23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football (Paperback)
Solely by looking at the title of this book, 'Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football', you notice that this book simply could not have been written by Dutchman. The Dutch are often too polite to give themselves compliments, let alone write a whole book about how 'neurotically genius' and beautiful their own football is. That is why I'm so thankful that David Winner, the author of this book, admires Dutch football as much as I do and has dared to write a book about it.
Much of the beginning of the book consists of why Dutch football might be the way it is. Winner tries to find parallels between Dutch society, and the way they play football. Dutch football is based around the principle of collectivism and totality; everybody is expected to perform little tasks, and if they don't then they let down the whole team. If a left-back for example decides to join the attack, a midfielder is expected to momentarily take his place in the defense. If he doesn't, he leaves the defense vulnerable to attack, hence letting down the whole team.
Winner argues that this type of collectivistic attitude in football can be traced back to when the Dutch first started reclaiming land and building dikes. These were massive ordeals that could only progress smoothly when everyone flawlessly worked together. If one person didn't carry out his/her task properly, a large part of the country would be at risk of being flooded. Hence it required intense concentration and collaboration, characteristics which can both be seen in Dutch football.
Secondly, Dutch invented 'Total Football' is also based around the concept of manipulating space to your advantage. When in possession, you want to make the spaces as big as possible by playing to your wingers and standing far apart. This makes it extra hard for the opposition to defend. When not in possession, you want to make spaces as small as possible by standing very close together making it difficult for the opposition to penetrate. Winner argues that this concept derives from the fact that the Dutch live in such a small geographical area with so many people they always had to make the most efficient use of their space.
Towards the end of the book, Winner tries to investigate why the Dutch have always been 'underperformers' in football. Judged solely on the quality of their players, Winner argues that they should have won at least four World Cups (namely in 1974,1978, 1990, and 1998). However, Winner argues that they simply don't have the 'winning' mentality and they believe that playing attacking and attractive football is actually more important than winning. The Dutch team has also often been plagued by internal conflicts. Since the Dutch team is based so much on the collectivistic nature as explained before, internal conflicts can be fatal. They are also a quite common occurrence as Dutch players (or Dutch people in general) find it very hard to take orders from an authoritarian figure (coach). These often spark conflicts and cause the Dutch team to disintegrate.
Arrogance also plays a factor in their underperformance. Winner argues that before the Dutch even start a football game, they believe that they deserve to win because their footballing style is so much superior to that of the rest of the world. When they are leading a football game, such as in the World Cup final in 1974 against Germany, they make the mistake of believing to have already won it. Instead of pressing for another goal, they started mocking the Germans by outplaying them with their superior 'technical' skills, but failed to press for another goal. This aggravated the Germans, and forced them back into the game, eventually winning with 2-1.
Futhermore the book also explains the origins of the intense rivalry between the Dutch and the Germans. It also gives a brief overview of the most important international games played by the Dutch team. It sincerely deserves 5 stars, and is a suggested read for any football fan.