Fortuna is considered the pioneers of Dutch football. The club played an important role in the creation of professional soccer as we know it today. A look back at the glorious history of Fortuna and its predecessors.
We go back to 1950. In that year, RKSV Sittardia was founded, the result of a merger between two clubs from Sittard. In the first seasons the club -playing in yellow and blue- played its matches as amateurs. At that time, professional football did not yet exist in the Netherlands. That changed four years later.
In 1954, just a few miles away, the foundations for Dutch professional football were laid. That happens with the founding of Fortuna '54 by contractor Gied Joosten. The entrepreneur did something that had not been done before; he paid players to play in Fortuna's green and white. Established names like Frans de Munck, Cor van der Hart, Bram Appel and Bart Carlier settled in Geleen. This put the club at the forefront of professional football in the Netherlands.
Fortuna '54 initially played under the flag of the NBVB, the counterpart of the KNVB. Until then, the federation held back professional football. This changed after the merger a few months later. Joosten was also president of the NBVB at that time. The league was broken up by the merger, at that time the Geleen team was on top. In the 1954/1955 season -divided into four classes- professional football was played for the first time in the Netherlands.
Eredivisie, cups, relegation and merger
In the 1956/1957 season, the Eredivisie was established. Fortuna '54 finished third in the premier league the season before, forcing a spot in the new league. The first Eredivisie season saw a handsome second place finish, behind national champions Ajax, and the KNVB Cup. The cup tournament was won again in 1963/1964. In the same period, neighboring RKSV Sittardia skippered between the highest level and the First Division.
Over the years, sporting achievements in both Sittard and Geleen declined. In 1968, fate finally struck. Fortuna '54 was not in good financial shape and relegated from the highest level, after which a merger with the also relegated Sittardia was necessary. The merged clubs continued under the name FSC, the current Fortuna Sittard. The team's stay in the Eredivisie was extended by one more season when Xerxes/DHC withdrew, but eventually slipped to the second tier in the Netherlands in 1969.
We are going into Europe!
The first years after the relegation were difficult athletically and a relegation to the Second Division was narrowly avoided. The yellow-green part of Limburg eventually had to wait fourteen years for a return to the highest level. In 1982, Fortuna was promoted to the Eredivisie, where it would eventually play for eleven seasons. During this period, under the leadership of Frans Körver, the cup final was reached, in which Feyenoord proved too strong 1-0.
Despite the loss, Fortuna kept a tangible memory from the cup tournament, namely a ticket for the European Cup II. It resulted in beautiful matches against FC Copenhagen and Wisla Krakow. The absolute highlight followed in the quarter-finals, where the Sittard formation was paired with the English powerhouse Everton. The Liverpool club won over two matches and would eventually win the tournament. The successes ensured packed stands in Stadion De Baandert.
After these good years, Fortuna slipped away bit by bit. It resulted in relegation in 1993. The stay in the First Division was limited to two seasons. In that period, the academy began to flourish and the first fruits were reaped. Upon promotion, the selection included Mark van Bommel and Fernando Ricksen. A few years later, the world was also introduced to Kevin Hofland. With the defender in the ranks, Fortuna reached the cup final again in 1999. This time Ajax was too strong: 2-0.
It was the last chapter in a successful period, with relegation again in 2002. This time the blow reverberated for years. The club sank deeper and deeper into the morass with financial problems and sporting setbacks. In 2009 the club even briefly lost its professional license, a decision that the civil courts reversed. Shortly before that, supporters had already significantly reduced the club's debts with the Trots op Fortuna foundation. The financial situation would continue to affect the club in the following years.
In 2016, Isitan Gün became Fortuna's new major shareholder. With the Turkish investor at the helm, Fortuna got color back on its face. Without making drastic changes, the club underwent a metamorphosis. With a solid plan and an innovative approach, promotion was -somewhat surprisingly- achieved in 2018. With that, Fortuna returned to the highest level after sixteen years, where it still plays to this day.
Currently, the club is writing a new chapter in Fortuna's rich history. With the entry of Principion Holding (2021), ambitions have been revised upward. In addition, Fortuna Women was welcomed, playing in the Azerion Women's Eredivisie. One thing we can therefore say with certainty; new chapters are being written!
Fortuna. Pioneers of Dutch Football.