REIMS, France– The Dutch swaggered through the streets as if they owned the town, a tidal bore of orange hats and orange t-shirts and orange banners and orange everything. Having inhabited the center of Reims prior to the Netherlands played Canada on Thursday at the Women’s World Cup, they were now marching towards Auguste-Delaune stadium, ready to acquire that, too.
But in the middle of their joyous procession they all of a sudden found themselves in the face of the enemy, such as it was: a small quiet clump of Canadians huddled together with their little Maple Leaf flags and (in one case) a Toronto Raptors basketball jersey.
One could sense what was following– nationalistic posturing, some effort to reduce the Canadians to small heaps of North American shame– till it became clear that was not taking place at all. The Canadians merged the Dutch crowd, and they all marched to the game together.
” We were at the FIFA welcome center, and it was tough to find Canadian fans, so we decided to tag along,” discussed among the Canadians, David Routledge.
” They’re so kind and welcoming,” his wife, Shirley, stated. “We like them.”
It is getting increasingly tough to discover anybody eager to play the Netherlands at this World Cup, where the Dutch won all three of their group video games and all of a sudden seem a formidable title opposition. But everybody likes the Dutch fans, even the countries that lose to them (as Canada’s group would last week, 2-1, though both groups advanced to the knockout rounds).
Together With the Americans, the Dutch have proved to be the greatest, noisiest, most exciting and most excited crowd at a World Cup competition that has actually drawn unequal numbers from city to city across France.
There were thousands of them in Reims, making up most of the near-capacity crowd of 19,277 at the Stade Auguste-Delaune. One of them was Nadine Vaillant, a personal trainer worn orange from her head to her nail polish.
Her luggage (likewise orange) had actually been stolen from her car after she arrived in France, however it had actually not quenched her mood. She had actually been depending on the compassion of strangers-who-were-not-really-strangers-because-we-are-all-Dutch to supply her with emergency situation cash and emergency orange clothing.
” It doesn’t matter what club you support back home, you’re from Holland,” she stated.
In many ways, the story of females’s soccer is the story of trying to get individuals to see it. In the Netherlands, interest in the ladies’s matches was anemic till two years ago. But in 2017, the team all of a sudden won the UEFA females’s champion– a competition for which it had seldom qualified formerly– by beating Denmark, 4-2, in an explosive last on house soil.
” Suddenly, it took off,” said Lena de Jong, 27, an agriculture-policy lobbyist. Suddenly, too, not just females were interested in viewing other women play.
” At first the guys were like, ‘Ugh– ladies’s football,'” she said, “however then they switched.”
Indeed, for a sport that has a track record for being intriguing disproportionately to females, the variety of guys– and couples, and households– in the Dutch crowd at Reims was striking.
Part of that might be a nationwide sense of egalitarianism. Amongst the louder participants in the march was a brass band comprised of men with huge instruments, another traditional aspect of the Dutch pregame ritual. They declared themselves equal-opportunity soccer fans.
” We are proud of both men’s and females’s football,” one artist stated. “We are Dutch individuals, and we are all fans. We are gender neutral.”
(” I’m not,” stated one of his colleagues. But it was clear what he indicated, and what he did not indicate.)
Along came Hermen Bouma, 47, a dairy farmer checking out Reims with his bro, an I.T. supervisor, and their preteen children.
” The kids are expected to be in school today, however all of us have orange fever,” Bouma stated.
He stated he took pleasure in going to females’s matches in part due to the fact that there are a lot of females there, and who would not wish to remain in a crowd filled with women? As for the actual playing, he said: “The women are grumbling less. They’re not lying around on the field. And they’re going to attack. They’re not scared to lose.”
Ghitta Jansen, a hybrid Canadian-Dutch fan in the crowd– born in Holland, now residing in Canada, in Reims for the match– had her own views about high-paid male soccer gamers.
” They are primadonnas, rolling around like the world’s pertaining to an end,” she stated. ‘” You kicked my foot and now you harm my ego,'” she continued. “Get up and do your task.”
In guys’s soccer, the joy of the fans from one country is typically inversely associated to the unhappiness of the fans from the opposing group. Partying can segue into violence and ugliness. Things get broken. Individuals get battered.
But it was impossible not to be caught up in the benign giddiness of the Dutch as they danced and swayed and shouted and sang and conga-lined their method behind the orange double-decker bus that has functioned as the nation’s rolling mascot for the last two years– first for just the men’s matches, and now for the ladies’s, too. When their cherished group beat Canada, the band even struck up a performance of “O Canada” to salute the vanquished.
If they liked Reims, so Reims liked them back. Residents lined the streets and waved from windows, taking out their phones to record the scene for posterity, or at least for social media.
” They understand how to party, they’re energetic, they’re easy to spot, and there are so many of them,” said Cyrielle Robion, 19, a Reims local and a tournament volunteer. “It’s a truly charming environment.”
The crowd rose forward, just to absorb a few more Canadians, including Dan Dicke of Toronto, who was still on a Canadian high after the Raptors’ win in the N.B.A. Finals previously this month. He, too, had actually been swept up by pleasure in the Dutch.
” We do not feel daunted by them, because they’re teddy bears,” he stated.
More protection from the Women’s World Cup
An earlier version of this short article misspelled the name of the stadium in Reims. It is Auguste-Delaune, not August-Delaune.
Sarah Lyall is a writer at big, working for a variety of desks including Sports, Culture, Media and International. Formerly she was a reporter in the London bureau, and a press reporter for the Culture and City Desks. @ sarahlyall