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La Naranja Mecánica

La Naranja Mecánica
In the hot summer of 2010 the Dutch national football team played a World Cup Final for the third time in history. After previous disappointments against Germany (1974) and Argentina (1978), it was Spain that snatched the world title from the Dutch in South-Africa. The men of coach Bert van Marwijk’s elite troop will have to wait (at least) another three years for another chance to win the highest football title in the world. Assuming that ‘Oranje’, as the team is fondly known for the colour of the shirts they play in, qualifies again for the world’s largest sports tournament.Holland’s been quite lucky in the draw for the 20th edition of this tournament. There are nine European groups that will fight for direct qualification, and Holland will have to deal with five other countries: Turkey, Hungary, Rumania, Estonia and Andorra.Without any doubt Turkey is the toughest opponent of these countries. On paper that is, because this team, which is under the command of Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, has been under-achieving for years. But the cheers of their fanatical supporters regularly bring Ay-Yıldızlılar (Turkish for ‘the moon stars’ which refers to the white moon and star on the Turkish flag) to a higher level.Hungary has by now become pretty familiar to  ‘La Naranja Mecánica’, affectionate nickname which is a reference to a novel and the ingenious concept of total football and the meticulous passing of the Dutch in the seventies. In the qualifying campaign for the European Championships 2012 in Ukraine and Poland, the guys in orange pulverized the Eastern Europeans twice, resulting in a 9-3 end score.In earlier qualifying rounds Rumania has never been a problem for the Dutch. Since the 1924 Olympics Rumania has only managed to win once out of eleven encounters.
And Estonia’s top eleven definitely shouldn’t be able to challenge the runner-up world champions. Probably the beautiful women in the capital Tallinn might be more of a danger for the Dutch stars. After all, the players of the Dutch national team are known not to be averse to the attractions of the female sex. In 1974 Holland lost its chance to win the title when, a day before the final, the German tabloid Das Bild published photographs of the Dutch players in a swimming pool, surrounded by numerous salacious women. Subsequently the whole night was marked by marital discord which obviously affected the players‘ concentration on the pitch the next day… And history repeated itself recently when defender John Heitinga and the normally very well-behaved forward Dirk Kuyt were photographed in a Brazilian night club after an international game with, again, a horde of attractive local ladies. National coach Van Marwijk managed to nip this scandal in the bud however, as he guards his players like a true matador.Finally, we’re definitely not worried about the tiny mountainous principality of Andorra, landlocked between France and Spain.It appears therefore that Holland should qualify quite easily for the World Cup.When this text goes to the printer’s, the qualifying rounds for the 2012 European Championship in Poland / Ukraine will be nearly finished. So far, leading up to the final games, Holland has managed to realize a 100% score in Group E, with Sweden, Moldavia, Finland, San Marino and Hungary as opponents. The team finishing first in this group will qualify directly for the tournament. Oranje’s objective is clear. Coach Van Marwijk wants to follow in the footsteps of the legendary trainer Rinus Michels, who led the country to its largest football achievement in history so far in 1988. Beating the (former) Soviet Union by 2 goals to 0, Holland won the European title.

At home Ajax won the national title for the thirtieth time in history last season. In a thrilling conclusion to the season even The Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock couldn’t have thought up a more exciting finale. In a direct title fight the team from Amsterdam were too strong for FC Twente on the last day of play, which meant they could have a third star sown onto their jerseys, a symbol of their subscription to the country’s most important title. FC Twente, a provincial club from Enschede (a former textile producing town in the east of Holland) has surreptitiously managed to mix with the traditional powers PSV (Eindhoven) and Feyenoord (Rotterdam). Two years ago Twente surprisingly won the national title.
This season both favourites (Ajax and FC Twente) have made a good start again, making it likely the 2011/2012 champions will be one of these two teams. Although the Dutch league is sometimes scathingly called Europe’s Mickey Mouse league, there are few football divisions in Europe with more attractive and attacking football than Holland.The continuing international economic crisis has left its trace on the two professional Dutch football leagues as well. The last few years two clubs have disappeared completely from professional football (Haarlem and RBC Roosendaal) and only five teams out of the current 36 professional clubs are financially perfectly healthy (Go Ahead Eagles (Deventer), MVV Maastricht, Telstar (Velsen), FC Twente (Enschede) and FC Volendam. No fewer than thirteen teams are managing their expenditure books so poorly that the Dutch FA, the KNVB, has put them in the lowest category possible, labelled ‘Unsatisfactory’. Factually these clubs have been put under legal restraint and they are having to account for all expenses. It appears however that the worst is already over, because many clubs have decided to cut their coats according to the cloth and have trimmed their budgets.It seems the supporters haven’t lost faith in their heroes yet, because just like last year nearly 300,000 loyal followers have bought a season ticket for their favourite club in the Eredivisie, the premier division in the Dutch football league. Ajax (40,500), PSV (28,500) and Feyenoord (28,000) have the biggest stadiums and therefore draw the largest crowds. If you wish to go and watch a match in Holland, it will prove a lot easier to get tickets for a game in the First Division. These seldom get sold out and some of the stadiums have nostalgia written all over them, like e.g. SC Veendam’s De Lange Leegte and Telstar’s sports park Schoonenberg, which is called the Tata Steel Stadium these days. If you’re looking for atmosphere, games of the provincial clubs NAC (Breda), FC Utrecht and ADO Den Haag are a good choice, because these clubs create a party atmosphere at every home game.These days there is no longer any need to fear the presence of hooligans. As many stadiums are modern facilities now and security (in the shape of cameras and gates) has been improved, incidents are now very rare at the football temples. 

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