Willem II is one of Holland's Premier League football clubs. The first two years of its existence, the club was called Tilburgia, after its hometown Tilburg, in the southern province Noord-Brabant. On January 14, 1898, the rapidly growing club chose to be called Willem II, an expression full of royalism. William II of Orange was King of the Netherlands from 1840 to 1849, living and working in The Hague but in love with the city of Tilburg ("Here I can breathe freely and feel happy ").
Orange therefore was the logical kit colour, but in fact the club changed colours a lot in the early period. At a certain moment, the board decided to choose the truly Dutch combination of red, white and blue. The shirt still has red, white, blue, white stripes nowadays, earning them the nickname tricolores. In 1923 Willem II moved to its current location, the Sportpark at the Goirleseweg in Tilburg. The capacity of the 1995 stadium is 14,500 seats.
In its history, Willem II won the League championship three times. The first occasion was in 1916, when the champion of the South beat the champion of the East, Go Ahead from Deventer. After World War II the club recovered from a poor period, with the Cup victory of 1944 as noteworthy incident. It was the Czechoslovakian refugee dr. Frantisek Fadrhonc who triggered a blooming period in Tilburg. The patient coach formed a superb squad and won the championship in 1952. At the introduction of professional football in 1954, Fadrhonc and his men repeated that feat. After this title, Willem II could participate in the prestigious European Champions Cup, but the little club was afraid of the challenge and asked big brother PSV from nearby Eindhoven to take its place instead.
The sixties and seventies were characterized by highs and lows. The Cup title in 1963 and a European Cup Winners' Cup match at Old Trafford against Manchester United were balanced by relegation in 1967. For eleven seasons, Willem II acted on a lower level. After the club managed to get back in the eredivisie (the Dutch Premier League), financial troubles almost caused a liquidation in the early 1980's. Only since the end of the eighties Willem II is a stable run-of-the-mill team in the Netherlands.
Not until the nineties, Willem II managed to sign huge talents who now play at top level in the world. Midfielder Henri van der Vegt now plays at Udinese in Italy, while defenders Jaap Stam (former Manchester United, now SS Lazio) and Bert Konterman (former Feyenoord, now Glasgow Rangers) have many international caps under their belt. The scouts were successful in Finland, where Willem II signed Sami Hyypiä, now strengthening the Liverpool FC defense.
But without the mentioned Dutch top players, Willem II managed to reach the UEFA Champions League in 1998/1999 under coach Co Adriaanse, who was later signed by Ajax. Willem II is known in the Netherlands as a civilized, peaceful club. Image is important, and Willem II's is excellent. One of their motto's: We are proud of the fact that players only leave here in harmony.