Throughout the afternoon: My view out the window becomes increasingly orange. Intermittently, I hear vuvuzelas. I buy an orange T-shirt from one of the only shops open on Sundays. It is wrapped, and turns out to be way too large when I open it at home. I try to shrink it in the dryer and fail.
6:55 PM: We leave to find a restaurant to camp out at for the match. Across the street, a student house is blasting nationalistic marches over an impressive sound system. The streets are a sea of orange, and the Dutch have a certain tendency toward all-out costuming. It’s impressive.
6:56 PM: Tim returns to our apartment to retrieve the Dutch-English dictionary.
7:15 PM: An hour and a half before the match, the restaurant we chose has just one empty table, quite a distance from the TVs. We take it anyway, hoping we can move closer if others continue their festivities elsewhere. By 8:00 we have moved to a table much nearer the action. We eat vaguely Turkish food and sip dark Dubbel beers, while everyone else drinks the house tap, the watery yellow so popular here (at least at these type events).
8:15 PM: An impromptu marching band goes by, complete with two sousaphones. We watch some innovative locals perform acrobatic feats in order to hoist a chalkboard from their window proclaiming that they are selling beer for 1 Euro.
8:30 PM: The entire city sings the national anthem along with the televisions blasting out of every building on the street.
9:15 PM: Just before the scoreless half, a girl walks by wearing virtually nothing but with her entire body painted orange. Whistling ensues.
9:30 PM: Either gunshots or fireworks are going off very nearby. We do not investigate. Possibly unrelatedly, we then see the police escorting away a man in handcuffs. (This was the only such instance we saw all night.)
10 PM: I go to use the ladies room, and find I am sharing it with a man.
10:50 PM: When the red card is handed out, the crowd gets restless and angry. One hundred and twenty minutes after the match began, Spain wins the World Cup.
When Spain scored the only goal of the match in the second half of extended play, it was so quiet here that at first I thought nothing had happened. People were stunned, and sad, and everyone seemed to know it was probably over. When the whistle blew, people simply rose from their chairs, settled their tabs, and headed home. The streets were eerily silent and calm. I didn’t see angry mobs, or drunken riots. People who had bought fireworks to celebrate set them off anyway, so the sky near the train station was lit up briefly. It was a sad night in Holland.
This morning at the immigration office where we applied for our resident card, the employee asked us if we had watched the match. He didn’t complain or vent or protest the outcome; he simply said he was disappointed, and hopes they can win the next time. He said, and I agreed with him, that there is nothing like this in America: each city has its own team; each group prefers one sport or another; you never see the entire country as worked up over a game as we saw here last night.
When we were preparing to move here and the World Cup was in its early stages, it never truly crossed my mind that the Netherlands might win. I only hoped that they would last long enough that we might watch a game while living in the country. As the finals got closer my hopes rose higher. The loss to Spain was anticlimactic, but I am reminding myself that in the end, we got our initial wish, and it was more exciting than I could ever have guessed.