Dutch Orange craze reaches fever pitch

THE HAGUE: As Orange fever rises with every goal scored in the Dutch team’s Euro 2008 campaign, lawyers, housewives and school kids become crazed wig-wearing fans adorning their homes, bikes and even their pets in the national colour.

Normally sedate suburban streets have been transformed into massive canvasses for row upon row of tiny, orange, fluttering flags. Window sills sport orange flowers – real and fake, and figurines with wild orange hair ahead of today’s quarter-final against Russia.

Many a home and office window displays a banner with the words: “Hup (Go) Holland!”, and at least one fan has gone to the extent of draping his whole house in orange, according to a newspaper photograph.

Cars, bicycles and pet dogs are used to display the Dutch sense of football patriotism with flags, banners, miniature balls and unwitting four-legged fans dressed up in human-sized orange t-shirts.

And then there are the hats.

Hats in the form of road traffic cones. Hats in the form of huge cheese wedges. Tall hats that come with drum sticks and can be used as musical instruments.

“It is a small country, with not so much to be proud of,” postulates Ruud Stokvis, sport psychologist at the Mulier Institute in the southern city of Hertogenbosch.

“This is something that attracts the attention of the rest of the world. People are showing their Dutchness.”

While the Dutch are well-known for the intensity of their support, Stokvis says it is the numbers that are more astounding.

“In Holland, we have more people interested in football, more soccer players in relation to our population than probably any other country in Europe.”

Retailers are certainly not complaining.

The Dutch are spending millions of euros of their hard-earned cash on such non-essentials as face-paint and hooters.

Among the most popular is a t-shirt with the face of a benign-looking lion on the front, until a special flap is lifted to transform it into a roaring wild animal complete with threatening, sharp fangs.

One supermarket chain is presenting its customers with a small plastic toy lion with brush-able hair with every purchase over 15 euros. The lion is Holland’s national symbol.

An optometry chain has reported a surge in demand for orange-framed glasses – both play and prescription.

And a lingerie store is advertising its wares with a model in orange underclothes smiling suggestively into an orange telephone: “Hello Marco ... Yes of course I wanna play.”

Even a warning by the national Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority about flammable wigs and boas seems not to have dented their popularity.

As the Dutch 11 prepare for the quarter-final today, supporter mania is reaching fever pitch.

Last week, tens of thousands of Dutch fans descended on the Swiss town of Bern for their team’s 4-1 thumping of France, despite many of them not having a ticket.

“It’s a once-in-a lifetime experience,” said Dutch fan Nick Withag, one of the ticket-less.

As churches open their doors to the football faithful, showing matches on big screens, and additional outdoor viewing areas are set aside around the country, the Dutch hospitality industry has warned that staff who call in sick can expect a check-up visit at home.

The number of sick days taken during such tournaments can shoot up by 15 to 20%, the director of the hospitality industry employer body Horecarbo, Mark Idzinga said in a recent statement.

”If the employee knows he can expect a visit, he would be more likely to take a paracetamol after a fun football evening than to pick up the phone to call in sick.” – AFP

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