The friendship between ADO Den Haag & Legia Warsaw
There has been a growing friendship between the supporters of ADO Den Haag and those of Polish giants Legia Warsaw for many years. The start has a strong similarity to that of the friendship between fans of ADO and Swansea City. This is because back in his younger days, John van Zweden was making pen pals all over Europe to improve his language skills and to swap football souvenirs.
Swansea became his biggest love but along side that his bond with fans of Legia grew and grew. John’s first contact with the Polish club was with a fan called Wojtek Wisinski. As they grew older the friendship got stronger. At first fans in small groups began to travel to each others games. They met up, shared drinks and showed each other their homes and cities.
This all changed on October 10, 2010. Wojtek Wisinski was seriously ill and the fans got together to put together a benefit game to raise funds and awareness for this brave mans plight. ADO fan Marcel van Rijthoven did a lot of work in organising things from the ADO side.
Five hundred ADO fans travelled to Warsaw for the game in Legia’s new stadium; some by car, other by bus and a fair few by plane. The Legia fans welcomed the travelling army of Hague supporters to their city with open arms and took care of them during their stay.
The game was an emotional one; the atmosphere from what I have been told by several people was one of the best ever. Scarves and banners adorned each side of the ground, joining ADO and Legia together as friends all the supporters were mixed in together with no problems at all.
After the game ADO fans were taken to a club were they were giving a wrist band meaning they could drink for free all night, and they did! To this day the hospitality shown by Legia’s fans to those of ADO are remembered fondly.
Since that night the fans have been travelling more and more to each others games. At each clubs home games you can always see each others flags on display. There are not many games at ADO now that do not have any Legia fans in attendance.
On Saturday 13th April a group of fifteen fans from Legia travelled for the game against FC Twente. I was contacted by Andre Rietbroek, a staunch ADO season ticket holder of many years. As I watched the game from pitch side I waited to see where they were i the Kyocera. Five minutes into the game you could not miss them as they entered the stand behind the goal all in the pure white tops looking like an invading force. They certainly made themselves heard as they sang along to some ADO songs. There are plenty of YouTube video available to show how they really support the team and just don’t turn up to watch.
At half time I went round to make some pictures of them before they moved onto Vak G, which along with the Midden Nord are the main guys for atmosphere in the stadium. They all happily posed together for souvenir shots.
I met up with these Legia fans for a talk at a hostel in Scheveningen on the Sunday morning before their long drive home.
A great bunch they were, all friendly and a lot of fun, a few with hangovers after what apparently had been a great night with the fans of ADO Den Haag; some had even sang so much they could hardly talk. I asked a few general questions about why’s and how’s etc.
Iwona Nowakowska, who was the main translator for the group said “We love to come here to Den Haag, it is a beautiful city, the people make us feel welcome and we love the football team. We like to come here once a year if we can; we always have fun and are always looked after very well by Andre and his friends. People accept us as Legia fans and know we support Den Haag as we much as we can.”
Andre travels to Warsaw when he can too, trying for at least twice a year, telling me they always allow him to stay almost for free, only really ever needs is his flights, everything else is taken care of. He told me that ADO fans do not travel on mass to any particular game, but there are small groups who go to different matches throughout the season, all with their own contacts etc, but all get treated the same way.
Iwona says it is the same with the Legia followers, they do not all go to the same games here in The Hague, but small groups go and they all know each other and so the bond between all the fans is growing stronger now each season.
Just before this group of fifteen headed back home, they presented me with a t-shirt and some Legia stickers, really very nice of them. They also showed me what they got themselves from the ADO fans shop, literally bags of stuff to take home for themselves and their friends.
Once this football season is over and the famous International youth tournament is on, fans from ADO, Legia, Swansea City and FC Bruges will all be in town to follow their youth team and have some fan events together.
This relationship with other clubs is great for our own club; it spreads the name of ADO Den Haag across Europe in a very good way. Long may it continue and I for one am always happy to see the Poles supporting out team.
Additional photos courtesy of Robert John Henderson