June 13th 2014. When I woke up this morning, it still really hadn’t hit me. Yes, my neighbor had been busy setting up his party tent since yesterday. Yes, the street had been decorated with orange flags for about a week now. Yes, I knew when Holland’s first match in the World Cup would be played. Still, while in previous years I’d be excited two weeks previous to the whole football world cup thing, this year I felt a bit meek. Until this morning. I pulled the orange, one-size-fits-small Bavaria ‘Dutch Dress’ from the bottom drawer of my dresser. I was putting it on before my morning coffee, when I heard the beeping truck enter my cul-de-sac, ready to empty all the trashcontainers. I was used to them coming on a Thursday, so, not wanting to miss them another week, I ran out the door to ask them if they could empty mine too. “You look ready for tonight!” one of the two said. I looked down at my outfit, having forgotten that I was dressed in an orange minidress, revealing most of my legs and a vertigo-inducing cleavage. The material felt like a second skin, and the dress was so comfortable I had forgotten I was wearing it in the first place. Beaming at Mister Garbage Truck, I nodded my head and agreed “We want to win against those calamari munchers, don’t we? Just wait, tonight will be great!” He laughed at me in agreement, as he handed me back my waste container. Usually I’d cringe at the bad odors emanating from the truck – now even intensified by the warm weather that had blessed my city for the last two weeks – but today the putrid smells didn’t bother me. Other things were on my mind.
The orange flags on the façade of my house were bristling cheerily in the wind, along with the large Dutch tricolor I had hung some days prior. I even added some orange flags to the ones my neighbors had put up while I was in Turkey thinking it’d be a good sign to them. Most of the people on my street have lived there for decades, some even from the moment the houses were newly built. As with many of these typical Utrechter folkstreets, the original inhabitants are blessed with the accent that only native Utrechters can reproduce convincingly. I’ve tried to adjust, but even during the 19 years that I’ve lived here, I haven’t quite managed to shake some of the Brabantian expressions I was born with. Any newcomer in these kinds of streets is greeted with a certain level of reticence, especially when you’re not related or from their milieu. So, as a means of showing my support not only to the national Lions, but also to the people I lived close to, I decided to add to the heaps of flapping, orange joy.
As the metal bolt of the front door locked into place, I couldn’t help but shake my head. Tonight really was going to be great! Not only was I looking forward to seeing the Dutch kick some Spanish Tapass, the prospect of being joined by millions of other people from all over the world, our eyes shackled to large tv-screens, warmed my heart. We might not all be rooting for the same team, but we are watching the same ball roll through the grass, the same public go crazy, and we are watching the same bribed officials dictate the game. We share the excitement over the final score, and the anticipation of who will take home the golden trophy at the end of the tournament. Heck, we might even share the ignorance on what happens in the streets of Brazil’s favelas, where the bright stadium lights won’t shine. Where children are missing, where people are living in less than humane circumstances, even after the giant cleaning operations executed by local and national governments. We collectively join the party. For these few weeks, we are united.
When the moment of the match finally arrived, the little FC Utrecht supporters café in the wall of the stadium wasn’t completely full. Most folks had probably decided to follow the game at home, or closer to the city center. It was fine, though. This way it was easy to get beers, and although I couldn’t bare to sit down for a second, there were chairs enough for every one. We went crazy from the moment our national anthem played, and we didn’t stop being crazy after the ref blew his whistle for the final time. Every one present was ecstatic, how could we possibly not to be?! Hugging, shaking hands, exchanging the funniest of Spain-mocking pictures- it all happened. This night, it didn’t matter who we were, personally. It didn’t matter where we were from, where we went to school, nor did it matter who we voted for in the last elections. This evening, we all cheered for Holland, the Lions, the Orange. This night, we were one nation, the twelfth man, standing united behind our guys. Tonight the Dutch Lions tamed the Spanish Bulls, and it was great.