This year the mens team from Oranje Zwart (the biggest hockeyclub from Eindhoven) became the Dutch national hockey champion for the second time in its history. Champion of the league that is considered to be the strongest in the world. Last year OZ wasn’t so lucky as they lost in the final against HC Rotterdam.
Even though OZ lost, the finals of last year’s Dutch national championship did bring forward something else, something that might have pushed the team of OZ forward this season, namely the OZ Fans United, the new fanclub of Oranje Zwart.
A couple of years ago the Bloemigans of HC Bloemendaal were considered the only organized group of supporters in the Netherlands. However in the past two years they were quickly overtaken in size and impact by the newly established OZ Fans United. OZ Fans United came together in last year play-offs when a group of diehard fans decided that the supporters needed some coordination. Under the lead of 4 friends, a march for OZ was organized and several initiatives were set up to increase the atmosphere in the stands. This was such a big success that a year later the Fan Association is recognized and even sponsored by the club board to create a good surrounding atmosphere and get more fans to the matches.
We believe that this helps to bring a more professional mentality to a sport that has been amazingly popular to play in the Netherlands, but has missed the chance when it comes to professionalization at the top. In the past years this has changed and with that, the board of OZ Fans United believes that the Fans should also professionalize. This is one of the goals of the fan club, to coordinate and improve fans initiatives, and to make it even more fun the experience of watching hockey.
This year OZ Fans united was prominently represented during the play-offs and the EHL which were both held at the OZ home field. “We notice that the players of Oranje Zwart appreciate us a lot and we are having a lot of fun doing it, so why not?” says Daan Wilken, President of OZ Fans United.
In the coming years the goal of OZ Fans United is to get more professional and to coordinate more and bigger stunts during OZ matches. “Home games should always be crowded! And a way to get that done is by increasing the fan experience” says Niek Custers, the Atmosphere coordinator in the board.
At the EHL it was evident that other countries have also taken the task upon them to increase the fan experience. “If you look at the supporters of Dragons (Belgium), it is evident that there’s still a way up for us but it’s great to see those guys having fun and we’ve made good connections with them” says Daan Meuwese, treasurer of OZ Fans United.
“For now the goal is to keep being the biggest and most prominent fanclub that Dutch hockey has seen so far but growing is also one of our objectives. If we look at how quick the tickets for the World Cup in Den Haag were sold out it is clear that Hockey is very popular. We can use this popularity in our advantage to get more people together. Positive hooliganism is what we are going for, not the football model but our own niche within fandom.”
It is clear that OZ Fans United is a young group of people, still trying to find their way, but they have already made an impact and will definitely keep doing so in the future. Look for them in the stands next year when OZ takes home both the Dutch National Championship and the EHL!
Willem van der Schoot
Twitter: O/Z Fans United
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