USV Hercules. No Utrecht myth!

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Today I was lucky enough to speak with Hans ten Zweege, secretary of the Football section of USV Hercules.

He owns a company which is active in the production and international sales of organic fertilizers for agriculture. He is 52 years old. He and his wife have 3 children. His son plays football and tennis at Hercules, whilst his two girls both play hockey at MHC Voordaan.

I asked him about USV Hercules and he told me that they were one of the oldest clubs in the Netherlands. It all started in 1882 with cricket. Soon,other sports followed. Football of course and now, Hercules has football, futsal,  cricket, tennis, badminton and goalball sections.

They incredibly have over 2.400 members, most of whom, 1,700 are active football players.

Hercules have about 70 teams playing in the national football leagues. The highest playing team is the Under 17s who play in their second divivsion

The Under 19 and first senior team are playing at third division level.

The highest women team plays “hoofdklasse”, which is two divisions below the top professional women competition.

What are your future plans for Hercules? Would you aspire to play in the Eredivisie?

Hercules does not aspire “eredivisie” football. We do not have the finances for it, nor the ambition. We are a Sports Association. Our members expect that the management, who are all volunteers,  facilitate the performance of recreational sports on the level, that our members require. That means, that we also facilitate football for those, who are not gifted with the greatest of talent but still enjoy the game. Therefore, the financial side of things have to be split among all. We have a very good youth training school, elected among the best in 2017 (runner up) from all non professional football clubs.

It is our ambition to offer good support for all our members, which for now results in the fact, that our most talented players play at a high level.

Does Utrecht as a city do enough for sport in general?

The municipality does a lot for sports. Nevertheless, it could be better. We are lobbying and hoping for better facilities to satisfy the needs of our members and candidate members. We built a magnificent pavilion with our own means, but the grounds belong to the city and we therefore depend on the city council for more pitches and a new indoor hall for the Futsal section, which is the biggest Futsal club in the Netherlands,.

What about football, do they give you enough support?

Most attention in Utrecht goes to our local FC Utrecht – the professional club – and also to clubs in poorer parts of the city. Ironically, many do not wish to play there, and they turn to Hercules to play. But we are patient and hope to receive new pitches for expanding our training facilities.

You can see below Alderman Maarten van Ooijn discussing the clubs projects.

Here we see their plans for pitch extensions and the new sports Hall the club want that will push them even further as a true community blub

The Pavillion can be seen in the background, the result of a huge amount of hard work from the members.

Junior programme.

Hercules  have teams from Under 19 to Under 8 playing games in  leagues. Next to this we have our so called “Champions League” for Under 7 and Under 6 players, playing friendly matches among themselves. Every year we start in the Spring with our Under 5 section, which is meant to allow children to get accustomed to the game of football before entering our internal “Champions League.” We make distinction between girls and boys, but some girls prefer to play in mixed teams.

Than we have our men’s senior teams (ten on Saturday, five on Sundays) and womens (one on Fridays, one on Sundays and four on Saturdays)

When  are training nights?

Hercules has two artificial grass pitches which are used for training from Monday till Friday between 3:00 pm and 11:00 pm. Next to this we have 4 natural grass pitches, which are used for games and in summer, for cricket. We share one artificial grass pitch with a neighbouring club.

Do you want new members?

We expect and hope to receive one or two new pitches with artificial grass, to replace the natural pitches, which will allow the club to grow because Hercules is rather popular and we have a substantial waiting list for membership that we cannot admit due to the lack of training facilities. We have the duty to offer sports to people living in Utrechts northeast.

I think this is where the Municipality of Utrecht needs to step in. they can see the need for more facilities as the club is so successful. They should be supporting their efforts to lay new pitches as the need is obviously there. Perhaps they need to rethink their funding policy and help clubs with a record of positivity in the local community.

 

What about your Women’s teams, how do you support them?

We support our Women’s teams as we support all teams. There are at least two hours of training per week. We have high quality trainers. We support the senior teams with referees and all keepers, boys and girls, receive specialist keeper training.

Are they treated equally as  the men?

Yes, although some members of our first men’s team (Hercules Zondag 1) receive a minimal allowance for expenses. No woman or girl belongs to this group, although there is no official policy in this respect.

Do the Women’s team want to rise up the leagues?

Like all teams,  the women wish to raise their level. The first Women’s team on Saturday won their championship for two years in a row and were promoted for two years in a row. Now they are fourth in their league.

Hercules cricketers from the 19th Century. It’s not all about football and never has been

As with all the people I speak to, I asked Hans where his favourite place in Utrecht was.

There are more favorite places in Utrecht. Obviously the Hercules Pavilion is one of them. In like the old down town, the historic centre with the beautiful canals. Eating at Beers and Barrels on the canal shore. But also the forests north of the city are a beautiful place to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Does Utrecht inspire you?

Yes. it is full of history with the magnificent Dom and the University. In summer, the many terraces are a great place to meet friends. In my professional occupation I receive many visitors from abroad and they all love Utrecht. I sincerely hope, that Utrecht will not be overrun by tourists, so I advise everyone to stick to Amsterdam.

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Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins is Welsh and lives in England. He is a writer. A Europhile and Remainer, he is a regular visitor to Utrecht and has set his crime novel series in the city.

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