SC Cambuur-Leeuwarden manager Henk de Jong had a good meal on Saturday morning to prepare for what was to come. After the 1-1 draw with De Graafschap the night before, the team and staff had a “small beer” in the back room to celebrate the success of winning the Dutch Keuken Kampioen Divisie and thus the rise to the top flight Eredivisie.
“I’m not afraid of vomiting,” De Jong told ESPN. “It’s not as big a hangover as it was last week [after they secured promotion], it’s small. “
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With the COVID-19 restrictions preventing Cambuur from celebrating the usual way – a big party at the Oldehoofsterkerkhof in the center of town – they were offered an unorthodox type of occasion by the municipality and the mayor: a helicopter parade.
Just before noon on May 1, Cambuur’s squad, wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day, arrived at Leeuwarden Air Base. They saw three helicopters waiting on the tarmac: two for the squad, one for the media after the parade.
– SC Cambuur (@SCCambuurLwd) May 1, 2021
Each helicopter had a capacity for five people who would get a 20-minute flight over Leeuwarden – a city in the north of the Netherlands of 122,000 people – at an altitude of about 300 meters (nearly 1,000 feet). .
The town’s residents had been asked to decorate their gardens and houses in Cambuur’s yellow and blue colors in preparation for the flyby. And when the helicopters flew over the field of the LKC Sonnenborgh (the local Frisian handball club), they saw flags reading “SCC JUSTICE” on the lawn.
This party has been a long time coming. When the coronavirus pandemic hit the world last year, the Dutch Association (KNVB) met with clubs to decide how to end the 2019-20 season. Cambuur was at the top of the Dutch second division at this point, 11 points ahead of the playoff positions. Options such as the point-per-game model were mentioned and the clubs voted. The 34 clubs of the first and second division of Dutch football had registered their thoughts – 16 clubs voted for promotion and relegation, nine voted against and nine clubs abstained or did not vote. Since there was no majority, the decision was made by the KNVB. It awarded European places in the Eredivisie, but decided against crowning champions or implementing promotion and relegation.
Cambuur was heartbroken. They already had one foot in the Eredivisie. De Jong said at the time it was “the greatest shame ever in Dutch sport” while their manager Ard de Graaf told ESPN that “there is a great sense of injustice” at the club. With the club already planning the top division, including the development of a new € 72 million ($ 86.5 million) stadium on the outskirts of town, the promotion party has been suspended.
Last year’s wounds took time to heal. De Jong stands by his testimony but had to get his squad to focus on this season rather than reliving the pain of April last. After a difficult time in September, they dominated the Dutch second division and won 27 of their 36 league games so far. When midfielder Issa Kallon secured promotion on April 17th by scoring the winner against Helmond Sport, He lifted his shirt to reveal the word “Justice” written on another underneath.
– SC Cambuur (@SCCambuurLwd) April 17, 2021
When the final whistle sounded for this 4-1 victory, there were celebrations outside their premises, the Cambuur Stadium. It was this joy that led the community and the mayor to think of another way to mark the team’s success. Ordinarily it would be a celebration with beer in a sea of yellow and blue torches, but realizing the need to avoid large public gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic, they came up with the alternative in the air.
The helicopters circled Leeuwarden from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. local time. The players saw yellow and blue torches glowing on the ground. They saw the fire brigade form a semicircle of fire engines in honor of the team. as they looked down on Maximilla Straat, They saw the club’s emblem drawn in chalk on the street. Further support came from the hashtag #TerugWaarWeHoren (“Back Where We Belong”) on Twitter.
– Hein de Haan (@heindehaan) May 1, 2021
“You’re so high in the air,” midfielder Nick Doodeman told ESPN after landing. “Before the start, I stood in front of the helicopter and saw the other one [one] take off and thought ‘now I have to go too.’ The pilot was very calm, so we also had confidence. The highlight? I think I saw my parents and girlfriend waving off the floor! They were doing some work around the house and I think I saw them waving in the back yard. But I don’t think they could see me. “
De Jong added: “It was amazing to see everything on the ground. People are so excited that I sat on the first flight and there were yellow and blue fireworks. I saw children on the ground, people coming out of their gardens waved. “
Some of the players weren’t convinced by the stunt. “A couple of players are missing today,” De Jong said before the start. “You don’t want to get in the air and you’d rather stay two feet on the ground. I’m not the type to say you have to go live and let live, right? I go really high. If you get this opportunity, you have to use them. “
Center-back Calvin Mac-Intosch was one who decided against the helicopter flight. He said to ESPN, “Why not? I’m not afraid of flying or anything, but sitting in a helicopter is not really necessary for me. I think [it is] too much. But I saw some videos from the guys and they seemed to enjoy it, so I enjoy it too. To be honest, I thought it was a military helicopter, but it is [looks] a bit old fashioned. You know; I’m fine on an airplane, but in a helicopter … hmm, not for me. “The team’s top scorer, Robert Muhren, who arrived at the airport, said he felt sick, wore sunglasses and drinks water – neither did Alex Bangaru, Robin Maulun or Kallon fly.
Midfielder Michael Breij originally declined the invitation, but his mother and girlfriend changed his mind. “I’m shaking in my boots to be honest,” he said before the start. “But I’ll go up, I’m firm. I’m very curious, but I’ll take a bag with me.”
Cambuur’s nickname is “Slapping Reus“(” Sleeping Giant “), but they are stirring from their slumber. After relegated in 2016, they ended their five-year absence from the Eredivisie. Cambuur has two more games to go this season and the festivities continue. But you sense that De Jong might try to speed himself up while having a newfound appreciation for Terra Firma.
“Of course it shakes during take-off, but then all of a sudden you walk quickly across the ground and then you go into the air,” he said. “I was a bit [nauseous] to be honest. We circled over Goutum [a small village near Leeuwarden] Where [former player and assistant manager] Martijn Barto got up, but I said ‘please keep going straight ahead because I’m sick’ … but that also has to do with yesterday. “
Additional accounts by Rick de Kock have been used in this piece.