The World is Oranje! The Netherlands and The World Cup - Part 1


Please be noting that this is NOT a fail post, but emotional stuff. :) This one will be a 'before and after' affair. One part before the World Cup final and one part after it, whatever be the outcome. Octopussy be damned, I believe that the Netherlands a.k.a Holland a.k.a Oranje should bring the long-overdue cup home to land of Windmills, Tulips and reclaimed land.

How come I am a Netherlands fan? I am as Dutch as Lady Gaga is alien, I haven't even seen a KLM plane, let alone Amsterdam. The love for the game. Such is the power and beauty of the game that a dope in far away India can develop such passion and devotion for a team that has no connection what so ever to his culture or country, transcending political and cultural boundaries. And we in India have this special previlege of being able to select any country of choice to support :)

I come from a country where knowledge of football seldom goes beyond Latin America. Even in the football crazy South Indian state of Kerala, where I grew up, there are few takers for teams other than the usual suspects: Brazil, Argentina, England and Germany. But due to my family's obvious European and German influence, I picked Deutschland. Till I saw the video of the 1974 World Cup final between Germany and The Netherlands, sometime in 1992.

Gullit with the Euro '88 trophy

In this football classic, Johan Neeskens scored in the 2nd minute, before any German player had even touched the ball. But the Dutch lost the game 1 – 2, and I cried with them. And so with that day I became part of the Oranje gang. The Oranje side, considered the greatest ever with legends including Cruijff, Neeskens, Rep and Rensenbrink gracing the team, with their revolutionary ”Total Football” philosophy that would completely reinvent European football totally took me. It was for one, much more entertaining than stiff backed German football.  I did not understand what “Total Football” and all meant, but knew there was something different in how they were playing. There was no Internet those days, so all I could find (from an informed football fan) was that they reached the World Cup finals twice (’74, and ’78) and lost both, but won the Euro ’88, and their star player (at the time) was a guy named ‘Gullit’.

USA 94 rolled around, and I finally got to see all the World footballers in action first time. The Netherlands lost to Brazil in an epic quarterfinal game. Despite coming from behind being 2 goals down to equalize 2 - 2, Claudio Branco scored in the 81st minute to put Brazil through, who would eventually go all the way.

France '98, and I was a fully fledged Oranje fan. The Netherlands fieded the best team since '88: Bergkamp, Overmars, Kluuivert, Davids, Seedorf, the De Boer brothers, Stam, Cocu.. They had a remarkable campaign and defeated Argentina in a controversial quarter game. But heartbreak happened against Brazil, again, in a closely contested semi-final, decided on penalties. No, they did not qualify for Japan-Korea 2002 and lost to Portugal in the second round of Germany 2006 after a disastrous campaign.

The team who taught the world what Total Football is, which has produced some of the most talented and well recognized footballers in the world, who play some of the best imaginative and attacking football, the only one to suffer heartbreak in two consecutive World Cup finals.. the Netherlands have a list of monikers attached to them concreting their place in world football as one the most accomplished teams never to win a World Cup (along with, well, Spain), and thereby the perennial under-achievers and being always followed by loads of bad luck.

Oranje Invasion

Brazil have been avenged for '94 and '98, and after 32 years the flying Dutchmen have again a chance to end the crown draught. They lost against Germany in '74 and Argentina in '78, and this time they have an opponent who has reached the final for the very first time. Will the world turn Oranje? We will soon know. Cards are being held close to the chest. Because, neither the team nor the swathes of Netherlands fans, famous for their 'Oranje Invasions' of stadia, do not deserve to be dejected again. But heartbreak happened again! :( Read on in Part 2.

And here are the stars. They deserve to be immortal.

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