|If Tranmere Rovers are the wife, PSV is the mistress.|
So it was that, after midnight on a warm February day in 2004, I began flicking the channels of my small bedroom TV. The usual assortment of late-night dross was in evidence; the quiz shows which give you no chance and the sign zone repeats of Murder, She Wrote. However, my attention was eventually held by the gloriously-named Dutch Game of the Week on Channel 5. Although I was initially oblivious, this was a weekly re-run, in entire ninety-minute form, of a top Dutch Eredivisie fixture!
I still remember that first game, that first episode, that first intoxication on the PSV drug. It was a night game at the Philips Stadion. PSV Eindhoven versus FC Twente Enschede. The whole occasion was so evocative, so atmospheric, so damn mesmeric. The capacity crowd enthralled me; I recall thinking how they all looked so cold, dressed in considerable dark coats with hats and scarves aplenty. In retrospect, the commentary was classic, describing the insatiable football and introducing me to hallowed names. Bouma and Affelay. Van Bommel and Vogel. Robben and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink. The crowning climax of that sacrosanct game far outweighs even these lofty pleasures, however. Yes, the red-and-white stripes looked resplendent. Yes, the miasma of Eindhoven virtually pouring through my television was sensational. But they were outshone in my pantheon of memories by the heroic way in which that game was won.
|Mateja. My first PSV hero.|
In retrospect, those were the halcyon days of modern Dutch football. Ajax had Sneijder, Van Der Vaart, and Ibrahimovic; Stekelenburg, De Jong, and Vermaelen. Feyenoord had Van Persie, Kuyt, and Buffel; Kalou, Paauwe, and Ono. It was a special era. I watched religiously every week, putting my football education before my actual, real education. It's undoubted that I learnt more from Guus Hiddink than I ever did from any primary school teacher.
Even in an Eredivisie awash with stars, it was always PSV Eindhoven for me. The experience of watching that first game was incredible; it was like watching a whole new footballing heaven unfurl before me. When I watched PSV, there was a sense of harmony, a co-existence with the team, and a natural desire to see them win. It was just always meant to be.
It's that particular incarnation of PSV which I still cherish the most. Gomes kept goal with enigmatic abandon; Park Ji-Sung matched mercurial talent with spirit and determination; Cocu was a genius. The other names still bring happy memories to attention: Ooijer, Lee Young-Pyo, Alex, Bouma, DeMarcus Beasley, Farfan, and, yes, even Remco van der Schaaf. Whereas many footballing purists talk about Brazil in 1970 or the Barcelona of Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi, I still hark back to these priceless PSV days. It was a pleasure to be involved during such a glory period.
Now, those days seem so far away. In recent times, PSV have struggled with settling upon a definitive direction for the future; a period of uncertainty which has given rise to a five-season Title drought. In that time, even AZ and Twente have won the Eredivisie! It has been a very testing period, but my passion for PSV has only grown larger. The memories and appreciation I have for those golden eras make me more determined than ever to see and experience them again and, with a hero such as Phillip Cocu promising to overhaul the club's entire ethos, I have every faith that we will. When those illustrious times return, I hope to be there, waiting; my greatest hope is to visit Eindhoven and watch my first-ever game live at the Philips Stadion soon.
So, now you know. The next time you read my tweets about Dutch football, or the next time you see me wearing a PSV Eindhoven cap, you'll know why! The shows which lurk on your television in the dead of night rarely hold attention for more than ten minutes; the Dutch Game of the Week, however, sparked a fascination in me which has lasted nearly ten years. It's funny how things work out.