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  • The Final, Take 3

    Posted on July 10th, 2010 Michiel de Boer 1 comment

    We’ve made it to the final, again. “We” as in eleven (and some) guys from my home country playing football, and “the final’ referring to the very last 2010 World Cup match determining which team will be crowned the Champion of the World for the next four years.

    July 11 it is: The day of reckoning.

    This is a big deal for us. “Us” as in 16 million (or so) Dutch people. Cramped together in a tiny little country by the North Sea, plus a few spread out across the globe, like myself. Why? Because we don’t get to play many World Cup finals. And if we do, we lose them. All two of them so far.

    So, on the eve of final vindication (or dreary degradation, who knows?) my thoughts are back at the lost finals of 1974 and 1978.

    Take 1

    To be honest, I do not have any personal recollection of the first and most traumatic of the two finals, played in and against the World Cup host Germany. It’s my mom’s vivid story telling that always made me feel I was right there when disaster struck.

    Which was actually in France. Where we spent many of our summer vacations camping on a stretch of farmland, right next to the river Dordogne in the beautiful Corrèze province. In 1974 I was five, and my sister three years old, so both of us must have been totally oblivious to the impressive display of “total football” by the new Dutch Masters, lead by our very own JC initialed savior Johan Cruyff.

    The Dutch team at the 1974 World Cup final

    On the day of the final in München, my dad together with some fellow countrymen/campers left for Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, the nearest village that had a bar and a TV screen. Meanwhile, the rest of us stayed behind in anticipation of a glorious return. The owner of the bar had honored the men with special front row seats, as it was their final. Things started off, as anticipated, with a convincing display of “Clockwork Orange”. Before a single German player had even touched the ball, the Dutch had already taken the lead.

    In the end, none of that mattered though. Hours past the final whistle blow my dad came stumbling back to our tent, seriously intoxicated and disillusioned. On the pitch, in the bar, and all around back home a generation of grown-up, strong, longhaired men had been left weeping.

    My mom did not have to wait that long for the bad news, as a German vacationer had already returned to the campground much earlier, and in much better spirits too. With that typical sense of German superiority he had answered her inquiry into the result simply with: “Wer hat gewonnen? Aber wir natürlich.”

    Take 2

    Four years later, our next final took place in Buenos Aires. Again, we were facing the World Cup host, Argentina this time. And I do remember things well.

    We were at home in Amsterdam, huddled around a small black and white TV set that had made it down to the living room for this special occasion. The images are classic: A packed River Plate stadium, paper snippets raining down on the field, a gruesome battle between two very physical teams, and when all was said and done, a yet again empty-handed Orange team.

    I do not recall my dad in disarray though. Maybe it was because of all the controversy associated with the tournament. Argentina was run by a military junta at the time, because of which Johan Cruyff allegedly had refused to participate. The ruthless dictators had, also allegedly, paid Peru to lose 6-0 in order to reach the final. Or maybe we had just gotten used to losing ourselves. Who knows?

    Take 3

    Anyway, in the 32 years since the second lost final, several talented Dutch squads have made fruitless attempts at recapturing the magic of the 1970s. Stirring up endless domestic debates about beautiful versus effective playing styles. And leading to the equally flattering as dubious international reputation of “the best team in the world never to win a World Cup.” Ok, we did pick up a European Championship in 1988 but in the bigger scheme of things that’s just not the same thing.

    And my dad? I haven’t asked him yet, but I’m sure he’s not overly impressed with the team going for take 3 tomorrow. Even Johan Cruyff, a long-time Barcelona resident, is said to be rooting for the more offensive style of the Spanish.

    So win or loss, it doesn’t matter. The trauma of 1974 can and will not be treated in, of all places, Johannesburg. Oh, the irony.

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    • http://twitter.com/slate71 Lukas Andersen

      Hey, that was interesting.

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