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whom even I could see was a born genius that could turn the most average of teams into something special but what this book does
on 1 March 2017
Not sure if this is a book about Holland or about Dutch football: both probably but neither are subjects that I am particularly interested in. Perhaps once upon a time, when I was younger. I am old enough to remember Ajax and Johan Cruyff, whom even I could see was a born genius that could turn the most average of teams into something special but what this book does is explore how the Ajax team could only have flourished in a country like Holland, sharing as it does the same national values and the same contradictions in society, a quintessentially Dutch combination of collaboration, team-spirit, ill-discipline, complacency, and lack of will [or nerve]. The Dutch seem to have an allergy to authority, leadership and collective discipline.
Patterns of self-destruction . . .
A large section in the middle of the book is devoted to why Holland lost the final of the 1974 World Cup to Germany. A game that is still seared on the consciousness of many Dutch, even fifty-years later. All the stars played in that game, the virtuosos: Cruyff, Rep, Neeskens and they were regarded by everyone in sport at the time [even South Americans] as not only the best team in the world, but with their attacking style known as totalfootball, the most noble, elegant and skilled.
Years of self-analysis as to why they lost to the Germans, echoes of the Second World War and Holland’s suffering after the May 1940 invasion have all been considered part of this failure, but the author writes:
This football hatred has existed for only ten or twenty years and has nothing to do with the war. Did you ever go to Auschwitz? It is very interesting: every country has its own barracks where it tells its own history. If you want to hear all the lies a nation tells about itself, you should go there: Holland is the most tolerant nation . . . they have a long history of tolerance; Austria was the first victim of the Nazis; Yugoslavia liberated itself; Poland won the Second World War.
The Dutch were a finer, nobler team and should have won. The Germans were more journeymen footballers. After the war, in Holland there was a great deal of anti-German feeling, but a lot of it was guilt. The Dutch knew there had been a lot of collaboration, so they were keen to show how much they hated the Germans. Holland had the highest proportion of citizens to join the Waffen SS of any occupied country, and the Dutch economy assisted the Nazi war effort. Most troublingly, within the Dutch services were a frighteningly high number of supporters actively helping the Nazis murder Holland’s Jews quietly and efficiently. These are issues the Dutch still prefer not to examine too closely.
It has tremendous reviews and if you are at all interested in football or in Holland you should give it a go.