USMNT striker Ricardo Pepi has recovered his club form despite relegated Groningen being overrun by 'hooligans'

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Ricardo Pepi Groningen fans
FC Groningen – the club where USMNT star Ricardo Pepi has spent much of the 2022-23 campaign – are overrun by “hooligans”, it has been claimed.
  • Relegation suffered out of the Eredivisie
  • Disgruntled supporters not happy
  • American frontman has caught the eye

WHAT HAPPENED? United States international Pepi has impressed during his time in the Netherlands, but those efforts have been played out against a backdrop of supporter angst and the threat of potential crowd trouble. Groningen’s last Eredivisie outing, at home to Ajax, was initially abandoned after only a few minutes and forced to be rescheduled following protests against the club’s board by disgruntled fans that saw some take to the field and others throw smoke bombs.

WHAT THEY SAID: Evert van Dijk, editor-in-chief of the Groningen newspaper ‘Dagblad van het Noorden’, says the hooligan element of the team’s fan base intimidates security guards, catering staff and local police – allowing them to smuggle items such as fireworks into the stadium unopposed. Van Dijk has told NOS Radio 1 Journal: “Security guards are told that they [the hooligans] know where they live and are very intimidated. You keep your mouth shut, because I know where you live and where your children go to school.”

The mayor of Groningen has backed up those claims, saying: “That kind of noise also comes to our attention. Very serious. The misconduct in the stadium has become subversive by now.”

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THE BIGGER PICTURE: Trouble flared against Ajax following the confirmation of Groningen’s relegation out of the Dutch top-flight for the first time in 23 years, where tensions between the two rival clubs are never too far away.


Groningen Ajax Eredivisie 2022-23

Ricardo Pepi Groningen celebrate

WHAT NEXT? Pepi had done his best to prevent that situation from occurring, with the 20-year-old striker registering 12 goals and three assists in the 2022-23. This has allowed him to become the first Groningen player since Luis Suarez to post 15 goal contributions in a single campaign, while also putting the struggles of his time at German outfit Augsburg to one side.