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Dutch Fan Walk

Joe Oppio/Twenty Ten

Location: Cape Town, South Africa

The Dutch fans walk to Green Point Stadium.

Associated Features: Denmark vs. Holland(Photo Feature)

A sea of Orange stopped traffic in Cape Town as Dutch fans marched through this coastal city to the Green Point stadium to cheer on their team against Cameroon last Thursday.

Yet, if any of the awestruck Cape Town natives observing the procession were taking notes, then Dutch-style fan walks should surely become part and parcel of the African game within no time.

The Dutch do fan walks with quite a flourish. Just ask Swiss fans who watched the Oranje army march for four hours to Berne during the last European Championships. As a debutante, I was both amused and thrilled to partake in this most Dutch of Dutch traditions.

I suspect the grin I wore through it all might have marked me out as a first-timer had the slightly tipsy pilgrims around me cared to notice. It all started from the official FIFA Fest in Cape Town where exuberant fans had been watching Italy get frog-marched back to Rome by Slovakia. The timing of the entire affair was orchestra-perfect. First a trickle of fans started walking away and soon thereafter, it became a human tide of blinding orange.

Dutch songs, the import of which I was clueless about, were sung at lung-bursting decibels; a strategic drummer added rhythm to the whole madness and as the Dutch made the Great Trek towards the stadium, Cape Town came to a standstill.

Cars honked, residents cheered as the fans weaved nonchalantly through traffic, dancing and marching onwards as one huge swirling mass.

From gleeful infants way past their bedtime, to youths, both male and female, to senior citizens with the wizened look of having seen it all before, the Oranje foot-soldiers rumbled through Cape Town in a happy-go-lucky stride that mesmerized onlookers.

En route to the stadium, fans made quick dashes into bars to ensure a steady flow of beer-drinking. After all, a 4km trek can be quite thirst-inducing. Bar-owners fortunate enough to own establishments in the path of the marauding fans must have been one smiling bunch.

Along the way, other orange-clad figures kept joining the throng, and by the time we made it to Green Point, Cape Town had been converted into a mini-Amsterdam of sorts; orange as far as the eye could see.

As one of the few African fans in the gathering who hadn’t had the prudence to slip on something orange, I was, time and again, accosted by Dutch fans curious about my loyalties. The inquisitions were all playful and cheerful, though, as most naturally thought I was a Cameroonian lost in the wrong crowd.

For the Dutch fans marching to the stadium, the game against the Indomitable Lions was scheduled to be a 90-minute victory parade with few worries in mind and nail-biting kept to a minimum.

Once in the stadium, I fully realized that Dutch romance with the colour orange is sizzling hot! The colour was visible to the point of being pervasive. Orange balloons, orange wigs, orange ticker-tape and even, incredibly, orange vuvuzelas.

Ironically, the only Dutchmen not decked out in orange were Bert van Marwijk’s troops who chose a white-shirt-blue-short combination for the evening.

The cheers that greeted each Dutch player as the team-sheet was read out signalled how adored these footballers must be. And no one in the Dutch set-up must feel the adoration more than Arjen Robben, whose introduction late in the second half inspired the loudest cheer and a winning end to the match.

Long before Robben’s intervention, however, the Dutch had been in fine voice. Every pass was greeted with ooohs and aaahs…the fans bursting into chants at the slightest provocation.

That the match went according to plan ensured the long march back was just as triumphant as the corresponding trek to the stadium. For a first-time trekker, it was an eye-opening adventure in how true football fans turn match days into uniquely memorable experiences.

The Dutch have given the footballing world a number of novel concepts, Total Football being the most notable. But if their fan walks and orange-laced passion could be embraced in South Africa as devotedly as Rinus Michels’ football philosophy, football-mad Africa would be all the richer for it.

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