Old Soccers are unstoppable

While many student sports associations have great difficulty finding new board members, there's one sports club at TU/e whose board members never throw in the towel. This is Old Soccers, a soccer association for employees and students alike, with more tall stories than training hours. Because they don't 'do' training. The beautiful game itself, by contrast, they play every Friday afternoon, and have done so for more than fifty years.

photo Rien Boonstoppel

Old Soccers was originally the name adopted by a group of employees involved in math who, by way a work break, liked to go outdoors and exercise. They did things like run circuits of Karpendonk's pond. Some of them found one circuit was plenty; the 'fanatics' ran three times round the lake. We are talking about the time before there was a sports hall, so pre-1968.

Of that original group, several members are still active even now. Founders Berry van Bree and Fons van de Ven take some time out to bring Cursor up to speed on the origins of their club. Our venue is the sports centre canteen, whose construction they witnessed with their own eyes. They do not agree on all the facts (“You joined Mathematics later than I did,” says one. “No, earlier,” says the other), but what they share is a love of football. Van Bree has brought along a cotton bag full of photos and anniversary annuals.

“Where the tennis courts are there used to be a pit with a lawn. That was laid so people could play tennis on grass. But the pit was never used for that because the ground wasn't good enough to get a true bounce. But it was good enough for playing soccer, provided it wasn't flooded,” says Van de Ven. “So first we'd go for a warm-up run and then we'd ask to borrow a ball from the sports centre.” You played soccer in work time? “Our creed was this: work permitting, we could play soccer. And work always did permit. You can write that down now, after all we are retired. Oh, the freedom we had back then…”

Indoor soccer competition

At some point the – as yet still unorganized – mathematicians started playing indoor soccer. It only took a phone call to the sports hall to find out whether the – only – sports hall was available. “In September 1969 the (internal) indoor soccer competition for students was launched. As employees without a sport card – they were for students –  we weren't allowed to join in. That hurt!” Van Bree still feels the injustice. “We started lobbying and in early 1970 we were given permission to join, and a sport card.” A golden opportunity, because the men became the champions that very first season. Van Bree about Van de Ven: “It was the only season he scored a couple of goals.” Van de Ven: “A couple? Nine!”

Begging for money

When you play sport together every other day, you develop a bond. Weddings, births and other occasions that warrant a gift naturally occurred. And who had the thankless task of collecting money each time? Fons van de Ven. At some point he was so fed up with the job that he suggested setting up an association. On October 24th, 1979 the deed was done. There were no rules and regulations. “The only rule was this: you have to pay your subs,” says Fons van de Ven, who never became treasurer. “He was the commissioner for special activities,” says chair Van Bree. “In truth, he thought up the activities, dinners and tournaments and then delegated the work. To me.”

But Van Bree is happy to organize events. A minor problem with his Achilles tendon prevents this seventy-year-old from playing soccer these days, but nothing gets in the way of his organizing a tournament twice a year. Van de Ven still comes to the SSC three times a week; twice to work out in the gym and on Fridays to kick a ball around.


Don't think that Old Soccers is an old men's club. Ladies have always been welcome. “If they dared.” The first one who wasn't afraid was keeper Jacqueline de Caluwé. The best woman player was Sarah Tas. “She played better than we did. In 2002 she was a member of Canada's national team. It was her marriage to our colleague Paul Tas that brought her here.” For the rest, the daughters of members often played and on many a Friday Jolanda van de Sande joined them on the pitch.

For how much longer the tournaments will be held is debatable. If it were up to Van Bree and Van de Ven, the answer would be 'forever', but of course they need a number of participants. “When we were lecturers and still had contact with students, it was easier for us to persuade them to take part,” says Van de Ven.

The men feel it's a pity, but they accept that times change. Some things come to an end. At any rate, as board members they themselves have outlasted the trophy cabinet belonging to Old Soccers. While it did – partly – survive the move from the old Main Building to MetaForum, it proved ultimately homeless. “No one wanted the cups, not even the thrift stores (charity shops). I have separated plinths from trophies and recycled them as best I can. My daughter-in-law makes good use of them in her artworks.”

But no worries; for the Old Soccers it was never about the prizes. The only thing that counts for them is the pleasure they get playing soccer. Time and again, every Friday and at every tournament. And always under their motto, ‘Once an Old Soccer always an Old Soccer’.

Share this article