Limbo. An unknown intermediate place or condition between two extremes.
At the brink of the 2009/2010 season, the oldest club in the history of Dutch football finished 16th in the Eredivisie; a place that required the side to play promotion/relegation play-offs to prove they were worthy of top level football. After a first round win against Helmond Sport, Sparta faced off against another Rotterdam-based football club, SBV Excelsior, to survive. The first meeting between the two ended with a goalless draw in Kralingen, leaving the tie to be decided in Spangen.
In a dramatic, exciting game, both sides failed to score and a few minutes were added on. In the 92nd minute, Sparta-forward Rydell Poepon scored the seemingly decisive 1-0 from a header inside the box. Sparta’s ground, Het Kasteel, exploded and interim-manager Aad de Mos was congratulated for keeping the club up despite an extremely disappointing season. In the aftermath, Excelsior hurried their kick-off and drove the ball forward in the final seconds of extra time. At the edge of the box, the ball fell in front of Guyon Fernandez and he volleyed the equaliser behind Varkevisser.
The stadium quieted down, people couldn’t believe it; Sparta had just been relegated to the Jupiler League. As a Sparta-fan put it: “It was like my penis got ripped off whilst climaxing.” Extremely painful.
Two years later, on the 16th of April, the KNVB announce Sparta have moved up to Category III in the associations’ financial health ranking, the healthiest category. Financially, things are looking rosy for the red-white gladiators. But football-wise, Sparta cannot seem to find their way back to the top and are losing their biggest talents rapidly. A football limbo of sorts. Balancing in between a full success and complete failure.
Melvin Vissers’ move to Ajax and the loss of Marten de Roon to SC Heerenveen are just two examples of the situation Sparta find themselves in. The former hasn’t even played a minute for the club from Spangen yet. But he isn’t the first to leave their academy prematurely, nor will he be the last, as Eredivisie sides continue to send their scouts down to Nieuw Terbregge in search of the latest starlets.
Since their relegation, Sparta have lost at least sixteen players from their own youth to Eredivisie clubs. Especially PSV enjoy sniffing around the breeding grounds in Rotterdam, carrying responsibility over six of these moves away from Spangen. Knowing Sparta have been dependant on their own youth for a very long time now and their inability to scout proper first team members, the club is slowly losing it’s only chance to make an Eredivisie-return. Slowly but surely, Sparta are stuck in limbo.