Without Respect, No Football

By the entrance to the pitch where the attack happened, a sign

To πιο κατω κειμενο ειναι ενα απο τα τεσσερα-πεντε που γραφτηκαν στην Guardian απο τον Stuart James (εχθες Παρασκευη 21) σχετικα με το λυπηρο, το λιγοτερο που μπορουμε να πουμε, γεγονος και τον θανατο του Richard Nieuwenhuizen σε ερασιτεχνικο αγωνα εφηβων στην Ολλανδια ή στις Κατω Χωρες για να ειμαστε σωστοτεροι. Βεβαια το συγκεκριμενο κομματι ειναι μονο ενα μερος του ολου αρθρου, το οποιο οσοι θα θελουν να το διαβασουν (κατι που θα σας το προτειναμε), θα μπορουν να το δουν εδω. Αν και προς το τελος λογω των προσωπικων καταθεσεων, περναει σε διαφορετικο επιπεδο, δεν νομιζουμε οτι χανει κατι απο την δυναμικη του. Για πιο ολοκληρωμενη ενημερωση, δοκιμαστε ολο το κειμενο (το οποιο ειναι αρκετα μεγαλο παρεπιπτωντος).

It is a bitterly cold evening in Almere, a sprawling city about 15 miles to the east of Amsterdam. A biting wind sweeps across the six pitches at SC Buitenboys, where boys and girls from a couple of junior teams, training under the floodlights, tear around with a ball at their feet, seemingly oblivious to the freezing conditions.

For a club run solely by volunteers and which started 27 years ago with a small wooden hut, it is an impressive setup. Almere, where the first house was built in 1976, is one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe, which helps to explain why Buitenboys has become so popular. These days they have 1,175 children and 225 adults playing across 110 teams. Annual membership costs between €200 and €255 and the only person on the payroll is the cleaner. Everyone else, including all four board members, works for free.

Richard Nieuwenhuizen was among those parents who liked to help out at the club. A popular, football-mad father of three, Nieuwenhuizen lived in Almere with his wife, Xandra, and their two youngest sons, Mykel, 15, and Alain, who recently turned 18. Jamie, the eldest son and a former coach at Buitenboys, lived nearby with his girlfriend.

Mykel played for one of Buitenboys’ eight under-17 teams and his father enjoyed running the line in those matches, which was what he left home to do on 2 December for a fixture against Nieuw-Sloten, a club from Amsterdam. It was a normal Sunday morning; father and son heading off to football together. By the end of the day Nieuwenhuizen was fighting for his life. The 41-year-old collapsed three hours after he was brutally attacked by a group of Nieuw-Sloten players. The following evening he died.

Alongside 4,000 red roses next to the pitch where Nieuwenhuizen fell to the floor sits a banner with a tribute written by Richard’s second son, Alain. It reads: “Dear Daddy, senseless it was, for sure. It will never be better. Once the wounds will heal. But we will never forget you. We will miss you.”

“When the one minute’s silence was done in the professional stadiums [the weekend after the incident], they showed that banner,” Rob Mueller, Buitenboys’ secretary, says. “Alain made it and we printed it so that they could take it with them on the silent march in Almere.”

Mueller walks across to another artificial pitch, about 200 yards away, to show where Nieuwenhuizen was attacked at the end of the game between Buitenboys B3 and Nieuw-Sloten B1 (the B denotes it was an under-17 game and the number reflects the ranking of the team within that age group). The game finished 2-2, with Nieuw-Sloten coming back from two goals down. Those that were present recall a couple of incidents when Nieuw-Sloten players bickered among themselves during the game but say nothing happened to suggest there could be a flashpoint with Nieuwenhuizen after the final whistle.

Yet moments after the players started shaking hands with the three volunteer officials, Nieuwenhuizen was knocked to the floor, then punched and kicked in the head by several of the Nieuw-Sloten team. Parents immediately ran on to the pitch to try to defuse the situation and get some control. Nieuwenhuizen eventually got back to his feet but he was knocked to the floor for a second time. Witnesses report that one of the Nieuw-Sloten players then took off his shirt, presumably to make it harder for him to be identified, before kicking Nieuwenhuizen while he was on the ground and then running off. Mykel, Nieuwenhuizen’s son, saw everything.

Although clearly badly shaken, Nieuwenhuizen was able to stand up. He said he did not wish to involve the police. He decided to go home and returned to Buitenboys later in the afternoon to watch another under-17 game, which kicked off at 2.45pm. Mueller, who was standing on the opposite side of the pitch, watching one of his two sons play, recalls looking across at about 3pm and seeing Nieuwenhuizen get out of the dugout where he had been sitting, stand up and then fall to the floor.

“We immediately called for an ambulance and they drove on the pitch and took him to the hospital in Almere,” Mueller says. “I later went to see Richard. I said: ‘Hi Rich, how are you doing?’ He said: ‘Hi Rob.’ And he was very emotional. But at that stage, which was around 7pm, he still recognised me. I saw him once again at around 10pm, when he was still recognising me but he was getting worse. It became really bad so he had to be brought to another hospital, with a neurosurgeon specialist.

“In the meantime, we were called by the police to say that Mykel had to make a statement because he was a witness of the incident. So we took him to the police station to make his statement, but we said if we got one call from the hospital we would drive back. At 1am, we got the message from Richard’s wife, Xandra, who said: ‘It’s not going OK, bring Mykel here.’ So the police took him with sirens and lights on, I drove behind.

“We stayed there in the waiting room and at around 4am we came to see him once again. He was still in a kind of coma, didn’t recognise anything any more, and that was the last time I saw him alive, knowing already that he would die within six, 12 or 18 hours, because they explained clearly what happened – the brain was deprived of oxygen.

“I went home at about 5am and tried to sleep for a couple of hours. By 9am, I had 71 unanswered phone calls and then the rollercoaster nightmare started. Press came here, television and radio, so we had a small discussion with the board, the president did the television and I did the radio, both knowing that Richard would die but we couldn’t say it. At 5.30pm, we got the call to say that he had died. Then it was not only news in Holland, it was news all over the world. So a healthy guy, 41 years old, was kicked to death in a few seconds.”

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