06/06/2006

Blood on the goal posts

If the Netherlands are to win the World Cup, they will have to be kept on bread and water. After all, it was the Dutch who coined the expression "Football is war". By Leon de Winter.

Swept up in World Cup fever the Folio magazine of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung commissioned a whole string of authors to elucidate on their respective teams' chances of victory. Read Rodrigo Fresan on Argentina, Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro on Brazil, Andrew Anthony on England, Herve Le Teiller on France and Robert Gernhardt on Germany. More to follow as the championship approaches...

Edgar Davids of the Netherlands, fighting a duel with Milan Baros, Czech Republic. Stupidly, I agreed to this invitation from the NZZ Folio. Now I'm supposed to explain why the Netherlands are going to win the World Cup, and to be honest, I have no idea how they could. We have fabulous football players with tremendous abilities but we have no national eleven. It might be that teams are born during tournaments and the strength of Dutch footballers is certainly their ability to develop team spirit in the relative isolation of the training camp. But winning the World Cup?

Not long ago I was looking at an old photo of the glorious Ajax Amsterdam team of the 1970s. Everyone of them looked like a killer. They all had legendary skills, but they also all had something extremely malevolent and revengeful about them; anyone who dared to take them on must fear for their lives. It was the Ajax trainer of the time Rinus Michel who coined the expression "football is war". His team looked like a death squad, trained in the wild forests of the Caucasus. These football players could survive anywhere because they could catch wild boar with their bare hands and rip them to shreds with their teeth. These men wanted to see blood spurting at the goal posts and wouldn't be able to relax until they'd quartered their opponents.

No, from me there will be no talk of the elegant game of football as a variation of ballet. For me football is a form of applied terror. I remember one Ajax game, where the opponents lay whimpering on the ground begging for forgiveness. But the word forgiveness did not feature in the dictionaries of the Ajax players, if they even had dictionaries. They would fight their way to the superior position, and with that achieved, the game could really get going: the opponents would be tormented, insulted, dismantled and banished to the psychoanalyst's couch for the rest of their days.

I confess to really enjoying the humiliations dealt out by Ajax. It was all about power and the eternal subjugation of the loser. Can our footballers today still humiliate others? How malicious and hungry do you have to be, to fight to the last breath, to be incapable of finding peace until the last drop of your opponent's blood has been sucked dry? Yes, I'm a fan of Chelsea and Barcleona too. They play beautiful football, but football is war, no, football has to be the ultimate thermo-nuclear eruption on a 110 x70 metre stretch of grass. And a football team has to be a killer commando of sadistic soldiers. From my mouth will come no criticism of the gladiators of ancient Rome.

What was it the NZZ Folio wanted from me? Why will the Netherlands win the World Cup? Because our coach Marco van Basten puts our players on bread and water. Because he shows them photos of their women running off with lithe Latin lovers. Because he holds photos under their noses showing their houses burning and their Maseratis and Lamborghinis being destroyed by vandals. And then he lets them out onto the pitch. That's why we'll be world champions.

*


Leon de Winter is a writer who lives in Amsterdam. His book "Place de la Bastille" (Diogenes 2005) was recently published in German.

This article forms part of compilation of writings originally published in the Neue Zürchner Zeitung magazine Folio on May 2, 2006.

Translation: lp.

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