The UEFA Europa League Truck Tour continued its continental odyssey in the Netherlands ahead of AZ Alkmaar's quarter-final first leg against Valencia CF.
With their team top of the Eredivisie, the home fans turning up at the AZ Stadion on Thursday were given a tantalising glimpse of another prize they are still contesting, the UEFA Europa League trophy. The silverware was on show as part of the UEFA Europa League Truck Tour, organised in conjunction with adidas.
Alkmaar, with a population of almost 100,000, is situated northwest of Amsterdam. The town is renowned for its cheese market, which is one of the country's most popular tourist attractions, and it is also the location of a Beatles museum; apparently John Lennon's first guitar was made in the town.
In more recent times, Alkmaar and Enschede, which has also been visited by the Truck Tour, have emerged as centres of power in the Dutch football landscape, the local clubs having successfully managed to challenge the established 'big three' of AFC Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven. AZ won the Eredivisie in 2008/09 and FC Twente became champions for the first time a year later.
Nor has AZ's success been limited to domestic competition alone. They reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in 2005 and two years later progressed to the quarter-finals. Back in the last eight again, their motivation was clear to see as the Truck Tour came to town.
Though the trophy attracted considerable attention, it was the adidas Predator Pass Tool that generated most of the action. Fans attempt to win a prize by hitting randomly-illuminated panels with the ball as often as possible within 30 seconds. "I really like this because I scored 16 points and won a cap, and he only got 13 and no prize," beamed Martijn Bierens while pointing at his friend and fellow AZ supporter Ard van Dooren.
The Truck Tour will be appearing at a different stadium on each matchday up to and including the final in Bucharest's National Arena.
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