One of my favourite sights on a matchday is when the Feyenoord Mackems are in town.
They’re loud, boistrous, love a pint and - most importantly - love the lads.
It has always interested me how they came to support Sunderland though - I mean, other than the fact we’re easily connected by a ferry, I had no idea what would attract a bunch of fans who follow one of the top teams in the Eredivisie to Wearside.
So, with that in mind, I spoke with David Saunders from the group to gain some insight into who they are, how they came to form over twenty years ago and why the love the lads so much.
RR: Hi! How did you come to start the branch, and how long has the branch been going?
DS: A Dutchman from Rotterdam (and Feyenoord supporter) called Hans de Roon came to Sunderland in the 1990’s to watch the lads play. He fell in love with the Roker Park experience and, in November 1994, he moved to Sunderland to live.
He stayed for almost exactly four years, returning to Holland in November 1998. He now lives in the South of Rotterdam near De Kuip, Feyenoord’s stadium. After returning to Holland from Sunderland he retained his Sunderland season ticket for two years until finances forced him to give it up. He still, however, visits the Stadium of Light two or three times a season and says that Sunderland are in his heart and in his soul.
A young Dutchman (Well young at that time) called Roger Lindenbergh read of this and decided to try the Roker Park experience for himself. He too enjoyed himself and started to follow Sunderland as his English team.
He attended the Play-Off Final against Charlton with a friend of his Ron van der Krogt and after the match they met four Jarrow based Sunderland supporters in a pub in Kent. A friendship grew and each side paid visits across the North Sea. This link developed and more and more Feyenoord fans visited Sunderland and the Stadium of Light. The four Jarrow lads were David Saunders, Davy Gutterdige, Phil Conroy and Brian Walton.
The group was swelled by meeting other Dutch and Belgian Feyenoord supporters who had been introduced to Sunderland AFC by Sunderland lads who had gone to Rotterdam for work. The chairman of this group is Davy Flanagan, who although he didn’t work in Rotterdam himself, had gone to Holland in the 70s to visit a friend. Davy went to watch Feyenoord on his first visit and has over the years since been to many Feyenoord games, and has converted many Dutch and Belgian Feyenoorders to SAFC.
These Feyenoorders regularly meet in “The Hideaway” a pub in Rotterdam, near De Kuip, to watch Sunderland games on TV. The Hideaway is now liberally decorated with Sunderland memorabilia. They became, in effect, an unofficial branch of the Sunderland Supporters Club among Feyenoorders in South Holland and Belgium.
This group has now been granted official status as a branch of the Sunderland Supporters Club. They are the “Feyenoord Mackems Branch”.
RR: How many members do you have?
DS: We had 110 official Members who paid a small membership fee in 2011 when we became an official branch of SAFCSA but now we have a lot more.
Our Whatsapp group has 95 lads fans in it, and the Feyenoord Mackems Facebook group has almost 3000 members in it. We’re very popular!
RR: Do you manage to get to many games?
DS: We don’t run our own buses, but our members in England go to most away games by a variety of methods, and of course the Dutch Lads come over as often as they can for home and away games. You might even see us about the town - we’re usually pretty loud and have our flags with us!
RR: What are your hopes for your branch in the future?
DS: We hope it continues to grow and go on for many years - we had our twenty year anniversary celebration back in April in Rotterdam.
RR: How can fans in your area get involved with your branch?
DS: Our details are on SAFC.com, and the Feyenoord Mackems Facebook group.