Captain Kuyt leads Feyenoord to Dutch league title
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Veteran captain Dirk Kuyt scored a hat trick Sunday as Feyenoord beat Heracles Almelo 3-1 to win its 15th Dutch Eredivisie title and the first in 18 long years for its fervent fans.
Kuyt, 36, who returned to Feyenoord in the twilight of his career saying he wanted to lead the team to the Dutch championship, scored his 100th goal for the club in the first minute to settle nerves throughout Rotterdam. He doubled the lead in the 12th, then put the result beyond doubt with a penalty kick shortly before the end.
Thousands of fans in the city center watched on large screens and roared in delight after Kuyt’s early opener and again 11 minutes later. The party truly began across the port city when Kuyt grabbed his third in the 84th minute.
“My dream has come true,” Kuyt told Fox Sports amid scenes of jubilation at Feyenoord’s De Kuip stadium.
Coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s team bounced back in style to take the title in the final round of the league season after slumping to a shock 3-0 defeat last week to fellow Rotterdam team Excelsior.
“I have experienced a lot in my life as a footballer, but this is the most beautiful moment of all,” an emotional Van Bronckhorst told NOS Radio 1.
Ajax, which secured a spot in the Europa League final on Thursday, started the day one point behind Feyenoord and beat Willem II Tilburg 3-1 to remain second. The Amsterdam club can now turn its focus to the final against Manchester United in Stockholm on May 24. Defending champion PSV Eindhoven finished third.
Feyenoord has long been a member of the elite top three of Dutch football, along with Ajax and PSV, but the Rotterdam club has struggled in recent years.
Feyenoord’s history features the Netherlands’ first ever European Cup win, when it came from a goal down to beat Celtic 2-1 after extra time at Milan’s San Siro stadium in 1970. The club also is a two-time winner of the UEFA Cup, in 1974 and 2002.
Van Bronckhorst was lucky to hold onto his job last year after the team slumped to seven straight defeats, but the club kept faith in the former Feyenoord, Barcelona, Arsenal and Rangers defender and he delivered.
Unsurprisingly, Van Bronckhorst singled out Kuyt for praise, saying he coped well when he did not start several matches this season, making way for other in-form players.
“I am so happy for him,” Van Bronckhorst said.