Why I’ll back the Dutch in the World Cup final


Spain is the obvious favorite in today’s World Cup final, and I don’t need a psychic octopus to tell me that. I saw the match against Germany, which was all the convincing I need. Ball-handling, passing … it makes me wonder what the American team was even doing in the tournament.

Then again, I owe the Dutch an apology. I had a chance to watch their thrilling match against Brazil, but didn’t for the same reason that, well, apparently some of the Dutch expressed. Or, as Mark Steel noted:

“Are you hopeful?” I asked Josef. “Yes,” he said, “I am hopeful we’ll keep it to less than 5-0.”

So, yeah, I owe an apology for skipping that one. Who knew? Apparently, not even Josef suspected.

And while I have a masochistic side that prefers to cheer on underdogs in many circumstances, Steel also made the case, indirectly, why the Dutch really need this one more than Spain:

The Dutch, it seems, watch their team in the West End of London, not in one bar but in the general area ….

…. The reason is the Dutch aren’t brought together in London by where they live, but where they work. Several thousand are employed by the banks and companies whose offices are around there, so they flock to the chain pubs of Soho; the places into which endless research has been poured to make it impossible to create any atmosphere at all. The muzak, the bouncers, staff wandering around with ear-pieces; this all makes it less exciting than watching a match in a branch of World of Leather.

And for the quarter-final against Brazil this wasn’t helped by the sullen nature of the fans. As the game approached they ordered their burgers, and sat in small groups with no sense of being collective, which took some effort as they were all in orange, and when the team appeared one man clapped on his own, which was probably Arjen Robben’s dad. A few of them sang along with the national anthem, but either this was extremely half-hearted, or the Dutch anthem goes “buuur phew ffffff baaa I give up” ….

…. Maybe they’d have been jollier if they’d lived up to their stereotype, by announcing, “If there is a ball in our goal then this should not make us worry, instead just relax, maybe have a little massage and maybe some sex and this is good and we can hope for an equaliser.” Or they could reserve one screen for porn with expert comments provided by Mick McCarthy.

Outstandingly moderate was Dan, tall, slender and in an immaculate suit, the picture of someone young and in the city, except he was wearing an orange tie. “I see you’ve gone a bit wild with the tie,” I said. “Yes,” he said, “I think that it helps to support the team if I wear this tie.”

Dan was a management consultant in Covent Garden, and added: “This afternoon I have many things to do but I decided I should leave them until later, which is not really correct but I think I must watch the game.”

I mean, really, as an American, I know people who don’t care about the game in general that will take time off work to watch the American team try its hardest to not embarrass itself. And a Seattle tavern at nine in the morning was a fine time to witness these folks finally understanding why fútbol is the world’s game as Team USA scraped by Algeria, only to lose a few days later to Ghana, whereupon they promptly forgot what they had learned.

It does seem a strange contrast to stereotype, though, getting wild with the tie. The American view of the Dutch is either tulips and windmills, or Amsterdam. The idea of a bunch of bank employees feeling guilty for supporting their home country in a soccer tournament just isn’t part of that package. But for Dan, Josef, and all of the Dutch soccer fans in London’s West End, I’m going to back their team against Spain. If for no other reason, I might suggest the Dutch need this one more than the Spaniards, and so I raise my glass, wish them luck, and wonder how things got to the point that we have a freakin’ octopus picking winners in the tournament.

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