Ajax, Feyenoord, Cruyff and van Basten are just some of the names in the pantheon of Dutch football, which has produced a unique phenomenon – the Orange Machine.
Think of major football tournaments and one of the enduring images is that of happy legions of Dutch fans dressing entire sections of stadiums and cities in orange.
The contribution made by Dutch football and its loyal fans has become such a part of the international scene that we sorely missed them at the European Championships in 2016, when the Dutch national team didn’t qualify for the first time in 14 years.
Gone were the tens of thousands of beer-guzzling but happy fans that turn every match into a riotous carnival. Gone was also the attractive, attacking style of football for which the orange team has become famous around the world, but where does this ability of the Dutch to punch way above their weight come from?
We think back to the likes of van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard in the eighties and nineties, and back to the legendary Johan Cruyff, who burst onto the global scene in the late sixties, yet the roots of Dutch football excellence lie in a rivalry that remains as intense today as it was more than 60 years ago.
Spain has the inimitable clasico between Real and Barcelona, Scotland the Old Firm between Celtic and Rangers, Brazil Fla–Flu, Argentina Boca–River Plate and England the likes of Man Utd–Liverpool and Arsenal–Spurs, while in Italy the matches between Milan, Inter and Juventus are classics too.
In Holland the ‘Klassieker’ also embodies a match that not only pitches the flowing style of Ajax against the heart and brawn of Feyenoord, but also represents the battle between two different cultures.
Without wanting to generalise too much, you could say that Ajax represents the bourgeois trading tradition of Amsterdam while Feyenoord embodies the soul of Rotterdam as an industrial city and trading port. It is this clash of cultures that has produced one of the most intense rivalries in football…
Words Michel Cruz