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Official Review by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Hague is most famous as the home of the International Court of Justice, but it is also the Netherlands third-largest city with a population of half a million people. Located about 45 minutes southwest of Amsterdam, Den Haag (the much cooler sounding Dutch name) hosts a squad in the Dutch Eredivisie, the top soccer league in the nation. Alles Door Oefening Den Haag (abbreviated to ADO Den Haag) was founded in 1905 but had little success in the intervening century with just a couple of league titles in 1942 and 1943. In 1971, the team merged with city rivals Holland Sport and became FC Den Haag, only to revert to their original name in 1996 after another merger. These days the club plays at Kyocera Stadion, a relatively new venue that was originally called ADO Den Haag Stadion before Japanese electronics company Kyocera bought the naming rights in 2010 (Kyocera also sponsors the Osaka Dome, home of the Orix Buffaloes). With a capacity of 15,000 you would expect the stadium to be full on game day, but the team is not particularly well supported despite the large population in the area.
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There were a few concession windows with very basic offerings that were completely unappealing. Soccer games are just two hours long, so there isn't the food culture that you see at baseball and football games at which fans spend 4 or 5 hours. Prices were cheap though, with meatball sandwiches (Broodjie Gehaktbal) the most expensive food option at €2.50. I am a fan of the Stroopwaffel, a caramel-filled waffle that is one of the Netherlands' most famous exports. Expect a massive sugar rush should you indulge in one of these tasty treats, a bargain at €1.
Beer was plentiful, but even then the biggest cup was just 350 ml for €3.5, not enough to quench one's thirst. Most patrons bought six cups at a time, enough to last two people a 45-minute half at least. There were no other alcoholic drinks but Pepsi and Red Bull were on the menu.
I attended a game during the final weekend of the first half of the season, just before Christmas. It had been raining the whole day and the storm continued into the evening, but fortunately the stadium roof covers most seats. A few Christmas carols were played at times and cheerleaders and a stork mascot tried to get the crowd going before the game, with little success. Once the game started though, the fans were vociferous and whistled quite a bit whenever they were displeased, which was quite often as the home team struggled to take advantage of an extra man granted when the visitors were shown an early red card.
The stadium is located in an industrial area southeast of the city center. There is nothing around here other than a Staples, a few car dealers, and some other large warehouses. Being in the winter and quite far north, it gets dark early which makes the whole area that much more cold and unpleasant. The only eatery I noticed there was called Sallo's and it didn't seem very inviting as it closes in the afternoon. More than likely, you'll race back to the station after the game and return to the city center, which is a bit livelier.
For those looking to eat outside the stadium, I do recommend Hudson Bar and Kitchen, located near the Gemeentemuseum at the other end of town. It is an American-style bar that serves Dutch specialties like Bitterballen (a meatball-like croquette) as well as more familiar options like wraps and burgers. The food was surprisingly good and worth the trip to the area.
A crowd of about 11,000 made it out on this rainy Saturday and was a generally happy group, most wearing the team's signature green and yellow scarf. The smell of cannabis wafted through the air, which is always a positive thing, for me at least. Much better than tobacco smoke, although that was allowed as well.
As mentioned, the fans were frustrated with their team's inability to finish several scoring chances and they were not hesitant in making their feelings known. However, when ADO Den Haag did score, they celebrated loudly and without causing any trouble.
In fact, they were very well behaved and polite throughout the game, mostly drinking those small beers and chatting with friends. A couple of fans even spoke to me in Dutch, to which I smiled and nodded politely. All in all, a good crowd but it would be nice to see more of them out there.
Like many European soccer venues, Kyocera Stadion is located outside of the city center. Both the metro (Line E) and the Randstadrail (Lines 3 or 4) will take you to Forepark, the closest station. From there, it is about a 10-minute walk to the facility where you will find the ticket window next to gate 19.
After picking up my ticket, it took me a couple of minutes to reach what I thought was the right entrance, having been guided by an usher. I was let in through the Happy Crowd Control security gate (which takes pictures of every fan upon entering) and quickly realized that I was nowhere near my ticketed section. Thanks to my incredible comprehension of Dutch (i.e., giving my ticket to ushers with a blank look on my face), I was eventually shown to the right area, even having thick plastic doors that usually separate the visiting fans from the locals opened for me and me alone.
This is typical of European soccer stadiums, where hooliganism and violence are real concerns. You don't wander around the stadium looking for things to see; you go with your friends and sit in your assigned area unless you are looking for trouble. Once I found my seat, I didn't bother trying to see anything else, as there was no point.
Even after the game, they separate the exits so that the two groups of fans don't meet up and there were mounted police on the way back to the station to further discourage troublemakers.
Inside the stadium, the concourse is more than big enough and the seating area is well designed, with no track to separate the pitch from the fans. Washrooms are a bit tricky to find with small signs in the wall, usually next to a concession stand.
I paid €31.50 for my general admission ticket in the Haaglanden Tribune which is the area along one sideline. This was surprisingly expensive as the ticket is listed at €27.50 but there are obviously a surcharge for buying at the window on game day. It should be noted that when the visitors are PSV, Ajax, Feyenoord, or Twente the tickets are €5 more in what is dubbed the PAFT price.
There are cheaper options: the Aad Mansveld Tribune is where the home supporters sit with their flags and runs €19 while the Lex Schoenmaker Tribune is the other side of the field, next to the visiting fans (protected of course by the thick plastic wall), and costs €17. The main seating section is known as the Eretribune but I did not see tickets offered from this section on their website.
Keep in mind though that you will be limited to a small portion of the stadium regardless of your section.
Near gate 7-10, there is a statue of Aad Mansveld, a Den Haag legend who passed away at 47 back in 1991 and for whom the supporters' tribune has been named.
There was a great halftime show where the cheerleaders ran out onto the field wearing white Christmas outfits. They proceeded to dance to Christmas carols as they moved around the stadium. Most fans missed the display as they were getting beer, but as an intrepid sports road tripper, I stayed in my seat to take pictures and enjoy the show. Statuesque Dutch women wearing skimpy white clothing in a freezing rainstorm - isn't that what sports is all about?
A final point for the Happy Crowd Control system and allowing the crowd to smoke up. I believe these two things are related.
Overall, Kyocera Stadion is what you would expect from a mid-range team in the Netherlands: a functional venue that offers little beyond the basics. European soccer still suffers from hooliganism, even in generally safe countries such as the Netherlands, so often stadiums are designed to minimize trouble rather than maximize fan enjoyment. I'd say Kyocera Stadion is one of these places, worth a visit if you are in the area, but go with no expectations lest you be disappointed.
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