Good luck to Holland, you have reached the final! Good luck to the low, flat country of windmills, tulips, blue and white china, clogs, good Dutch cheese and Dutch butter. Dutch cuisine is rather fattening. The Dutch love their butter so much they spread it on cake, and they cover their chips with a healthy dollop of mayonnaise. Don’t forget the wonderful Dutch chocolate. Eating raw herring with onion doesn’t cancel out the calories from all that dairy produce, but it is awfully tasty. There is also all that beautiful Dutch art, including Rembrandt and Van Gogh.
The Dutch now love the English, although they have fought us in the past. At Waterloo in 1815, they fought at the side of the Duke of Wellington, led by the Prince of Orange, and one of my Dutch ancestors was there. At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the Netherlands declared its neutrality. However, on 10 May 1940, Nazi Germany launched an attack on the Netherlands and Belgium and quickly overran most of the country. My mother’s family joined the Dutch resistance. They were so hungry, they sometimes ate tulip bulbs, and pictures of the time show my mother with a massive bow in her hair, a huge smile and an absolutely skeletal figure.
On 17 September a daring operation, Operation Market Garden, was executed with the goal of capturing bridges across three major rivers in the southern Netherlands. Despite desperate fighting by American, British and Polish forces, the bridge at Arnhem, across the Neder Rijn, could not be captured. However, areas south of the Neder Rijn were liberated in the period September–November 1944, including the province of Zeeland, which was liberated in the Battle of the Scheldt. The rest of the country, along with a major part of the population, remained occupied until the spring of 1945. The winter 1944–1945 was very harsh, and many Dutch starved, giving the winter the name Hongerwinter (Hunger winter). On 5 May 1945, a beaten Nazi Germany finally capitulated, and surrendered to the Allied forces. After the war, Artur Seyss-Inquart, the Nazi Commissioner of the Netherlands, was tried at Nuremberg. Operation Market Garden has been immortalised in the film “A Bridge Too Far.”
Since Holland is surrounded on all sides, the Dutch have frequently been occupied and know how to survive and endure. They are open, friendly people, extremely polite and liberal, streetwise, with a strong streak of stubborness and determination. These characteristics are apparent when they play football. Van Bommell was in the thick of the action, winding up the opposition when Holland played Brazil, but when confronted, he handled the aggression calmly, and his only reaction was a bland smile. Typical Dutch tactics under attack. They know how to wait patiently for their moment, even if it takes years.
Good luck Holland! Your patience and persistance in the tournament has put other flashier nations to shame, including the English. As ever, and for always, I am rooting for you.