The first members of Feyenoord were not workers, but office workers

New Football

Feyenoord was founded on July 19, 1908, still under the name Wilhelmina. In the early days it was still mainly a club of office workers, as described by Jan Oudenaarden and Paul Groenendijk.

The oldest photo in the history of Feyenoord! Gerard Muller, Mees Weber and Kees van Baaren in 1908 or 1909, probably in a Wilhelmina shirt. From ‘Feyenoord: the prehistoric time’

For several years, Jan Oudenaarden has been working on a book series about Feyenoord’s history with Paul Groenendijk as photo editor. Both are specialists in the history of Feyenoord with many publications to their name. The first part was published in 2015.

For decades, this duo has combined their supportership with research in the club. During a Feyenoord quiz, you can only hope that you will be placed in a team with them. “It only became clear to me in 1994 that we actually know very little about Feyenoord’s history,” Oudenaarden explains his fascination. In that year the exhibition Feyenoord – No words but deeds.

Two years later, the 45-part magazine series Feyenoord Compleet started, where both Oudenaarden and Groenendijk collaborated. “It turned out that a lot was missing. We thought we knew a lot, but it was disappointing. “During Feyenoord’s hundred years in 2008, Oudenaarden and Groenendijk again noticed that not much is known about Feyenoord’s very distant past. Then a new search began.

Basic Feyenoord fathers

Many new sources have been used for this, in addition to Rotterdam City Archives and Feyenoord itself. This also includes pedigree research in the old Feyenoords, which Oudenaarden spent a lot of time on. Groenendijk searched for photographic material from Feyenoord’s early years, especially with relatives of the members at the time. “We always see the same pictures in the history books about Feyenoord,” Groenendijk grumbles. “And everything from before 1956, from before the introduction of professional football, is rushed as fast as possible.”

His searches have paid off, for many unknown images of more than a hundred years have been found, mainly found in boxes and albums in people’s homes. This information was used to test Feyenoord’s original history – a story that goes back to the 1933 anniversary book of 25 years with Feyenoord. Bert Heesakker then spoke to some of these founders, who have since been seen as Feyenoord’s official history – the one and the true. I also took over in 1996, when I wrote my dissertation at the University of Amsterdam on Feyenoord during World War II.


According to this story, a number of boys from southern Rotterdam founded a football club on 19 July 1908 after a friendly street football match in Wilhelminakerk on Oranjeboomstraat. This Basic Feyenoord fathers were Gerard Muller, Kees van Baaren, Gerard van Leerdam, Louis den Hartog, Henk Mulder and Nico Struys. Venue: Café De Keyzer on the corner of Damstraat and Persoonshaven, while enjoying a glass of beer. The name Feyenoord was not immediately chosen, but Wilhelmina, which was both a reference to the church on Oranjeboomstraat and the Queen.

In 1971, club administrator Phida Wolff breathed new life into this creation story in the book Actions rather than words through a conversation with Van Baaren, now 82 years old. “We played in squares and in the streets, looked with boring slippers at the race that functioned as football, and only in the heyday, where e.g. one of my friends had a birthday and had received a real rubber ball as a gift, we kicked a real ball, to the amazement of the passers-by. ”

One led to the other: “Because we had nothing to do, football was our only pastime, and when our youth turned away, the desire to start a real club gradually matured and to that end on July 19 this year . In 1908, the first stone was laid. “

Date of foundation

63 years passed between the founding year of 1908 and the publication of Wolff. It becomes so difficult to remember everything flawlessly that Oudenaarden and Groenendijk demonstrate after their painstaking work. Oudenaarden: “We noticed that Heesakker romanticized the club’s foundation. It is the primary source for the club, which has never been re-evaluated since.

Another problem is that Feyenoord’s historical history has been claimed by journalists with a penchant for anecdotes without depth. “Feyenoord’s centenary is full of errors,” notes Groenendijk.

Only the founding date of July 19, 1908 is under discussion. In the book by Oudenaarden and Groenendijk we read that at that time it was teeming with footballers: ‘The last years of the first decade of the twentieth century proved to be a fruitful era in southern Rotterdam for the founding of football clubs, as stated in the applications for playgrounds. ‘

These groups of friends were often unstable and regularly fell apart. With other boys, a new attempt was made, which often failed.

Van Baaren had already been chairman of the Feyenoordsche Football Club FFC in 1906, for which his father had even made a wooden goal – a rarity for the clubs in southern Rotterdam at the time. To support this, a unique photo from 1905 has been placed, showing Van Baaren and the other members of the JRC for that wooden purpose. That picture contradicts Van Baaren’s memory from 1971, because it makes it clear that he had already played in a club before 1908. He took that wooden goal back to Feyenoord, then still Wilhelmina.

According to Oudenaarden, Van Baaren and his friends officially founded the club on 19 July 1908 is highly unlikely. Rather, the image emerges that Feyenoord is a random product of an infinite number of football clubs twisting together in southern Rotterdam. ‘

On the website Leven met Feyenoord, however, there is a mention of Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad of July 25, 1908 – to an article on the front page. ‘On Sunday, a football and athletics association was founded in Feijenoord, which bears the name “Wilhelmina”.’ And it is truly July 19, 1908 …


‘At least,’ Oudenaarden wrote of the founding year, ‘Wilhelmina can play football.’

Office Club

Much more interesting than the founding date is Oudenaarden and Groenendijk’s research into the origins of the first members of Feyenoord, who are believed to have been only boat workers or factory workers. NRC journalist Harry van Wijnen had already in 1989 expressed his suspicion that this was probably incorrect, but due to lack of archival material – burned, bombed or carelessly thrown away over the years – no factual data was available. Oudenaarden found it 25 years later, mainly through research into family trees.

With remarkable results, because half of the first group of Feyenoord players in 1908 were office workers! It was true that only a handful of members were involved, but still. It was not until April 1909 that the first boatmen and workers appeared when a number of Volharding members joined Wilhelmina.

The club then continued for a short time as HFC, Hillesluis-Feyenoord-Combinatie, but that name was changed to Celeritas the same year due to possible confusion with Haarlem club Pim Mulier.

In 1912, the name Feyenoord was finally chosen. For the first ten years, this grew into a mixed club rather than a workers’ club. With a lot of dock workers, but with cafe owners, a hairdresser, boat workers, an electrician, office workers and a teacher.

Heesakker was right when he appeared in a club magazine in 1935 Feyenoord Order wrote: ‘I am happy to also take this opportunity to point out that there is no such thing as a workers’ club. This expression is often heard. Therefore, it is good to say that our club is a people’s club, ie a club that opens its doors to all sections of the population. In our club, no doctor, accountant, student, law professor or any other rejection gets because there would only be room for workers, even though the percentage of workers will dominate. ‘

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