Phew! Yesterday I started work ultra early, and at 15:00 joined the city-wide traffic jam that was the throng of Dutch streaming out of their workplaces to go and watch the Dutch v Brazil Football match that would be taking place in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Kick-off was at 16:00 and initially we held our breath as the usually brilliant Dutch defense showed cracks. The Dutch are missing Joris Mathijsen in the defensive line, the Dutch media reporting that he injured his knee in the warm-up minutes before the start of the game… it’s serious enough that he had to miss this match.
Brazil scored first and on a hot,windless afternoon with all the windows to our balconies open, the collective gasp of dismay was audible throughout the neighbourhood.
Then Brazil try and defend a Dutch attack and the ball deflects off one of their own and into the net… an own goal!!!
Ok, so we didn’t exactly score it, but with it the scoreboard is now level again.
The reaction in the Netherlands to this is a little strange, events happened so fast that we didn’t realise for several seconds that a goal had even been made… apparently we aren’t the only ones, because a half cheer goes out and then stops as people wait to see if it was all for real or not.
Then the action replay shows the events, it become clear that the goal has been given and the neighbourhood erupts in cheering… the kids are on the street with their vuvuzela’s and the Dutch are back in the match.
Half-time comes and goes and then it’s Game On for both sides and a clear signal that someone has to move into a higher gear to achieve a win here. The Dutch Players tell us after the match that they decided as a team at half time… “now we put in everything…”
The breakthrough moment comes when sixty-eight minutes into the ninety minute game, Sneijder grabs a goal for the Dutch, and this time with a clear goal from one of our own players the reaction in the neighbourhood is instant… cheers, shouts, whistles, vuvuzela’s.
Now we are REALLY on the edge of our seats… counting the minutes until the end of the game,.. desperately wishing for another Dutch goal “just to make sure” , happy when we have possession of the ball and it’s close to the Brazilian goal and holding our breath, whitening our knuckles and getting nervous when the Brazilians take the ball too close to the Dutch goal.
The Brazilians are getting desperate, the Dutch are holding fast… our little Nation in Europe is willing them on, not to relax for a moment because it’s never over until the final whistle blows: goals have appeared in the last seconds of a match upsetting the applecart many times before now.
The final whistle blows with the score 2-1 to the Dutch… Brazil stand in total shock, their Fans sit stunned, whilst the Dutch fans are celebrating hysterically in Port Elizabeth.
The Dutch players have shaken the hands of the Brazilians and given out some hugs of condolence, but then go on to do a victory lap to acknowledge the fans and celebrate.
Here in my neighbourhood, large booming fireworks are going off… it’s still very much daylight, but who cares?… noise, LOTS of it… the vuvuzela’s are now out in force, the big BBQ party in a house down the street , spills out onto the footpath and celebrate the length of the street and back before returning to their party… cars start driving along a larger street several streets away and all we can hear is toot, toot, tooting of car horns as the occupants celebrate too. Cheering and singing can be heard…
Suddenly my five year old son goes close to our balcony ( it has insect screen across it ‘cos Little Miss daughter and I are allergic to mosquitoes) so he can’t get out on it proper…and yells loudly in his little five year old voice “ Yeah Nederland!” … actually he really said it the dutch way: ” yea aaah Nay -der -lond“.
He stops to catch his breath, in this pause there suddenly comes a reply from a house somewhere close by… ” Weee are the chhhamp-i-ions !…” it’s clearly the voice of an adult man, but some distance away… Mr Five recovers his startled look and gleefully cheers back “”yea aaah Nay -der -lond“. Again the reply is returned… next time, I add my voice to Little Mr’s chant and the returning reply includes an extra male adult voice too.
Then my friend who’s cooking dinner for us tonight joins both of us in our chant, and we hear laughter echoing back to us in the very still early evening air and more voices join from the other side.
Much to Little Mr’s complete and utter delight, this goes on for several minutes before all the adults taking part start laughing to much to continue. After a pause we hear a distant “dooi” (pronounced “do we”) which is informal Dutch for “Goodbye”. We return the greeting.
So World Cup Football is brilliant, not just for getting a nation to stand or sit restlessly and nervously on the edge of our seats waiting to find out if we go forwards in the competition, to get closer to World Cup victory or back home in defeat, but also in letting complete strangers celebrate in a short , funny, impromptu, uplifting ways together.
For now we can breathe a collective sigh of relief… our team goes on, Brazil’s go home, and we get to repeat this stress all over again next Tuesday!