Excelsior to stay up in 2018-19.
The smallest ground in the Eredivisie, the Woudestein has been the home of Excelsior since the club was founded in 1902. Renovated four times over the course of a century, the Woudestein looks today as it did after the last major overhaul, completed in 2000.
A friendly with Feyenoord that summer unveiled the newly remodelled ground, with two new stands.
With promotion a decade later, Excelsior were forced to install artificial turf due to a lack of under-soil heating. Current capacity is 4,400. The stadium took the sponsor’s name of Van Donge & De Roo in 2017.
The home end, the south stand, was named after old boy Robin van Persie. The Noordtribune behind the opposite goal is divided into the Excelsior4All Tribune and the away sector (Bezoekers Tribune) nearest the Rob Albers Tribune on one sideline. On the facing sideline is the main stand, the Henk Zon Tribune, with press and VIP sections. In one corner between the home end and the Rob Albers Tribune is the Erasmus Tribune.
From Centraal, via Beurs, tram Nos.21 and 24 stop at Woudestein (15min, direction De Esch), on the main road by the stadium.
Given the 4,400 capacity, tickets for Eredivisie games can be in short supply and are only offered for the Robin van Persie, Erasmus and Rob Albers Tribune.
For high-risk fixtures, a club card (€5 for five years’ validity) is required, with five years’ validity. Applicants may not hold a card for another club.
Tickets are available in person from the stadium office (Mon-Tue, Thur-Fri 9am-12.45pm, 1.15pm-5pm) or online, Dutch-only but reasonably easy to negotiate.
The standard prices are €18 (17-23s €15, under-16s €10) for the Robin van Persie or Erasmus Tribune, €23 (€18/€10) to sit in the Rob Albers Tribune. On match days, prices rise by €5. For top fixtures such as Ajax, advance tickets are €30 (€22.50/€15).
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A handful of regular souvenirs is available from the stadium bar on match days, staff happy to open up to any visitor who may turn up during the week.
Restaurants stand either side of the main road by the stadium. Upscale restaurant Fred opens for discerning diners, twice on weekdays and Saturday evenings.
Less pretentious and more fitting to the leafy surroundings, IDRW (‘In Den Rustwat’) is a rustic restaurant where chef Marcel van Zomeren specialises in classic French cuisine.
The only bars are at the stadium itself. The match-day only supporters’ bar in a stand-alone building by the car park shows evidence of Robin van Persie’s visit, with pictures of the star player from boyhood and a handwritten note of thanks. Another mural illustrates Excelsior history, with photos of former club officials and their paper-recycling van.
Alongside, De Courant accommodates business clients on match days.