EFDN Interview – Wessel Verhaar from Feyenoord Rotterdam

4 August 2020

EFDN Interview – Wessel Verhaar from Feyenoord Rotterdam

The latest EFDN Interview features Wessel Verhaar who is the Sport and Health team leader at Feyenoord.

Working alongside a team of like-minded individuals, he is responsible for all projects that are aimed at raising sport participation in the local community. This is done through the organisation of sport activities for youth, particularly, fans and various other groups at such locations as schools, public sport facilities and around Feyenoord Rotterdam stadium.

EFDN: What is a typical day in your role? What do you love the most about working for the club/foundation?

This is a dynamic role for the fact that we work with a lot of different stakeholders. We have contact with the local municipality, companies, charities, local partners and grassroot clubs. Besides, we have contact with other football clubs as a member of EFDN for knowledge sharing. Together, we develop programmes in which local inhabitants can develop themselves by the support of Feyenoord.

In this role, I am less involved with the project implementation. However, seeing the gratitude and joy of the participants is the most rewarding part of working for Feyenoord. The club means a lot to many people. Using this attraction in order to change lives is the thing I like the most about this role.

EFDN: What are the main target areas of your foundation?

Feyenoord focuses on sport participation, education and employability programmes. Within these, sport is the tool for reaching our goals in different target areas. We are convinced that sport has a positive influence on for example self-confidence, teamwork and the will to learn.

EFDN: What is the foundation’s most successful programme? Can you please explain it in more detail, including the project’s main aims and objectives and the impact this programme has had within the community?

In my opinion, the Feyenoord Street League, which is part of EFDN’s Community Champions League, is our most successful programme. When Feyenoord’s first team has an away game, around 400 children represent their neighbourhood in a competition on local public sport facilities in the Feyenoord Street League. The main objective is increasing sport participation, but it is not the only one. With local social activities, participants can earn points as well for their teams in the standings of the competition. Besides, parents, volunteers and local sponsors contribute to the social cohesion of the community.

EFDN: What kind of initiatives are you currently delivering to help to overcome the COVID 19 crisis?

During the lockdown we set up an online platform which allowed us to interact with fans of the club and participants of our projects. Through this platform, we supported local initiatives and stimulated children with challenges in the areas of sport and education. A couple of weeks ago, we started a summer school during the holidays. In this way, children that were unable to attend school during the lockdown have the possibility to brush up on their language and mathematical skills in a fun and sporty way.

EFDN: What makes the role of clubs and their foundations so important during this crisis?

During a crisis like Covid-19, football clearly is of less importance. But on the other hand, the clubs became more important. For example, after the Dutch lockdown, children were able to go outside and back to their schools again, but in that period it was not possible to go to their sports club. We have launched an extensive programme at the local public sports facilities so that those kids were able to exercise. In addition, we did our best to meet the requests of special wishes for fans who are terminally ill or fans who can use our help in another way.

EFDN: How do you stay safe, healthy and fit? Do you have any tips or advice?

In this period, it is not always possible to take part in sport in the way we were used to before the Covid-19 crisis. My tip is to turn this situation around for the better. If, as a result of raising contagion numbers, it is not possible to play football (or other team sports) it is fun to try out other sports. The last couple of months I performed several sports like running, mountain biking and tennis. However, the most fun was a relatively new sport in the Netherlands, padel. A really fun way to stay fit.

EFDN: EFDN believes that Football is #More than Football. Why do you think your foundation is #morethanfootball?

Feyenoord is for different reasons #morethanfootball. It is more like a lifestyle. People get in touch with Feyenoord during their childhood and will take it with them their whole lives. That is the reason we think Feyenoord is as well a means to change people’s lives in a positive way. For a couple of years, Feyenoord is literally #morethanfootball because people that prefer another sport besides football can be part of Feyenoord too. With this notion, Feyenoord became a multi sports club.

EFDN: To whom would you like to #passiton?

Rangers FC.

If you would like to know more about Wessel Verhaar and his work at Feyenoord, please visit his LinkedIn profile.

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