x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Nation celebrates Oranje exploits

Tens of thousands of fans lined Amsterdam's web of canals to cheer Holland, the World Cup runner-ups, on an open-top boat tour of the waterways.

Dutch football supporters wait on the Brouwersgracht canal in Amsterdam for the Dutch team to pass during a boat parade.
Dutch football supporters wait on the Brouwersgracht canal in Amsterdam for the Dutch team to pass during a boat parade.

AMSTERDAM // Tens of thousands of fans lined Amsterdam's web of canals to cheer Holland, the World Cup runner-ups, on an open-top boat tour of the waterways on Tuesday. An hour before the team were due to arrive, two fans leapt into the murky waters of the Brouwersgracht canal cheered by hoards of orange-clad, flag-waving supporters - despite warnings from authorities that swimming in the canals could expose them to anything from E coli bacteria to sunken bicycles and shopping carts.

"It's a bit much, considering we lost," said Loes Olden, who was sat at the water's edge at a table decked in an orange tarp, two ornate candle sticks and a bowl of oranges. "It's over the top, but we're enjoying it." Houses along the canals were draped in flags and some had giant footballs hanging from their facades. Earlier, the team was honoured by Jan Peter Balkenende, the prime minister, at the start of a hectic day of celebrations.

Under bunches of orange balloons, Bert van Marwijk, the coach and Giovanni van Bronckhorst, the retiring captain, were given the honorary title of "Knight in the Order of Oranje Nassau" at a reception in front of Balkenende's official Catshuis residence. The team then were driven by coach to meet Queen Beatrix at her Noordeinde Palace in The Hague before an Air Force helicopter whisked the team to Amsterdam for its boat tour and an open-air party at Museum Square, where fans had watched the action from South Africa on giant screens during the tournament.

City officials were expecting up to a million fans to descend on Amsterdam to cheer their team. Around midday, a small barge full of fans wearing bright orange vests and pumping out dance music chugged through one canal heading for the start point of the team's boat tour. Security staff were posted next to a handful of houseboats along the route in an effort to prevent fans climbing on to their roofs. When Holland won their only international title, the 1988 European Championship, several house boats were damaged and a few sank amid scenes of jubilation.

The Dutch lost 1-0 in extra time to Spain in Sunday's final - the third time the country has lost the final, after defeats in 1974 and 1978. Dennis Nuitermans, who runs a car showroom in the city of Breda, travelled to Amsterdam on his 32nd birthday for the celebration. "It doesn't happen often that we are second in the world so we're coming for a great day out in Amsterdam," he said. While Nuitermans was pleased with the team's second place, he was critical of their style of play. Van Marwijk ditched the trademark Dutch flowing, attacking style known the world over as "Total Football" and replaced it with patient passing and uncompromising tackling he calls "result football".

"It was not really Dutch, but it was efficient," Nuitermans said. "The final was not exactly charming. It was pretty ugly at times." * AP