Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Netherlands - Voetbal, Vermeer and Trockener Kecks

Since I started learning about the Netherlands, there has been a lot in the news, blogo- and twittispheres about next year's World Cup in South Africa.

I must admit, I'm not a big fan of football or voetbal, as the Dutch call it. However, the Netherlands is the first country on my learning journey, where football has come to the forefront and I feel the need to give it due respect.

One of the most famous footballers and, later, managers to come from the Netherlands is Guus Hiddink. I'd never heard of him before this, but the more I read about him, the more I find his story fascinating and he certainly seems to have had many ups and downs in his career.

He played for De Graafschap (a team from Hiddink's home province, Gelderland - nicknamed the Superboeren or 'Super Farmers')  for many years before moving, like a lot of 70's players, to the US and then returning to De Graafschap for the last two years of his career as a player. He then went on to manage a lot of national teams, including the Dutch national team, in the 90's, but I'm guessing his legacy will be getting the South Korean national team to the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup in 2002, hosted by South Korea and Japan.

He's become somewhat of a national hero in South Korea and is the first foreigner ever to be given honorary South Korean citizenship, not to mention a lifetime of free flights with Korean Air and a holiday villa on the popular South Korean holiday destination, Jeju-Do (Jeju Island). 

After South Korea, he went on to manage the Australian national team and was very popular there, being nicknamed 'Aussie Guus'. He currently manages Russia but, as the Russian team were knocked out of the World Cup qualifiers by (rather embarrassingly) tiny Slovenia, I imagine he's in for another career change sometime soon.

Something I like about Guus is the fact that he put his foot down on racist banners in the stadium, when he was managing Spanish team Valencia. He's from a little village called Varsseveld, which is in the province of Gelderland, on the border with Germany. You can visit the Guus Hiddink museum there, if you're in the neighbourhood.

Apart from voetbal, I've also been reminding myself about some of the great painters that came from the Netherlands. Probably my favourite is Vermeer, who spent his life in Delft and seemed to capture the eeriness of the Dutch interior, the stale, damp light of a life spent indoors, as evidenced by some of his most famous paintings including The Milk Maid and Girl with the Pearl Earring. I've read the book, of course, and seen the movie, starring Scarlett Johansson.

I've been listening to lots of Dutch music over the past few weeks and I'm posting a link on YouTube to one of the songs that I really like, Ik denk nooit meer an Jou (I don't think about you any more) by a band called Trockener Kecks.  I really love this song, by saying I don't think about you anymore, he's kind of admitting that he does think about her/him all the time. I'm not sure whether the repeated refrain 'noit meer, noit meer, noit meer' sounds in Dutch like the word 'nightmare', as it does in English?  The nightmare of losing someone you really love - poignant.

It's also a beautiful montage of photos of Scarlett Johansson, which I thought was quite apt. Happy listening!

Image credits

The image of Guus Hiddink was provided copyright free by (not surprisingly, a Korean website) through their flickr profile. 

The image of Vermeer's The Milkmaid is in the public domain and is taken from Wikimedia Commons.
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