By Mark Lievisse Adriaanse
He was blind on one eye, he went on trial at Feyenoord after playing a great game against them and tragically died whilst taking a throw in. Sixto Rovina, Feyenoord’s summer surprise of 1985, died whilst living his dream – playing football in the Netherlands.
The summer of 1985, only a year after winning the title and the cup with a team including Johan Cruijff, Ruud Gullit and Danish defender Ivan Nielsen, Feyenoord stumbled back in trouble.
Once again financial and managerial problems give Feyenoord’s loyal supporters a headache. After finishing a disappointing third place in the Eredivisie, key players Peter Houtman, Ruud Gullit, Petur Petursson, Michel van de Korput and André Stafleu left the club.
During the summer pre-season, Feyenoord decided to travel to Curacao, the Dutch island in the Caribbean.
Thirty-nine years earlier, Feyenoord played some monumental matches here against Curacao, Columbia and Dutch colony Suriname which was a once in a lifetime trip for the then amateur footballers. Now Feyenoord travelled back to play against local sides Undeba FC and Internazionale as professionals.
Surprisingly, Undeba FC won their match againts the Dutch giants but during the game two Antilian players made such an impression that Feyenoord’s manager Ab Fafié decided to bring them back to Rotterdam for a one month-trial.
Glenn Kwidama, a 22-year old striker and Sixto Rovina, a 24-year old midfielder were the lucky ones. Kwidama, who despite his young age had already played thirty games for the Dutch Antilles national team. The collective islands of the Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire, Saba, Aruba, Sint Maaren, Sint Eustatius and Curaçao, were dissolved in 2010.
Kwidama made a good impression, scoring against local teams whilst on training in the Dutch provence of Limburg. Kiwi, the Feyenoord supporters call the big striker was offered a contract right away but Sixto Rovina didn’t make quite the same impact. Despite having a glass eye the manager saw some potential in Curaçao but eventually, when his trial month was over, he left Feyenoord without a contract and looking for another team in the Dutch league.
FC Eindhoven became interested in signing him. Rovina made a good impression whilst on trial and was offered a contract at the team from the first division. During his three years at Eindhoven, the club makes big steps forward, finishing 16th, 11th and eventually 6th in the league.
When Rovina’s contract ended he made a step forward himself, moving to Eredivisie side FC Groningen, signing an amateur contract for a year. However the move didn’t pay off and he rarely played in the first team. Sixota became a regular starter in the reserve team with the odd minute or two in the first team.
In November 1988 Rovina collapsed unexpectedly during a training session. He was rushed into hospital, where doctors failed to find a reason for his sudden collapse but it was suspected that the cause due to the ball connecting with his head.
Three months later on February 7th 1989, Rovina was playing a friendly game with the reserves against amateur side VV Hoogezand.
The midfielder collapsed again whilst taking a throw in. The club’s medical staff rushed towards him and attempted to resuscitate him on the pitch but Rovina couldn’t be revived. Sixota Rovina has died from a sudden heart attack.
People rarely talk about Rovina anymore. He’s a forgotten Feyenoord-player – one of the many. The only time his name gets around is when fetishists of Feyenoord’s history discuss the many bad buy’s the club has had in its 106-year history. Glenn Kwidama, Rovina’s Dutch Antilles compatriot, failed to fulfill his promise too and now works as a janitor at a high school.
Kwidama and Rovina’s tenure at Feyenoord in the 1985 was symbolic for the dark days to come. From the mid-eighties on towards the early nineties, Feyenoord was on the permanent brink of bankrupcy, with a lack of capital on both the field and the bank.
Kwidama, according to some fans, was one of the worst strikers the club every signed and one of many bad signings in the eighties. Sixto Rovina didn’t even make it to a professional contract, but still, in years when Feyenoord brought in players from all over the world his arrival and tragic death is both a fascinating and sad story that was symbolic of Feyenoord’s dark eighties era.