This month marks the fifth year anniversary since HFC Haarlem were declared bankrupt and disappeared from Dutch professional football. Michael Bell looks back at one of Netherlands oldest clubs.

hfc haarlemA 15 minute train ride west from Amsterdam takes you to Haarlem, the second most populated city and capital of the North Holland province. Haarlem is famous for housing Netherlands oldest museum, the Teylers museum which sits next to the river Spaanse and was built in 1778, but the city is also home to the nations first ever football club, Koninklijke HFC.

The Royal Haarlemsche Football Club was founded in 1879 by fourteen year old Pim Mulier, firstly playing rugby before switching to football in 1883, and playing the first official Dutch match against Amsterdam Sport three years later. Football in Netherlands boomed over the next few years and the Royal Dutch football association was established in 1889, the same year that HFC Haarlem formed the city’s second team.

Started by Piet Charbon, HFC Haarlem’s first captain and president, the club played its first ever football match on the 20th of October 1889 beating Adsp-Excelsior 2-0. HFC Haarlem won the fourth edition of the Dutch cup in 1902 beating RBS 2-1 in the final, and three years later the club sent their first player to the Dutch national team, Piet Stol, who helped Netherlands beat Belgium 4-1.

After years of moving from pitch to pitch, Haarlem moved into a permanent stadium of their own in 1907 which consisted of wooden bleacher’s on one side of the pitch (see below). In 1935 the stadium become the first to install lighting in the Netherlands, but was dismantled during the second World War, with the club later building the Haarlem Stadion on its grounds in 1947.

01 pitch

Cup success followed again in 1912 with a 2-0 win over SBV Vitesse, but HFC generally struggled in the league, suffering relegation to the second division in 1926 before being promoted again three years later.

In 1934, HFC Haarlem signed a 22-year-old striker called Kick Smit, a local born player, who would go on to become a hero at the club. Smit made his debut for the club on January 7th 1934 and later that year signed his name in Dutch football history by becoming the first Netherlands player to score at a World Cup finals in a 3-2 defeat against Switzerland.

smit hSmit’s goals would turn Haarlem into title contenders in the Eerste Klaasse west II division, with the club finishing one point behind eventual champions Feijenoord in 1938. In 1940 Smit, who was now established as one of the nations greatest players, decided to leave the club for HBC, who were not a part of the official Dutch football league and instead part of the Roman Catholic Regional Football Association. The move was a strange one and was believed to have been influenced greatly by the Catholic church. The level was much below that of Haarlem, and after the second world war Smit returned to his boyhood club.

The 1945-46 is the most famous in HFC Haarlem’s history as a 33-year-old Smit returned to lead his side to their first, and only, Dutch league championship. The club finished one point ahead of an Ajax side that contained Rinus Michels, with Smit scoring the goal that sealed the championship in a 2-0 win over Heerenveen.

Smit retired from playing in 1950 to become Haarlem coach, a job he held for six years, while the club later renamed one of their stands after the club legend. Smit is still 10th in the all time scoring list for Netherlands national team with 26 goals in 29 caps.

In 1954 the KNVB made Dutch football professional for the first time, and HFC Haarlem decided to become a paid team, unlike Koninklijke HFC, who remain an amateur team to this day.

The first season as a professional side didn’t go to plan and Haarlem were relegated to the second division, with the club having to wait until 1969 to return to the top flight after 15 years of spells in the second and third division. Haarlem’s yo-yo status would continue over the next decade with the club relegated in 1972, 1976, and 1981 before returning to the Eredivisie the following seasons.

The early 1980’s saw the Roodbroeken (red shorts) enter a new golden generation for the club with a number of young players coming through including Ruud Gullit. With the likes of Gullit, Gerrie Kleton, Joop Bockling, Wim Balm, Piet Keur, Piet Huyg, Keith Masefield and Martin Haar, Haarlem finished fourth in the Eredivisie in 1982, meaning for the first time in their history the club qualified for European football.

gullit haarlemGullit would depart for Feyenoord, but Haarlem saw off Belgian side Gent in the UEFA Cup first round with goals from Kleton and Haar handing the Dutch side a 2-1 home victory before a 3-3 draw in Belgium saw them set up a second round tie with Spartak Moscow. The Russian side would prove too strong and prevailed 5-1 on aggregate over two legs. Haarlem couldn’t replicate their league form from the season before and finished 7th, but they finished fourth again during the 1983-4 season, but that did not come with a European place.

The 84 season would begin the eventual decline of Haarlem as they became a mid-table side over the next few years before relegation under the stewardship of Dick Advocaat in 1990. Haarlem came close to returning to the Eredivisie in 2006, but were defeated by FC Zwolle in the play-offs, and in their last four years they sat around mid-table.

Sadly the club got into serious financial troubles and announced the threat of bankruptcy in late 2009, and on the 25th of January 2010, despite a rescue attempt by fans, HFC Haarlem were dissolved and thrown out of the professional leagues by the KNVB. The club’s final match saw them lose 3-0 to Excelsior, and after 125 years HFC Haarlem were gone.

Haarlem gave Netherlands 17 internationals Gerrit Bouwmeester, Nico de Wolf, Arie Bieshaar, Piet Stol, Jur Haak, Henri Baay, Piet Tekelenburg, Martien Houtkooper,Klaas Breeuwer, Wiggert van Daalen sr, Kick Smit, Wim Roosen, Piet Groeneveld, Joop Odenthal, Cees Kuys, Ruud Gullit and John Metgod, while they were also the final club for Dutch legend Johnny Rep, but eventually became the most high profile victim of the financial crisis which also claimed Veendam, RBC and AGOVV.

However the clubs legacy lives on as HFC Haarlem combined with fellow Haarlem based side HFC Kennemerland to form Haarlem Kennemerland in 2010 which plays its football in the sides former stadium. The new amateur side started off in the Tweede Klasse division but has since suffered two relegation’s and currently sit bottom of the table in the 4th tier of Dutch amateur football with only one win this season.

Recently the KNVB announced a restructuring to the way in which the Dutch football system works below the Eerste Divisie, and clubs that are currently amateur will now no longer be allowed to stop themselves becoming professional if they gain promotion from the Topklasse. This means its possible that in the future Haarlem will once again be home to a professional club, but that is much more likely to be the oldest side from that region Koninklijke HFC, who currently sit 10th in the Topklasse, four divisions above their neighbours Haarlem Kennemerland.

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