Friday, October 23, 2009

Trouble brewing in Alkmaar

It's not easy following European soccer from this side of the pond. Especially when your club doesn't play in England, or one of the other Big Four leagues.

I'd been hearing rumours about ownership problems at AZ (my boys), related to bankruptcy problems with DSB, the company belonging to team owner Dirk Scheringa. However, I didn't know how bad things had become until this past Tuesday when I spent some time watching the team's Champions League clash against Arsenal.

While the AZ fans went home happy after snatching an injury-time draw, I couldn't help but notice that the team had been playing without DSB's sponsor logo on their shirt.

A blank red canvas.

The situation is unclear, but things are looking bleak. The various companies under Dirk Scheringa's control are bankrupt and under some form of receivership. While the fans are trying to put on a brave face (a banner at one end of the pitch in Alkmaar read "Ook zonder geld is Dirk onze hield" -- "Even without money, Dirk is our hero"), but it seems things will get worse before they get better.

The assets are being snapped up. Among other holdings, Scheringa's impressive art collection has been picked up by ABN AMRO, ironically the shirt sponsor of Eredivise rivals Ajax. AZ itself is up for sale for $35 million. If the team can't be sold quickly, it will be sold in pieces as other teams have begun making inquiries about AZ players, assuming they will be dealing with a motivated seller. Moussa Dembele, Stijn Schaars and Mounir el Hamdaoui (who Scheringa opted to keep instead of selling for 16 million euros over the summer) are some of the names being knocked about.

With all of this going on, it's no surprise that the team is struggling in the Eredivisie. Still, performances like the late comeback against Arsenal at midweek suggest this team has some quality, should they be able to hold on to most of their players.

As for the shirt, it will remain blank for a while. Rumour has it that Kooyenga, which as far as I can tell is a Frisian temp agency, is the likely replacement.

I only lived in the country for a year, so I can't honestly claim that my affections run deep, but it is a bit sad to see this team, a mid-sized club that has been swinging with the big boys for the last 5 or 6 years, take such a negative turn.


Pompey Canuck said...

I had a roomate from Alkmaar so I follow AZ in the Eredivisie too. I knew that it would be a rough season after losing van Gaal, but I wasn't aware of the off field trouble. I can tell you as a Pompey fan it is no fun when your club have to sell all of their stars. I am surprised that no one has snapped up the club for 35M. Given that they were able to get to the Champions League Group stages there is a huge payoff for that. Which I think would off set the fact the club isn't in a big four league.

J said...

AZ is certainly up against it this year. Losing van Gaal to Bayern obviously hurt, as did the loss of Demy de Zeeuw to Ajax. Compound that with the coaching of Ronald Koeman and you get the current on-field troubles, without even mentioning the financial mess.

Looking at Ronald Koeman's resume, there's not a lot to be impressed with. He inherited a stacked Ajax team and won in his first year, but eventually ran that team into the ground. The end of that shitshow coincided with my time in the country and I took in a match where the prevailing chant was "Koeman rot op!" (Koeman fuck off). 1-year stints at Benfica, PSV, and Valencia suggest he wasn't providing much reason to keep him around.

AZ lost today to Ajax, by the way, with Ajax boss Martin Jol clearly outfoxing Koeman by making halftime adjustments that turned a 1-0 deficit into a 4-2 victory.

I can only hope that they're able to stabilize their domestic performances, and do enough in Champs League to finish 3rd and get the parachute into Europa.