History in the Making


Spain vs Netherlands. The Eighty Years' War between the two countries, aka the Dutch War of Independence, went from 1568-1648. The Ninety Minutes' War goes this Sunday at 8:30pm.

So while the bad blood between countries has been diluted by some 362 years of peace, the excitement is mounting in the days leading up to the big match.

Some other interesting perspectives regarding Spain and the Netherlands:
  • The orange colour sported by the Dutch dates back to Willem van Oranje (William of Orange), who was the main leader of the Dutch revolt that kicked off this war. He was also known as William the Silent. He also often had gastric problems, upon which occasions he became known as William the Silent but Deadly.
  • Neither team has won the World Cup before.
  • Holland's last appearance in the finals was 1978; Spain has never made it.
  • Spain is currently ranked number 1 in the world football rankings, Holland number 4. Gabon is 42nd. Canada 63rd.
  • Spain is famous for many things, including the running of the bulls. The Dutch, never keen to admit they don't know something, are famous for the running of the bull---t.
More facts to come as the weekend devolves into a haze of celebrations, heat, and a once-in-a-generation event for both countries.



That wild-eyed look? A mixture of joy and fear

This is turning into a Dutch opera. With heroes like the fantastically named Giovanni van Bronckhorst, assorted villains like Diego and Robinho, a steadily rising plot line thick with tension, and a rapt audience of millions, the only thing still left to be decided is whether it ends in operatic tragedy or joy.

Last night's Netherlands vs Uruguay match raised the bar again - not so much for the quality of play, where the Dutch still haven't put on a complete 90-minute effort - but in terms of passion on the field and in the streets of Amsterdam.

A brief summary:

  • The venue was a small neighbourhood pub, with outdoor screens and the best seats in the house thanks to an Aus-some friend. The gezelligheid of watching the game as though you were sitting on your front porch with 100 friends in a cozy neighbourhood is undeniable.
  • The Dutch dominated the play early, with some decent chances on offense and the defense relieving the opposing players of the ball as easily as taking candy from an Uruguayan baby.
  • I wonder: What's it like, Giovanni, to score one of the greatest goals in World Cup history? That shot will be replayed for the next century.
  • The Dutch let up for some reason and after 20 minutes straight in the offensive zone, Uruguay ties it up. Uruguay - Forlan. Dutch - Forlorn.
  • Halftime - a quick stroll down the block in search of food. Chicken sates with peanut sauce. Magnifique.
  • A nervy second half with two more excellent goals by the Dutch, and some unwanted close calls in the waning moments.
  • The choppy ending to the game, with the referee obviously owning a side business in Holland selling heart medicine and defibrillators, kinda mutes the celebrations momentarily. But then...
  • A 5-minute walk to Museumplein to check out the madness before hitting the town. (Videos of the scene have been made and posted to YouTube... for some reason they are not working however. Tips are welcome as to where else I can post them, as they take forever on this site. I will update with a new post once they are viewable).

Even Beesie was nervous before gametime

Our seats

Time to water the tulips

The Dutch are in the World Cup Finals since 1978!

Bye Bye Brazil


The Boys from Brazil met the Heren van Holland in the quarterfinals this past Friday, and the result was simply one of the defining moments of Dutch soccer.

I started the search well-before kickoff for a suitable spot and somehow turned into Goldilocks:
  • Too hot: Museumplein - standing in the direct sun for 2-3 hours, likely behind some very tall people? There must be better options.
  • Too cold: Cafe Quinto, a small neighbourhood pub that looks fun as it is jammed inside and out for games. Brutal service before even sitting down. Did not feel like giving them money for the next 3 hours.
  • Just right: the venerable Barca once again, with loads of screens, a great seat and even better scenery.

Some numbers:
  • 32 - forecast high temperature in Amsterdam that day
  • 24 - forecast high temperature in Rio that day
  • 56 - coincidentally, the sum of the two above numbers and the approximate temperature inside Barca at kickoff time
  • 30,000 - estimated number of fans on Museumplein, watching on the big screen. Watch the reaction here as the final whistle sounded, filmed by someone who clearly went to the Blair Witch Project school of film. Still awesome, however.
  • 3:59 - the players line up at midfield behind a banner saying "Say No to Racism"
  • 4:11 - how about saying "no" to Dutch defensive lapses? Brazil scores an easy one and things are not looking good as the favoured South Americans dominate the play early on.
  • 4:30 - a third pitcher arrives at the table, clearly in an effort to stave off dehydration as the temperature inside is insane.
  • 5:10 - Dooeeeelllllpunnnntt! Ok, so it has nowhere the same cachet as "Goaaaalllllll", but still. 1-1 tie.
  • 5:24 - the Dutch are really owning the Brazilians in the second half, and Kuyt's brilliant header pass is sent on to Sneijder's bald dome, and he knocks it home. Two heads are indeed better than one. The sound is deafening and joyous and I am typing this with goosebumps at the recollection. 2-1 Netherlands.
  • 5:29 - red card for Brazil's Melo, who is anything but as he angrily stomps on Robben. Enjoy the Red Card District, Felipe.
  • 5:30 and on - large, booming cheers of "HOLL-AND" clap-clap-clap, "HOLL-AND" clap-clap-clap ring through the entire bar as the excitement builds towards the fantastic finish.
When the final whistle blows after a few more nail-biting moments, the place erupts. (*Note - the quality of the video-making might be due to an impaired operator or poor camera - you decide).

We poured outside right after and grinning, slurring, joyous conversations were had for a few hours, before an exceedingly well-timed pizza and quiet at a friend's apartment nearby. Wow.

Tuesday could be another memorable night, as the Netherlands face a weaker but still dangerous Uruguay. Stay tuned.

And for the more involved football fans, some thoughts below on the team itself:

  • Robin van Persie may yet redeem himself, but he is choking quite badly. And with his jittery insecurity/arrogance and lack of smarts, I wouldn't be surprised if he puts Holland in a very bad position before this tournament is over.
  • Keeper Maarten Stekelenburg looks rock-solid and should give the Dutch added confidence.
  • Wesley Sneijder is in top form - he and Arjen Robben are reasons alone to think that the Oranje could win it all.
  • Those who really know the game here say that midfielder Mark van Bommel is the best player on the squad so far.
  • Dirk Kuyt is the everyman's hero, well-loved in Holland for his work ethic and unassuming nature - a big contrast to the many outsized egos that make up much of the rest of the crew. And he is playing some fantastic football.

An ingenious red and yellow card system, helpful for those times when the challenge comes from speaking


Note the superior Dutch sock in contrast to the measly Brazilian flip-flop

Post-game outside Barca

Post-post game carnage