Dutch fans go bananas over wearing orange WORLD CUP 1994

June 21, 1994|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- It was two hours before the Netherlands-Saudi Arabia World Cup match, and the sun, in 92-degree heat, was baking the RFK Stadium parking lots.

John Brouwer, 31, and four friends from the Netherlands were wearing woolen, knee-length orange sweaters.

"You see, in Holland, these sweaters are tradition at soccer games," Brouwer said. "We sweat, but we are faithful."

Maybe colorblind, too.

While the colors of the Netherlands flag are red, white and blue, the Holland faithful wear the colors of the "Queen's House," said Michael Wijnands, 54, a native of Noordwijk, who moved to Hackettstown, N.J., 30 years ago.

There were orange hats, orange flags, orange faces, orange wigs, orange bandannas, orange wooden shoes, orange dresses, orange shirts. . . . Nearly 25,000 to 30,000 Netherlands ,, fans were at RFK last night, cheering on their national team.

They jammed the road and cheered as the team bus pulled into the stadium. They had huge flags draped over the hoods of minivans. Some wore mock Saudi Arabian clothing, in orange of course, a friendly gesture toward Saudi coach Jorge Solari, who used to be the Netherlands' coach.

And they drank some beer -- Lowenbrau was the brew of choice, with Budweiser a close second.

"Wooden shoes were popular in older days," said Gergjan Boekestyn, 24, of De Lier, Netherlands, struggling to climb a hill in a pair of them. "People worked in them, they farmed in them. It's part of Dutch culture."

"Police only smiled at us as we pulled into the lot," said Carla Dewildt, 46, one of six Netherlands natives piled in the van. "We wear Saudi clothing because some of us still have loyalty to Jorge Solari. Others wear it because we're just crazy."

That's because the Netherlands is just like almost any other European country, one that lives and thrives on soccer.

Wijnands started playing when he was 5. So did Gergjan, 24, and older brother Tony, 29. Wijnands says each town has a team for any age group, and the ultimate goal is to play on the national team in the European or World cups.

"Everyone stops for World Cup in Holland," said Tony Boekestyn.

Apparently, some fans save for years in order to attend the event. Ivan Stenhuis, 37, a computer analyst, is using his vacation time. Tony Boekestyn has been plotting his trip here since 1987, saving money for the past six months. Niek Vandenberg, from Noordwijk, has been making arrangements since December with Wijnands, his cousin, to watch last night's World Cup game.

The two will head today for Orlando, Fla., where the Netherlands will play Belgium later in the tournament. Wijnands says he has two cousins flying nine hours one way from the Netherlands to Orlando just to see that game against the Netherlands' top rival.

They are staying only a day.

A lot of the Netherlands' fans, though, have visited the White House, the Capitol, Arlington National Cemetery and the Smithsonian while staying in Washington.

"I want a pair of Levis and a T-shirt to take back," Dewildt said. "Back home, Levis cost $80 and a T-shirt from $30 to $50."

Gergjan Boekestyn wants an American flag. Brouwer wants an American mailbox.

No wool sweaters, please.

"Everything in America is so big," said Brouwer. "Traffic lights, the cables over the road, even the shower heads. I want a mailbox. We don't have them on the sides of our roads. I want a big metal one."

Wijnands wants a trip back to the Netherlands. Not just because the temperatures are between 60 and 70 and the steady winds provide a nice breeze.

But in case the the Netherlands win the World Cup.

"I remember when we won the Euro Cup in 1988," Wijnands said. "Roads were closed because people crowded the streets. In the Amsterdam harbor, so many people crowded on ships to celebrate that they sunk. I want to be a part of that."

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