Everybody Loves Holland

Holland are one of those teams that have plenty of fans from other countries. The main reason for this is their tradition of “sexy football”, a tradition which goes back to the great Ajax and national sides of the 1970s who scored goals like this:



I first came across them at EURO88. I remember collecting Panini stickers and being dazzled by the bright orange shirts. I was also intrigued by the fact that they had more black players than England. Of course there was Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard, but there were also lesser lights like Aaron Winter and the 2nd goalie Stanley Menzo. They destroyed England with a hat-trick the mighty Marco van Basten. Having grown up in England, I was totally ignorant of van Basten, Gullit, the Koemans and watching them was like a revolution.

And then there were the fans! A sea of bright orange was so eye-catching. It was love at first sight. The fact that they really, really seemed to hate the Germans also sat well (although more recently, Germany have turned into a multicultural, friendly, attacking team who everyone loves – until they win something!).



Since then, Holland have usually disappointed at major tournaments, though they were bloody good in France98, only going out to Brazil in the semis. Remember Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp!, Dennis Bergkamp!



One thing that the Oranje always bring is in-fighting between their players. This took an ugly turn in Euro96 where there were allegations of racial divisions between the players, but usually, their factionalism is pure comedy.

In truth, the Holland teams of recent years have been pretty dull to watch. In the 2010 World Cup finals, they did give us some cracking goals like this one against Uruguay



But in the final against Spain, they suddenly turned into a hideous cross between the 1980s Wimbledon and the Israeli Defence Force. Nigel de Jong’s textbook karate chop in Xabi Alonso’s chest captured their approach perfectly. I was glad Spain won, despite them being a bunch of racist MFs.



Adios Holland. I hope one day you’ll to the joyful, open free flowing style of old.

Racism in Football: Bilic Shames UEFA



Racism in Football: Slaven Bilic v UEFA

Croatia went out of EURO2012 last night. It wasn’t quite in a blaze of glory but they can hold their heads high. They gave Spain a decent run for their money. Some may say that losing to a team playing with no striker is nothing to brag about. But Spain could play 11 defenders and would probably still beat most teams in Europe.

We should give special praise to the outgoing Croatian national team coach Slaven Bilic. In the days prior to the Spain game, he came out and firmly condemned those Croatians who engage in racist abuse. Normally, players and managers choose to stay silent about racism unless it is done against them. But not Slaven. When asked about the alleged racist incidents involving Croatian fans, he went on the offensive:

“It (racism) is a big problem all around Europe and all around the world and on behalf of the entire nation, not even as a football manager, I want to say that I am really disappointed as a Croatian, a parent, and a sportsman, a person who comes from a modern, open-minded and tolerant state.

Everyone is welcome in our county. I don’t like these kinds of supporters and nor do my players. I don’t want them to come into the stadium.

“I live in Croatia and we really are a tolerant county. We are not a racist country and we are angry at these few crazy supporters. We have to put sanctions on these kind of supporters and stop them forever.” Source

Bilic deserves major props for this. His team was just about to play a crucial Euro2012 match. He could have opted to avoid rocking the boat and distracting his players. He could have just hid behind nationalism and claimed that the problem of racism is exaggerated. But he stayed true to his stated anti-racist principles and condemned his own “crazy” kinsfolk.

If only UEFA could show that they too were serious about racism. Instead, they have demonstrated their priorities by fining Nicklas Bendtner £80,000 for advertising a non-official sponsor after scoring against Portugal last week. This amount dwarfs the fines which they have dished out recently over racist abuse. The message seems clear, doesn’t disturb the corporate sponsors, so it’s not a big issue.

Slaven Bilic is now off to Locomotiv Moscow in Russia, ironically, a country which has serious problems with racism in society and thus in football.

Should be interesting!