The World Cup is over for the next four years and so this era of blogging must come to a end. As I type, the vuvuzelas are warming up for the team’s homecoming this afternoon.
The Dutch team’s performance in the final was nicely summed up by his eminence, Lord Cruyff:
“This ugly, vulgar, hard, hermetic, hardly eye-catching, hardly football style, yes it served the Dutch to unsettle Spain. If with this they got satisfaction, fine, but they ended up losing. They were playing anti-football.”
Packed into a heaving orange terrace on Sunday evening, cloudy with cigarette smoke, the smell of bitterballen [see previous post] wafting around, plastic cups of warm, watery beer plonked in front of us all, there was a carnival atmosphere. A huge cheer went up when the ariel view of Museumplein flashed up on the TV, showing a hundred thousand strong bouncing and swaying mass of orange. Shouts of “Whore-Lund, Whore-Lund” erupted every three minutes. A man dressed as a giant football wobbled past. A very fat girl in a tiny Bavaria dress also wobbled past. The Italian guy in front of me was wearing large, orange furry bunny ears without a glimmer of embarrassment.
Then we saw the team arriving at the stadium and getting off the bus, almost all of them with headphones on.
Arjen Robben was, for sure, listening to this:
Nigel de Jong was preparing for the game with this:
And Rafael van der Vaart was having some quiet family time with this:
Even if we didn’t say it out loud, we all thought that if Dirk Kuyt looked any more Dutch he’d be clog-shaped.
We all cheered when Nelson Mandela was driven onto the pitch in a golf cart. I felt a lump in my throat when I saw his frail face close up, topped with fluffy, white candy floss hair. I wondered if he’d make it to the end of the game. Then I almost got lynched for not standing for the Dutch national anthem. Well, I wouldn’t stand for my own, so why would I stand for yours. And people, people, do you really, REALLY not understand the irony of singing a song with the line “Born from German blood…”?
Then the match began. And, from the first minute it was clear that the Dutch were doing something very, very wrong. Gone was the skill, the passing, the intrigue. Instead, we got borenjongens [farmer boys] crashing around trying their best to hobble any Spanish that came within 4 meters of them. By the 20th minute, there’d been five yellow cards issued. The game was in stale-mate. The play makers on both sides were marked out of the game. The mid-field closed down the play, preferring to play defensively. By half-time, I was considering shouting “OLE OLE ESPANA” just to liven things up a bit.
Arjen Robben was, by far, the most dynamic player on the Dutch side and his failure to score when faced with a pretty much open goal was too much for most of us to bear.
At the beginning of the second half it became clear the referee had lost control of the game. By the end of the game he’d given out 14 yellow cards, sent off one player but failed to send off Nigel de Jong for an insanely dangerous tackle resulting in a full force kick to Alonso’s chest.
It was quite obvious that they’d only chosen this referee because of his similar appearance to the world’s greatest and most authoritarian referee, Colina.
Now they were down to ten men, the Spanish started to crawl all over the Dutch but the defence held firm, forcing extra time. And then, four minutes before the end of extra time, the wonderful, amazing, velcro-footed Iniesta received the ball from another of the world’s greatest footballers who had failed to shine at this competition, Cesc Fabregas, and that was the end of the Orange dream.
The atmosphere on the terrace changed immediately, from carnival to funeral, a big, orange funeral. They knew that the Dutch could not come back from one goal down and that, in all honesty, they did not deserve to.