(Updated 14 June 2012)
Catarina, that is. She of An International Trade Representative’s Got Nothing on Her and Head of Delegation Written All Over Her fame.
My cute little nine-year-old neighbor has already been to the house two times in the past week.
Euro 2012 is underway, and you know what that means: voetbal kaartjes of the Dutch national team players are being given away with grocery purchases at my beloved Albert Heijn.
That Catarina has only had to stop by twice is either a sign that she’s learning to exercise greater patience, I’ve cracked the code on dropping off into her brievenbus (letterbox) whatever kaartjes I’ve scored the very minute I return from shopping, or a combination of the two.
I am well trained, if nothing else. Her leadership and management skills remain impeccable; her ability to rally the troops to ensure she meets, nay, exceeds her goals is laudable.
Not that it’s been easy, mind you. Each shopping trip means walking the gauntlet of children milling around the store entrance, faces drawn with tension, ready to spring out and ask if you’ve got any kaartjes to give away.
Just yesterday I was serenaded on my way out of the store by a group singing ‘Heeft u voetbal kaatjes voor mij‘ to their own made-up tune.
I always smile and say ‘sorry, geen kaartjes‘. I know better than to not meet my established quota, or there will be
hell to pay Catarina to answer to.
Euro 2012 is huge.
Big in a way that only countries that revere voetbal can understand.
Okay, that would be the majority of countries in the world, but you get my point.
Here in Europe, the European championship tournament played every four years is second only to the World Cup in importance. National teams compete over a two year period to qualify for one of the sixteen available spots.
Exactly how big is Euro 2012? Well, Euro 2008 averaged 1.1 million people watching matches in stadiums, some 4 million watching on outdoor big screens, and 150 million following along on live television for each match.
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) online magazine, if you include qualifying matches, cumulative viewers will be some 4.3 billion (that’s with a ‘b’) people, with a global live television audience of 1.1 billion viewers and broadcasts in 220 countries.
It seems that there are differing views as to the total number of countries in the world, depending on how you define ‘country’ (ranging from around 200 all the way up to 250). Regardless, I think it’s safe to say that the world is watching.
All year long the faithful follow their favorite voetbal players as they compete for their clubs in league matches. Those lucky enough to follow clubs that qualify for Champions or Europa League competition get to see their players go up against the best of the best clubs.
But for the European Championship (plus the World Cup & Olympics), it’s national team pitted against national team. Country against country, with national pride on the line.
Here in the Netherlands, everyone – and I mean everyone, from the national players all the way down to the 4 year old recreational beginners just learning to play the sport - plays for the Koninklijke Nederlandse Voetbal Bond (Dutch National Football Association). Daughter’s years on her Dutch club team has meant registration with the storied KNVB.
Are the Dutch serious voetbal fans?
Is the sky blue?
Orange fever is rampant, and the Oranje Leeuw (Orange Lion) has its back against the wall.
The much heralded Dutch national team, chockful of talent in Wesley Sneijder, Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben, Rafael Van der Vaart, Dirk Kuyt and captain Mark Van Bommel, suffered a surprise upset by Denmark last Saturda, losing 0-1. Despite bombarding the Danish goal with 28 shots, not one found the back of the net.
Tonight’s group match opponent? The dreaded Germany, another voetbal powerhouse and the Netherlands’ bitter rival.
This is going to be a grudge match like no other. The Dutch are desperate for a win if they are to have any chance to join Germany as the two teams that move on from the B group (aka ‘Group of Death’) in Euro competition.
Given the history between these two countries, rest assured that the rivalry goes well beyond a seemingly benign athletic competition.
Even a draw may not be enough. It’s do or die for the Dutch.*
You know where I’ll be
tonight Sunday, cheering on the Oranje and hoping for a victory. If it doesn’t go well, there will be a country in mourning and one very unhappy distraught little girl down the street.
*Desperation time, folks. After last night’s 2-1 loss to Germany, we’re moving to Plan C: Germany beats Denmark, Dutchies beat Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and company by enough goals to break out of Group B. Easy peasy…