Every Dutch child, especially when it is a boy, is raised learning that the most important
events in life matches are the football matches against our eastern neighbours, the Germans. For 90 minutes and a bit more, nothing else matters. The rivalry is intense. Historically, the tension has been building, with the Germans winning the European title in 1972, 1980, and 1996, and the World title in 1954, 1974, and 1990. This may already be a source of envy, given that Holland is the only team to have been in 3 World Cup finals but has never won. The German victory in 1974 was especially bitter. We had impressed the world with our Total Football, which still inspires teams like FC Barcelona with their tiki-taka playing style, had star players like Van Hanegem, Cruijff, and Neeskens – but it wasn’t enough.
The year 1988 brought some revenge. A few months before I was born, we recorded the only tournament victory to date. Holland became the European champion in, yes, (West-) Germany. Beating the Germans 1-2 in the semifinal, and triumphing in their country eased Dutch minds and honour a bit. Although I was somewhere in the process of being brought to this world, I seem to remember it as if I were there. Personally, I feel that photos like the one below should be part of the Integration/Naturalisation Exams – they are part of our identity.
Or how about the Rijkaard-Völler scuffles?
But ever since 1988, the Germans seem to have had the upper hand. To date, it has been 10 years since we last beat them: on 20 November 2002, the final score in Gelsenkirchen was 1-3. And all these years, I somehow never managed to attend a clash between them and us. This year, no less than 3 encounters were planned. The first two resulted in bitter deceptions. In Hamburg, the score was a humiliating 3-0. We told ourselves that this was tactical; we let them win, so we could take them by surprise during the European Cup. However, in London, but surrounded by German student friends, I watched us suffer another, even more painful defeat: 1-2.
But yesterday, they had to come to Amsterdam. For a “friendly” – yeah right, as if they exist! Van Gaal, coach of the Netherlands, had started the skirmishes indicating that Joachim Löw, coach of the German team, was a decent coach but not a superb one, since he has not won many prices. Löw responded subtly, by pointing out that coaches have to qualify first before they can win a title, something Van Gaal failed to do in his first term as coach of the Netherlands. Well, I was ready. I had prepared myself for everything. I met up with my brother in the Amsterdam ArenA, trembling with adrenaline. Today was
D- the day.
Well, it wasn’t. I paid 25 euros for a ticket, and that was about 25 euros too much. It was one of the most boring matches I ever saw. Robben got a good chance in the 30th minute, almost for an open goal, but he shot the ball against his standing leg (something the media missed, since they credited German defender Höwedes for clearing the ball away, but which was not the case, as was clearly visible from our spot in the stadium).
The most exciting moment of the match was perhaps when German attacker Marco Reus hit the post, which from the point of view of the German fans must have seemed like he scored. The one thousand German fans started cheering, but within 5 seconds the 49 thousand other fans were laughing at them.
The players did not seem to be very interested in entertaining the crowd. The most despicable person of the evening was Germany coach Löw. He subbed his players, one by one, in the 72nd, 82nd, 84th, 87th, and 91st minute, taking whatever pace was still left in the game out of it. What kind of coach subs a player 30 seconds before the end of the game in a friendly? How Löw can you go?!
The match ended how it started: 0-0. I hope I will not have to wait long for the next encounter. And when it comes, I’ll be ready!
Update 20 November 2012: Someone agrees.