Netherlands' World Cup team gets Dutch Treat from South Africa's Afrikaners

The success of the Netherlands' World Cup soccer team is cause for celebration for the many South Africans with Dutch ancestry, but that dynamic leaves a bad taste in the mouths of some blacks.

Dutch players jog during a Netherlands national soccer team training session in South Africa.

There is an orange army in South Africa that watches every Netherlands World Cup game, that cheers every shot on goal, that boos every bad referee call, and that is convinced that Holland will win the 2010 FIFA World Cup after Tuesday's Netherlands vs. Uruguay semifinal.

Ranked No. 4 in the world, The Netherlands edged out the world’s best team, Brazil, with a score of 2-1 on Friday, courtesy of a goal by Wesley Sneijder and an own goal from Brazil’s Felipe Melo.

Here in South Africa, a country that was once controlled by Dutch settlers and where the majority of white citizens speak a Dutch dialect called Afrikaans, the success of the Dutch team is big news indeed.

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Around the country, South African cars sport the Dutch flag. On game days, whole restaurants are often filled with fans wearing the color orange, the color of Dutch royalty. Few among even these faithful expected the Netherlands to defeat Brazil; but now that the Samba Boys are gone, many South African fans say the Dutch are unbeatable.

“Holland is no longer stoppable,” says Roger De Sa, who coaches Bidvest Wits Football Club, a local professional soccer team. “The Dutch national squad is solid at the back, creative in the midfield and sharp shooting upfront making them the serious contenders to walk away with the 2010 FIFA World Cup."

Pride in Dutch ancestry

The World Cup has brought out the inner nationalist in many sports fans – the cuddly safe kind of nationalism found in bright-colored wigs, face paint, and in the case of the English fans, chain mail – and the emergence of Holland has given many South Africans of Dutch ancestry much to be proud of.

Not everyone supports the Dutch, of course, particularly black South Africans who see Netherlands as a country whose descendants created the hated apartheid government, but generally speaking, South Africans recognize the fact that, after all, this is only a game.

Pierre Ferreira, from the northern Cape Town suburb of Welgemoed will be wearing an orange coat and jumper at tomorrow night’s game to support the former mother country.

“They’re a very jovial bunch of guys who are young in attitude, says Mr. Ferreira, who has a Portuguese surname, but who speaks the Dutch dialect of Afrikaans. He has attended five games so far, and will be at the Netherlands vs. Uruguay semifinal Tuesday in Cape Town. “There is an historical significance and I feel a small link to the country, but it’s more the language. I think Holland will win tomorrow but I think it will be hard for them to beat Germany [if both teams reach the final] with the form they’re in. I said from the start [Germany] looked the best all-around team.”

Jacques Gelderman, who lives in the predominantly Afrikaner northern suburb of Durbanville in Cape Town, said he would be shouting for his ancestors.

“My family originally comes from the Netherlands a long time ago now and it has made me feel a little more Dutch, just a little,” says Mr. Gelderman. “The fans look like they’re having so much fun – there must be thousands of them here.”

“I’m a big rugby fan and didn’t take much interest in soccer, but gradually my eyes have been opened to the sport,” he adds, noting that he hasn’t attended any games but has watched the games on TV. “Us whites just thought it was a black sport which they played elsewhere but now we can see it really is a world sport and it’s been great.”

Terry du Plessis of Auckland Park, Johannesburg, predicted a tough match between Holland and Uruguay in the semifinal, but was quick to say the Dutch would emerge victorious. "Apart from playing flawless football, the Dutch team has strong ties with the majority of whites in this country,” says Mr. Du Plessis, who initially supported South Africa, until they were knocked out in the first round. “I would wish Holland good luck on their way to the final."

In Cape Town’s coloured community – so-called under apartheid, because of their mixed ancestry – local fans say they are unlikely to support Holland, but mainly because they favor other teams, not because of past colonial history.

'Can't blame Holland for apartheid'

“They are part of our history, but you can’t blame Holland for apartheid,” says Pedro Julisen, who lives in the mainly coloured Retreat neighborhood in the Cape Flats. “[The Dutch] were very good to us during those years helping us with education facilities, health, and other things. Apartheid and Holland are two different things. They always supported the black and coloured people here in those times.”

Friend Garon Jacons agreed. “I’ve never had a problem supporting Holland. I supported them when they had Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard, and Marco Van Basten in the team – why shouldn’t I? That was a great side. What happened in apartheid wasn’t Holland’s fault or the football players’ so it would be silly not to support them. Besides, I think Germany will win.”

But among some black South Africans, Holland’s ties to the founders of apartheid make it difficult to support, even if only for one game.

"Holland are playing good football, but naturally, I don't like them for their kith and kin who enslaved our forefathers during the Apartheid era,” says Hasani Chauke, who once worked at an Afrikaner’s farm in Limpopo province, and now lives in Soweto. “Worse still, we have gained our independence in 1994, but they (Afrikaners) still do not want to share the land with us. This is the reason why I don't support Netherlands."

Thokozani Khumalo, who lives in the Tembisa township near Pretoria, said the four remaining teams were the best but did not hide her feelings that she would rally behind anyone but Holland.

"If I had juju [black magic] I would make sure that their strikers would not score even a single goal in tomorrow's encounter,” says Ms. Khumalo. “I appreciate that FIFA are preaching good message against racism in all their 2010 FIFA World Cup matches of this beautiful game of soccer, but at the same time, I hate the idea that we black South Africans are the ones being made scapegoats by Dutch people [Afrikaners].”

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