Nothing has been the same since COVID- 19 entered the world. We interviewed PSV’s Supporters Liaison Officer (SLO), Andre Coensen, about his coronavirus experiences.
For a club like PSV, the consequences are enormous. The management, co-workers, technical staff, the selection, the youth academy, season ticket holders, and other supporters – everyone’s paying the price. Empty stadiums have a huge financial impact, and not being able to watch your favorite club’s games together with all other fans has a massive effect on the social lives of many.
Last summer, it appeared the situation was more or less under control, but the Netherlands are in the middle of a second COVID-19 wave, and it doesn’t seem like life will get back to normal in the coming months. We asked PSV’s SLO about how life has changed for people inside the top European club.
Q: Hi, Andre, can you introduce yourself to our readers?
A: My name is Andre Coensen, I was born in Eindhoven 61 years ago. I’m married and live in Veldhoven with my wife. Our children moved out years ago. I can look back on a 40-year military career at the Dutch Royal Airforce and spent my entire life at my second home, PSV’s Philips Stadium. I’ve been a supporter since I was eight years old and played at the PSV football club in my youth.
Q: How did you become the Supporter Liaison Officer?
A: Five years ago, Jan van de Voort asked me. He was the Safety Manager and came up with the idea of having a Supporter Liaison Officer, an ‘SLO’, as we call it. He’s retired now. He’s a great guy, and I miss him.
Q: What does your job as SLO entail?
A: Together with my colleague, Koen van de Wal, I am responsible for the well-being of all our supporters. We’re available to them 24 hours a day. We prepare things for all home and away matches and the safety department and indirectly with the stewards.
For example, we plan the arrival and departure times for trains, buses, and cars and where they can park. We talk with other clubs about whether or not alcohol can be served. And how many people are allowed in the away section and from what time until when.
Hospitality is one of our top priorities, and it’s one of PSV’s core values. So, we always try to ensure that our guests are treated well and hospitably. We also try to keep supporters from getting summons, and we support them if they’re likely to get a possible stadium ban.
Q: What did you think when the coronavirus hit Eindhoven?
A: In the beginning I saw a lot of uneasiness and denial around me. A lot of us thought, “It won’t be that bad”, and I thought the same. I wasn’t exactly corona-proof, to be honest, and I’ve had to revise my opinion drastically.
Q: How did the management of PSV react?
A: The management did everything to make sure the matches could continue to be played, according to the rules of the RIVM (Dutch Health Department). As PSV, we’ve done everything to maintain and control this and scored very well on that. Eindhoven mayor, John Jorritsma, attended one of our games. He’s also the chairman of our region’s Safety Council region (VRBZO). He was very pleased with all the arrangements and maintenance from our side.
Q: What has changed since then?
As everyone knows, it was decided to end the national competition. At the start of this season, we’re again allowed to have 6,500 supporters at the stadium during matches. But unfortunately, that’s over since the second wave of infections hit the country. We all work from home now, and we have our meetings via an online platform. Work is simply on the back burner.
Q: What do you currently sense from the people around you?
A: People are getting impatient and don’t know what to expect anymore. There are too many uncertainties. The trains and buses are packed, but the bars and restaurants – who do everything they can to keep things safe – had to close down. In other words, too many question marks and no unequivocal information.
Q: And then you got infected yourself…
A: Yes, it happened at the start of this month, from one day on the next. I was at work and got a cold, started coughing, got a headache and became feverish. It all happened really fast. I’ve been sick in the past, with a flu or something like that. But I can’t describe those three weeks. I’m in the so-called risk group, too, having had COPD since 2008. I have no idea how I caught the virus.
Q: How sick were you?
A: I had a fever for the first 13 days and couldn’t get out of bed. I also got pneumonia, so things became worse. I could hardly breathe or talk and was gasping for air. I received antibiotics and prednisone. I also lost six kgs, but that’s nothing I won’t miss, haha.
Q: How are you feeling now, and what are your prospects?
A: I’ve been home, sick, for a month now. I get support from family and friends who text and call me. The only thing that’s a real problem, which seems to come from being infected with this virus, is that I have lost strength in both legs. I struggle to walk. The doctor says this can persist for another six weeks, until I am recuperated.
Q: What do you miss the most?
A: I miss everything – the supporters, the tension, the smell of beer and sweat, the adrenaline, the complaining about the referee. At home, everything is different.
Q: What would you like to say to the PSV supporters?
A: I’m so incredibly proud of our loyal supporters, who – despite this insecure period, not knowing how many matches they can actually visit – still bought 28,000 season tickets, regardless.
Finally, I want to say to all PSV supporters – look after yourself and your loved ones. I, too, was headstrong and ignorant, thinking ‘this minor little flu won’t be so bad’ until I got sick. Now I am trying with 110% not to get infected again or get others infected. Wear your mask, disinfect everywhere it’s required, and keep that 1,5m distance.
Interview by Joey van der Hart for Eindhoven News
All photos courtesy of Andre Coensen, used with permission.
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