The decision of the KNVB to permanently discontinue amateur football this season has hit Sparta Nijkerk hard. The team led the Third Division all season and appeared to return to the top level for the first time since 2015, but the Second Division remains out of reach for at least a year.
Trainer Eric Speelzinn sat quietly watching a movie on Tuesday evening, but was interrupted by a stream of apps on his phone. The born Edenaar soon knew what time it was after reading the unambiguous messages: the season will not be resumed and there will be no final score. Gone season, gone dream of title.
"I think I had about a hundred messages that evening," said Playful on Wednesday with NU.nl. "I have not finished watching the film, so maybe I will try again tonight. Of course there are far worse things than this decision of the KNVB, but I am having a hard time with it. The disappointment is enormous."
It is no exaggeration to say that Sparta Nijkerk was having a dream season. The Playful formation forced promotion to the Third Division last season and hoped not to be relegated this season, but the battle for enforcement soon turned into the battle for the championship.
"We have been at the top of all 22 games this season," emphasizes Speelzinn, trainer of Sparta Nijkerk since the summer of 2018. "With the promotion of last season in mind and our good performance in the tournament for the TOTO KNVB Cup (NAC Breda was only too strong in the second round after extra time, ed.), We had a sensationally good 2019."
Sparta Nijkerk was only eliminated after an extension by NAC Breda. (Photo: Pro Shots)
Playfully hoped for a scenario like in Belgium
That is precisely why the decision of the KNVB arrives extra hard at Sparta Nijkerk, where the desire for the Second Division grew more and more due to the strong season. Playful also felt strengthened by the situation in Belgium, where the current positions in amateur football are seen as final positions.
"I had hoped and perhaps also counted on the KNVB to do the same as the Belgian Football Association. No decision would probably have been good, but they have now opted for the easy solution. It is a bit against my feeling as a sportsman in."
"We are not going to be champions anyway, but there are even more special situations", continues Speelzinn. "Achilles '29 took one point in twenty duels, but will play in the big league again next season. OSS'20 was a straight ahead in the Third Division and does not promote. The KNVB has made a decision that is not in line with the idea of a sportsman."
At Sparta Nijkerk, the disappointment must be converted into combativeness in the coming months. Something that still needs time. "You can put everything in perspective, but this feels a bit like an anticlimax. Many players are angry or disappointed. Now we have to try next season. One thing is certain: no one can take away the great feeling of this rock solid year. "