Holland v Germany Preview

Last updated : 15 June 2004 By Central Bear

Our very own Old Firm derby certainly carries a fair amount of baggage; the politics that surround Barcelona and Real Madrid's 'El Derby' would also qualify it to be considered a match that has hatred embedded in its very soul; and Feyenoord against Ajax has enough hatred about it to provoke four thousand Ajax fans to invade the pitch at a reserve fixture between the sides last month - causing the postponement of the game.

These fixtures are all domestic games of course, and to find the same level of hatred in an International fixture is harder to do. There is England v Scotland: a fixture that seems relatively powder-puff these days compared to the fixtures mentioned above and it seems almost embarrassing mentioning it in the same context as them. There is also England v Germany: a strong enough rivalry, but there isn't a sense of pure hatred between the two countries now. Even Argentina against England has lost some of that edge, and you get the feeling that when these so called rivalries are marketed as such by the TV companies covering the game, it is just as a selling point to gain extra viewers.

But when Holland and Germany step out onto the Dragao Stadium pitch in Porto tonight, it will be in the knowledge that there is real history between the sides; that there is real hatred.

One would be entitled to ask where such hatred comes from, and the answer is a simple one: the war. You see, the Dutch have never forgiven their neighbours for occupying their country during the Second World War. Rinus Michaels, the man who led Holland to glory at Euro 88 on German soil, once coined the phrase that "football is war". And in this particular fixture that is exactly what it is, particularly for the Dutch. These fixtures are a chance for the Dutch to exact revenge on their occupiers during the war; a chance to right all the wrongs, and it shows.

There are more than a few incidents in these fixtures down the years that show the contempt that the Dutch hold for their neighbours - and vice-versa. "We have come to get bicycles back" screamed one Dutch banner at the meeting between the two sides in the semi-final of Euro 88 in Hamburg (bicycles were confiscated in Holland during the German occupation). There was also the infamous spitting incident between Frank Rijkaard and Rudi Voller two years later, an incident that cost both players any further participation in the match. Even Ronald Koeman, a man not noted for his aggressiveness or simmering hatred, was seen wiping Olaf Thon's shirt - a shirt he had just swapped with the German - on his backside as if it were toilet paper. Yes, there is no love lost between these two.

The 1974 World Cup final is a classic example of the deep divisions that run between these two. Despite going into the lions' den against the hosts in Munich, Holland were favourites to win the match as they had dominated the tournament with their Total Football. The Germans, on the other hand, had struggled on route to the final and were not really regarded as having much of a chance. After a minute of play, and without a German having touched the ball, that feeling was reinforced as Holland ran up the park straight from kick-off to win, and then score, a penalty.

But the Germans, and Gerd Muller in particular, were to come back in some style. "Der Bomber" equalised for the hosts and then scored a winner to give Germany the title that seemed nigh on impossible to win. Muller's second goal was one that still haunts the Dutch to this day. With his back to goal there had seemed little danger, but he turned on the proverbial sixpence and passed the ball into the far corner of the net.

"Zijn we er toch nog ingetunid!" (They've tricked us again), screamed Dutch TV commentator Herman Kuiphof at the sight of Muller's goal, a phrase that would appear to have serious connotations about the German's unexpected invasion in 1940 and comparing it to the unexpected direction that the game was headed, but he denies to this day that his comment had anything to do with the war. But given the history between the two countries, it is hard to believe him.

Even Simon Kuper commented on the deep rivalry between the two countries in his book Football against the Enemy. "I lived in Holland for ten years, in Leiden near the North Sea, and I could see that our German tourists were not greatly popular", said Kuper. He also commented on the running joke that he locals would have about their neighbours visiting as tourists: "how do the Germans celebrate the invasion of Europe?" "By doing it again every year".

The hatred runs both ways, but there is little doubt it runs a little deeper in the Dutch end. They were the wronged; Germany were the wrong doers. They are good, Germany are bad. They were the suppressed, Germany were the suppressers. It is an argument that is spouted out often by the Dutch, along with the claim that they were big players in the resistance during the war, but it is an argument that is starting to show cracks.

Before the war there were around eighty thousand Jews in the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam. By 1945 only twenty percent of that figure remained. Despite the fact that there was an alleged strong connection with the resistance in Holland, they lost more Jew than any other country during the Second World War. When Amsterdam Holocaust survivor, Shmu'el Hacohen, asked a Dutchman queuing outside Anne Frank's house with his family whether the house represented Dutch resistance or Dutch betrayal, he replied: "I fear it is the latter." But recognising their own failings in that period adds nothing to their disliking their neighbours, so it is conveniently ignored. And when the two teams take to the park tomorrow, all the old myths will be conveniently reproduced by both sets of supporters for the benefit of the enemy.

Are these myths historically accurate? No. Well, certainly a fair bit off 100% accurate, but since when has the truth got in the way of a healthy hatred for another person, group, body, or in this case, country? So what if the fans are shouting slight inaccuracies from the terraces, it all adds to a poisonous contempt that they have for each other which makes for a great atmosphere and game.

If you like a bit of hatred and history in your football, then this is the only game during this whole competition that you'll get it.