(Reuters) - Feyenoord Rotterdam on Wednesday celebrate the 50th anniversary of their European Cup success which put the Netherlands firmly on the world football map and kicked off a golden era.
Although rivals Ajax Amsterdam would surpass their triumph with three straight European Cup titles, and in the process introduce Johan Cruyff and ‘total football’, it was Feyenoord’s victory on May 6, 1970 that announced the arrival of Dutch football and saw the country start punching above its weight.
“Even if they tell you in Amsterdam they won the cup four times, we were the first (Dutch winners),” said ex-captain Rinus Israel in an interview with Voetbal International magazine.
Feyenoord beat Celtic 2-1 in extra time in Milan to win a competition that began with a formidable field and where the Dutch champions had been given little chance.
But Feyenoord’s shock second-round elimination of holders AC Milan, overturning a 1-0 first leg deficit to win 2-1 on aggregate, signalled their potential, although they still went into the final as underdogs after the Glaswegians impressively overcame Leeds United in their semi-final.
Feyenoord went behind in the showpiece match back at San Siro but Israel equalised and Swedish import Ove Kindvall scored the winner in extra time, after a long kick forward that Celtic captain Billy McNeill failed to clear.
“It was the moment when a club from a different country (outside the big European leagues) won and everybody from these countries started believing they could too,” recalled midfielder Wim Jansen.
It was also the making of the reputation of Dutch tactical nous. Feyenoord’s chain-smoking Austrian coach Ernst Happel had his side open up play when in possession but when without the ball, they closed in on the opponent, restricting their space.
It proved innovative at the time and saw them dominate the final against a skilful Scottish side who were the first British side to win Europe’s elite club trophy in 1967.
Seven of Feyenoord’s European Cup winners featured in the Netherlands squad that finished runners-up at the 1974 World Cup, including talismanic Wim van Hanegem, still an icon of the Dutch game whose forceful opinions remain regularly solicited.
“Feyenoord, at that time, changed the way football was played a lot more than Ajax supposedly did later,” he said.
“We played with an attacking intent, we moved the ball around quickly, had pace up front and were forceful in the duels. That whole season we never had any doubt.”
Writing by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ken Ferris