Professional football returns to Netherlands after 172 days
Professional Dutch football will be played this weekend for the first time since March 9. The 2019-2020 season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, which caused controversy in the sports world over issues like promotion, relegation, and which teams enter European competitions.
The second-tier Dutch league, the Eerste Divisie, will kick off the season when Jong FC Utrecht hosts FC Eindhoven at 6:45 p.m. on Friday, followed by SC Cambuur hosting N.E.C. at 9 p.m. It could be a bitter start to the year for Cambuur, which would have likely been promoted into the Eredivisie had the full season been played to completion.
Instead, Dutch football association KNVB froze the leagues, denying the Leeuwarden team from moving up. De Graafschap in Doetinchem was also prevented from rising out of the Eerste Divisie. Their first match will be on Monday night at home against FC Den Bosch. A total of ten Eerste Divisie matches will be played from Friday through Monday.
The women's Eredivisie league will begin the following weekend with three matches at 12:15 p.m. on September 6, and a fourth immediately after. PSV Eindhoven will take on VV Alkmaar, Ajax hosts FC Twente, PEC Zwolle welcomes ADO Den Haag, and then sc Heerenveen will visit Excelsior.
PSV ended the season seven points ahead of Ajax, but with no top of the table winner awarded by the KNVB the Eindhoven squad missed out on what would have been their first title. Both teams were awarded slots in the Champions League qualifiers, with PSV getting the better position.
The top-shelf Eredivisie will get things started on September 12 when FC Utrecht hosts AZ Alkmaar at 4:30 p.m. Both teams were hit differently with the shortened season last year. FC Utrecht lost its chance to play the Dutch Cup final match against Feyenoord. A victory over the Rotterdam squad would have meant a ticket to the Europa League.
AZ Alkmaar, which finished in second place, lost their shot at a higher position in the Champions League, with Ajax officially finishing at the top of the table. AZ made up for it with a stunning extra time victory earlier this week over FC Viktoria Plzeň. A penalty kick in injury time to tie the match followed by two goals in to advance to the third qualifying round of the top European competition.