Monday 11 July 2016

Football in the Netherlands: The Men in Orange

The UEFA European championship has just finished, with weeks of football matches being played at the highest level. England crumbled, Iceland amazed, France dominated until Portugal surprised them, and Germany, being Germany, just kept winning, until they didn't. And where was the Netherlands? Where was the orange that usually decorates the stadiums at major football events? Nowhere. The Dutch team failed to qualify for the Euros 2016, and that hit fans of the boys in orange hard. 

Football is a national Dutch sport. It's one of the most popular sports in the country, if not the most popular. And that's saying something because the Dutch are incredibly competent at sports, excelling in a number of different events - such as ice skating competitions and hockey. The Dutch medal count at the last winter Olympics tells you a lot about their sporting prowess on ice. It's all very impressive in a land so small. 

So the lack of orange in this years European football tournament was a massive dissapointment. In fact, it was such a disappointment that the Dutch appeared to try and pretend there was no football competition at all this year...... the oranjegekte was certainly missed!

It's in stark contrast to the success of the Dutch team in the 2014 World Cup finals where they came home with the bronze medal, and in 2010 when they were runners up to Spain. Back in 1988 the Dutch were European champions. 

So since 2014 things have gone seriously downhill with the Dutch national football team and for a country with a rich footballing history, and an attractive top class national football league it's been a time for soul searching and questions.

The national team played their first international game in 1905, against Belgium in front of a crowd of 800. These days the national team can pull up to 8 million television viewers when they compete in the Euros or a World Cup (note that is not far off half the population of the Netherlands). 

The next international games that the Netherlands play will determine whether they qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. And the nation is hoping that this will end more successfully than their bid to play in the 2016 Euros..... Football runs through the veins of many a Dutchman, woman and child.

The KNVB (Koninklijke Nederlandse Voetbal Bond (Royal Netherlands Football Association)), the national football union, had 1,227,157 members as of 2015. The union obtained it's royal status in 1929, but the origins of the organisation date back to 1889. 

Paid football was introduced in the Netherlands in 1954 and women's football became an official part of the KNVB in 1971. 

The national league of the Netherlands, the Eredivisie, came to be in 1956, although the national championship had been competed for officially since 1898. Once the Eredivisie was established the best teams from across the country started playing against each other, dispersing with the regional leagues that had existed up until that point. Ajax was the first winner of the Eredivisie, and much to the distaste of football fans in Rotterdam, the Amsterdam based team has also won it many times since.

18 clubs compete for the national title in the Eredivisie, and it has a good reputation in the international footballing arena. It's been a breeding pool for many top Dutch players such as these names:

Johan Cruijff, Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, Ronald Koeman, Dennis Bergkamp, Philip Cocu, Frank de Boer, Edwin van der Sar, Clarence Seedorf, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Rafael van der Vaart, Dirk Kuijt and Robin van Persie. 

I grew up spending many of my Saturday afternoons, and Tuesday evenings, on the terraces of Vicarage Road, the home of Watford FC in England. When I moved to the Netherlands I didn't start supporting a local club until my eldest son was eight. I'd already taken him to his first English Premiership game to watch Watford, but until last season we hadn't got involved with any Dutch club.

That has now changed. I have the football bug once more and for many of the Eredivisie home games of ADO Den Haag at least one of my sons and I can be found in the Kyocera Stadion in The Hague. We'll be there next season too. We'll be hoping for success for our local team - and for the national team too.

Welcome to our Olympics for Kids series! The Olympics are a wonderful opportunity to teach kids about the world and explore cultures together.

Today, you can find more about other sports/games from various countries thanks to our participating bloggers:

Exploring Indonesian Badminton - Multicultural Kid Blogs
Popular Summer Sports in USSR - Creative World of Varya 
Handball, France and the Olympics - Lou Messugo
Capoeira: a martial art with a great beat - Brynn in Brazil
The big 3: soccer, rugby, cricket - Globe Trottin' Kids
Copa América: We Are the Champions - La clase de Sra. DuFault 
Football in the Netherlands: The Men in Orange - Expat Life with a Double Buggy 
Summer sports in Latvia - Let the Journey Begin
Valuable Lessons From The Olympic Sports to Kids - Hispanic Mama
Fencing with Ibtihaj Muhammad - Kid World Citizen
Puerto Rican Olympians - Discovering the World Through my Son's Eyes   

Don't forget that you can also download our Summer Games Unit activity pack to learn more about the world and have fun during the Olympics.

1 comment:

  1. It must have been such a shock when NL didn't qualify! They lost out to Iceland didn't they? If so, it was very entertaining for the rest of us, but sad for you lot.