Football or football?
At work (in the Netherlands) we have some colleagues working in the US and occasionally they come over to our office. Then there is the usual banter about sports games and results, especially during our football pool game for the World Cup 2014, when some of them even had hopes of winning it what would be a ‘European’ disgrace but our Turkish colleague won it. There is even more banter about the fact that they tried to steal the name of ‘our game’. Luckily they did not succeed as there is just one continent where they think that their football is the original. However the rest of the world is not crazy, adding the word ‘American’ to make the distinction. ‘Soccer’ is a nice try but there is only one football.
Most of my colleagues are from Chicago. My close colleague Jeff was over this week and he always mentioned he wanted to see some ‘real’ football. No better opportunity than take him to the friendly game Netherlands-United States. He was not aware of the game so I surprised him with a ticket.
When I talk about sports with Jeff he has some kind of default list of interest topics, starting with the Bears followed by the Bulls continuing with the Blackhawks and finishing with the Cubs. As we are no longer in our twenties, one of his best friends used to attend all matches of Chicago Sting and knows everything about them and even talks about Arno Steffenhagen, Willem van Hanegem and Dick Advocaat. But Fire… he heard about it but he is not into them.
In our pre match analysis I ask him for his favourite player of the US national team but he does not know one name. When he asks me about the game, then of course I need to give my opinion. As a European we are of course football intellectuals and I start with my analysis that this is not an important game as the away game against Latvia is what really matters, that Netherlands will not give it all, that in the first 60 minutes we will play ball, score a few goals and then sit back, that US as an aggressive, athletic team might pull one back towards the end and if they are lucky they might even get a draw, bla, bla. A bit of the usual bluffing and bragging. He just listens…
While enjoying a beer outside the stadium we notice quite a few American supporters, mostly youngsters probably exchange students. We enter the ground and enjoy the atmosphere as there is quite a decent crowd in the Amsterdam Arena. During the national anthem lots of USA fans in our section are standing proudly, raising their voice.
The game is going as expected and after almost half an hour Netherlands take the lead. They already had quite a few chances but couldn’t score. USA is playing pretty well and also have some chances and equalise 5 minutes later. Jeff does not know if he can cheer in our section but there is a lot of joy behind us as the USA fans go wild.
No more goals till half time and after the break the Netherlands scores twice in 4 minutes so the game is sealed. Business as usual, job done so save the energy for Latvia. Sometimes I explain things to Jeff as he is not familiar with our game. Our neighbour looks a bit puzzled at us and I explain him that Jeff is from the USA, does not understand the game really well and that I have to explain things to him. We could have scored more and should have been 3 or 4 up.
USA brings on a few substitutes and there game improves. And when they score in the 70th minute I am happy for Jeff that they do not get a serious beating. They even smell blood as they put on the pressure and they get some chances. However it is not funny anymore when they equalise again just before the end. It is okay if they do not lose 5-0 but a draw is a bit too much for me and the rest of the home crowd as they get irritated. And it gets really frustrating when they score the winner in the extra time. The USA-fans behind us go crazy and are having a really good time. With a German coach they even win like the Germans in the last minute; what a bummer. So the home crowd is disappointed especially as we cannot manage to pull a goal back.
Eventually we lose 3-4 and I am very disappointed but there is nothing else I can do than congratulate Jeff. As we shake hands he just looks at me and says, “So Frans, in this football of yours, is it also so that the team who scores the most goals wins the match?” Aye… Touchdown.
More about the match on www.FootballFans.eu (All your match and stadium visits)