Continental capers from Scandinavia to the Med
As Germany prepare to face Holland in Hamburg, FFT looks back to Euro 2004 when the two teams met in Porto's Estadio do Dragao. In a More Than A Game special, we presented two views – the Dutch and the German – on this great, historic rivalry.
Fittingly, the two sides matched each other blow-for-blow that night in Portugal. Neither side has defeated the other since 2002, when Holland prevailed 3-1 in Gelsenkirchen (Germany's last win was in 1996). As both teams look to change that, we remember what makes Holland v Germany such a momentous fixture; a true battle, it seems, of good versus evil.
THE GERMAN VIEWPOINTby Uli Hesse, author of Tor! The Story of German Football
hours after Feyenoord had beaten
Borussia Dortmund 3-2 to lift the
2002 UEFA Cup, I was steering my car through the streets of Rotterdam,
trying to leave the place behind as quickly as possible, when the
My friend Bernd had gone to the game on a chartered
coach with other Dortmund fans. He knew I was on my own and that I must
have left the ground late on account of the press conference. Which is
why he feared for my life and limb. “You know,” he said, “the sad thing
is not that we lost, but that
everybody on this coach is glad we did.
Otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten out alive.”
That morning, I’d
left my car on the other side of town, because when I called the club
to ask about parking, a nice woman told me it wouldn’t be safe if it
carried a German licence plate.
Then I strolled through the southern part of Rotterdam all day, ignoring police advice that no German should cross the river.
noon I saw a Dortmund coach that had lost its way. An elderly Dutchman
lifted a small child onto his shoulders so the kid could give the
finger to the Germans while men in Feyenoord shirts came running out of
a bar, looking for something to hurl at the coach.
heard that a train carrying German supporters had been shot at with
rifle and during the match Feyenoord fans fired rockets into the
The last time Dortmund had played in Rotterdam,
in September 1999, no German fans had made the trip because the club
considered it too risky. It may have been an
over-reaction, but fresh
in the memory was
a Feyenoord visit to Bayer Leverkusen that resulted
in £180,000 worth of damage as 500 Dutch fans ran riot, smashing
whatever was within reach and setting fire to a ticket booth. The
police of North Rhine-Westphalia later announced that a third of all
football-related arrests in the 1998-99 season had been made at this
one game. It was a friendly.
And it’s not just Feyenoord. Six
months after the Leverkusen riots, Cologne played
a pre-season match
in the Dutch city of Groesbeek against Nijmegen. When the Germans made
it 3-3, the stand with their 300 fans was invaded by thugs. “People
could have been killed,” gasped a pale Ewald Lienen, then coaching
Ajax and Utrecht fans show their violent side in 2002
Nor is it just football. Last September, German third
division ice hockey club Ratingen Aliens played host to a team from
across the border, the Eaters Geleen. One local paper spoke of
“unimaginable hunting scenes”, saying the visitors had “sullied the
sport’s image in an unprecedented manner”. Ice hockey is no game for
sensitive souls, but 1,000 people chanted “Stop this!” as the Dutch ran
amok. After 16 minutes, Ratingen came off the ice.
As far as
concerned, you can sum up the situation in two statements.
First, Holland-Germany is one of the most heated
rivalries in Europe.
Second, the mentally unstable party in this explosive relationship are
the Dutch. They not only started this rivalry, they have also carried
it to a point where it is obsessive, almost psychotic. “We’ve played a
few friendlies against Dutch teams,” says Bochum’s goalkeeper with a
dry smile. “And we’ve been lucky enough to get out of them without
major injuries.” His name is Rein van Duijnhoven. He’s Dutch himself.
this second assumption, that it’s our
neighbours who go over the top,
will be taken with a grain of salt by anyone who was in Munich the day
England won 5-1.
One of the most crushing defeats in our history
seemed forgotten the instant news came through that Ireland had beaten
Holland. For the next
10 months, the most popular chant at German
grounds was: “We’re going to the World Cup without Holland.” There was
(unexpectedly humorous) website called 'You’re not there',
with an online game where users could knock down orange-clad players by
throwing spliffs or clogs at them.
But the German reaction is not
always so light-hearted, and it’s not always merely
a reaction. As
early as 1989, there was trouble in Rotterdam when German firms used
the occasion of a World Cup qualifier to “invade enemy territory”, as
they dubbed it on leaflets. Six years later, Bayer Leverkusen and PSV
Eindhoven fans fought, not least because, as a Leverkusen fan’s online
diary notes, “the Germans knew how to provoke the Dutch”. For instance
by yelling, “Hooray, hooray, the Germans are here”, which will sound
more ominous to Dutch ears than to some.
What is true is that the Dutch created this rivalry. And for a while the Germans even failed to notice what was happening...
A German hooligan is tackled by Dutch police in 1996
the first decades of its existence, the German national team,
established in 1908, played Holland more often than any other side,
save Switzerland. Germany usually lost, but it didn’t rile them. Mainly
because they were
beaten by all sorts of teams, but also because
Holland was a small
country that kept a low profile. France was a
different matter. When Germany and Holland drew 2-2 in November 1927,
it was the 11th game between the two sides – the first Germany-France
meeting would not be agreed upon for another three years, such were the
After WWII, things changed. Reconciling the French with
the Germans became a major political issue, and while it would take a
long time, it was so
successful that even Harald Schumacher’s dreadful
foul on Patrick Battiston at the 1982 World Cup didn’t lead to anything
nasty. The simmering resentment of the Dutch,
unnoticed. And it didn’t help that the Germans were suddenly becoming
a footballing super power.
In 1956, Holland beat the World Cup
holders, but it was a misleading result. The next four matches against
the Dutch were all won, beginning with a 2-1 in 1957. In 1959, Uwe
Seeler scored a hat-trick in a 7-0 rout that allowed the Germans to
finally draw even in the overall record between the two sides. In 1966,
Franz Beckenbauer netted two as his team won 4-2 in Rotterdam. Then, in
1974, Bernd Hölzenbein went down and referee Jack Taylor pointed to the
Almost 30 years on, Beckenbauer attended an official
banquet with Hölzenbein and recounted the story of how the latter had
won his Frankfurt team a crucial penalty against Bayern in the German
Cup semi-final of 1974 by running against a defender’s outstretched
leg. Then he addressed the culprit: “But you made up for that in the
summer, when you went down again.” It was one of those quips
Beckenbauer distributes like sweets, but Hölzenbein had a sour look on
Many people in Germany will tell you that Hölzenbein
dived in the 1974 World Cup final. Even more will say the Dutch were
undeniably the best team at that tournament. Still, it took those same
people years to realise how painfully the Dutch felt the thorn. Maybe
because West Germany had often been hard done by in the preceding
decades without thirsting for revenge (Gothenburg 1958, Wembley 1966,
Mexico City 1970). Maybe because it was only Holland.
Gerd Muller scores the winner to break Oranje hearts
signs that something was up came four years later when the teams drew
2-2 at the 1978 World Cup, and Holland’s Dick Nanninga was sent off
after a row with Hölzenbein. “He grabbed me by the nose so I pushed
him” was how Nanninga described the incident. But Hölzenbein said:
“When the ref was looking away, he hit me in the stomach. For no
reason! That’s why I grabbed him.”
A similar incident took place
at Euro 1980. The Germans won 3-2, but the talking point came when
Schumacher and Johnny Rep went up for
a cross, and the Dutchman hit
the keeper in the abdomen. Schumacher was so enraged that a sub was
placed behind his goal to calm him down. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge noted
that games between the two countries were having “an electrifying
On the day in June 1988 when the Dutch finally
exorcised their demons,
beating West Germany for
the first time in
32 years, the rivalry spilled over for good. The Germans were hit so
hard by losing the semi-final of Euro 88 on home soil that they didn’t
leave the dressing room for half an hour after the final whistle. “I
had to lift my players,” said Franz Beckenbauer, looking as if he could
use some help himself. “It was no penalty. Never.” He didn’t mention
that the Germans had led through an equally dubious penalty, but he
didn’t have to. What counted was the image of 15,000 delirious Dutch
fans celebrating their victory in Hamburg.
Beckenbauer, who had
played when games between West Germany and Holland were just games,
boarded the Dutch coach to give his regards to the winners, but most of
his players didn’t even shake hands with the opposition. They must have
felt the Dutch had gone stark raving mad, from throwing insidious
punches to chanting about the Nazis. Enough was enough. Yet there was
another, subtler aspect to the matter: the verdict of the Dutch
newspaper which called the West German team “poor grafters”. David had
not only won, did not only feel morally superior – he was also very
simply better than Goliath.
Which is why a game that many have
forgotten lives on in Germany’s collective football memory as one of
the 10 greatest in our history: the 2-1 win over Holland at Italia 90.
The Dutch still had their masters of the delicate touch. We had
Augenthaler, Kohler, Brehme and Buchwald. But when Frank Rijkaard
repeatedly spat at Rudi Völler,
resulting in a red card for him and,
bizarrely, the innocent German, the match took on mythic proportions.
Jurgen Klinsmann, now alone up front, ran his lungs out and would
collapse after the final whistle. Buchwald made the first goal with a
double stepover. Brehme scored the second with a stunning swerving
shot. Then the Argentinian ref awarded the Dutch a silly penalty,
whereupon the German TV commentator yelled: “Send that man back to the
pampas!” In brief: it was perfect.
Since then, you can’t help but
feel that the Germans have begun to take the rivalry more seriously
than those who started it. In November 1998, the teams drew 1-1 in
Gelsenkirchen – but only because the Dutch weren’t fired up. “At times
they showed us up, even though they didn’t have their first team,” said
Jupp Heynckes. Horst Hrubesch said:
“I was shocked how they dominated
us in the first half.” And Hölzenbein added: “It seems German football
is in a crisis.”
Six years on, it still is. There are serious
doubts that Germany can perform at the same level as Holland, which is
why the teams’ opening game at Euro 2004 will be crucial. Another
marvel along the lines of 1990 would again exorcise demons – not ones
haunting the Dutch but those plaguing Germans. Like the Dortmund fans
thinking how lucky they had been to lose a final in Rotterdam.
Louis van Gaal: bringing Holland and Germany together, sort of
THE DUTCH VIEWPOINTby Simon Kuper, author of (among other books) Ajax, The Dutch, The War
The match I hope to be watching on DVD on my deathbed is West Germany v Holland of June 21, 1988. On that summer evening in Hamburg, the Dutch played some of the best football of the era – think Marco van Basten, Ronald Koeman, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit all at their peak simultaneously – and Van Basten won it with an improbable
sliding goal three minutes from time.
Back in Holland, the staid nation surprised itself: on a Tuesday night, nine million
people, 60 percent of the population,
celebrated on the streets. It was the largest public gathering since the Liberation. “It feels as though we’ve won the war at last,” said
a former Resistance fighter on TV.
Ger Blok, a 58-year-old Dutchman, heard the news in Tegucicalpa, where he was
managing Honduras. He ran through the streets carrying a Dutch flag. “Hysterical, intensely happy,” he said. “The next day I was ashamed of my laughable behaviour.” In the Leidseplein square in Amsterdam, people threw bicycles (their own?) into the air and shouted, “Hurray, we’ve got our bikes back!” During the Occupation, the Germans had confiscated all Dutch bicycles.
“When Holland scores I dance through the room,” said Professor Dr L de Jong, a dusty grey man who had spent the last 40 years
writing the official history of the Netherlands in World War II in umpteen volumes. “What these boys have done! Of course it’s got to do with the war. Strange that people deny that.”
Ronald Koeman revealed that after the match he had wiped his backside on the German shirt he had swapped with Olaf Thon. Holland’s manager Rinus Michels, the man who coined the phrase, “Football is war”, admitted to “an extra feeling of satisfaction for reasons I don’t want to sum up now.” Emerging from the tunnel for the second half to jeers from the German crowd, Michels had raised a dignified middle finger.
Michels surveys the battlefield four years later
It is tempting to think that Van Basten (who refused to speak German in interviews) had unleashed a nation’s war traumas by scoring in Hamburg, but he did not. The war has less to do with this rivalry than one would think. Before Hamburg, few Dutchmen felt that strongly about Germans. Certainly there was distaste. I lived in Holland for 10 years as
a child from 1976, in Leiden near the North Sea, and I could see that German tourists were not greatly popular – “How do the Germans celebrate the invasion of Europe?” “By doing it again every summer” – but when England played West Germany in 1982, most of the teenage boys in my class supported the Germans. The fact was that until 1988 the football rivalry barely existed.
Before the war, the Dutch had been
mostly philo-Germanic. Many of them spoke excellent German, the way they now speak excellent English, and Dutch books and
magazines of the time were full of throwaway quotes from Goethe and Schiller.
After that, from the 1950s until 1970, there was no hope of rivalling Germany: it was
a great footballing nation, while the Dutch were pathetic. This was the era of defeats to Luxembourg, and never qualifying for World Cups or European Championships. The big rival in those days was Belgium.
Then suddenly, in 1974, Holland were
facing Germany in the World Cup final. No doubt some of the Dutch players that day in Munich had the war in mind. As a baby, Willem van Hanegem, Holland’s left-half, lost his father and 10-year-old brother
during a British bombardment of his village on September 11 1944. Ruud Krol, the left-back, was the son of one of the few Dutchmen who really had been in the Resistance as opposed to just boasting about it after the war.
In 1999, I visited ‘Kuki’ Krol in Amsterdam. A tiny man, his right foot encased in an
outsized boot, Kuki looked nothing like his handsome son. On a table in his living room stood a framed photograph: a dead young man, his brillantined hair combed backwards in the fashion of the 1940s. At the time he had worked in Krol’s shop.
“Some were lucky,” said Krol, “but not him. One day the German secret police raided my shop. They came for me, but they found him. He was in the Communist Resistance. They put him against the wall, his hands by his sides, and his bad luck was that he had three
identity cards on him that day. He never came back. But they came for me.”
Krol told me that at one point during the war, he had hidden 13 Jews above a café in Amsterdam. But he had never got over the war. His nerves were shot. The traumas stayed with him until his death last year. This is the atmosphere in which Ruud Krol was raised.
Yet when I asked Johnny Rep whether the war was ever mentioned in the Dutch camp during that World Cup, he replied: “Never.” Even the defeat in the final passed off calmly. Van Hanegem did leave the field in tears, and the match meant more to him than just any old World Cup final, but the mood of 1988 was absent. In 1974, Dutch and German
players seemed of a kind.
The captains, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff, were friends, and Rep and Paul Breitner thwarted the FIFA ruling against shirt-swapping on the pitch by trading jacket and tie at the post-match
banquet. Jan Jongbloed, the Dutch keeper, wrote in his diary: “A short disappointment that slowly passed into being satisfied with
silver.” Holland didn’t expect to beat the world, or the Germans. Being better than Belgium was quite heady enough.
Friends to the end: Cruyff and Beckenbauer
In 1974, the war was a mostly undigested period for the majority of Dutch people.
It was still too close, too painful to recall. Only in the 1980s did the war experience a revival in Holland. Holocaust monuments were erected, May 5 again became a holiday marking the Liberation, and in 1985, on the 40th anniversary of the end of the war, dozens of books appeared depicting it as a conflict between ‘good’ Dutchmen and bad Germans. The Dutch were not yet ready to look at their own collaboration: the highest percentage of Jews killed anywhere except Poland, the largest Nazi party outside Germany.
It was in this atmosphere of Good versus Bad that the 1988 match took place. The German team of Lothar Matthäus, Rudi Völler and Jürgen Kohler, violent ugly divers who couldn’t play football – not like our boys
anyway – seemed to the Dutch to exemplify ‘Germany’. In a poem, How Deeply It Runs, the cabaretier Erik van Muiswinkel wonders how to explain Good and Evil to his daughter:
Adam, Eve, apple?Hitler, Florence Nightingale? I don’t know, I’m agnosticAnd preferably amoral.
Good and EvilLook, darling, look at the TV:Orange, Gullit, White.White, Matthäus, Black.
Holland vs Germany, Good vs Evil. Our shirts were bright, if unfortunately striped; the Germans wore black and white. We had black players, including Gullit, our captain, and our fans wore Gullit hats with rasta hair; their players were all white and their fans made monkey noises. Our players were funny and natural; A Thousand Years of German Humour is the shortest book in the world, and Völler had that absurd perm. Our players were
individuals; the Germans could barely be told apart by their numbers. They dived.
The two teams, in short, summed up the way the Dutch wanted to see themselves and the way they saw the Germans. We were like Gullit and they were like Matthäus. There were obvious flaws to this notion and so, to make it fit, the Dutch briefly forgot their own discipline, their own staidness, and their own intolerance of Turks and Moroccans and Surinamese like Gullit. “We should really explain to the Germans that we hate all
foreigners,” suggested the magazine Vrij Nederland, but nobody did. The Germans were Evil and we were Good.
The match was, in short, a romanticised version of the war. Since the venue was Hamburg, it was also a symbolic reversal of the German invasion of 1940: an orange-clad Dutch Army drove its cars into Germany and defeated the inhabitants. People in Holland sang: “In 1940 they came / In 1988 we came.”
After 1988, Holland v Germany was never the same again. The teams next met at the World Cup of 1990, but this time there was no moral contrast: the bickering Dutch deservedly lost, and moreover Rijkaard spat at Völler. There was a Dutch attempt to claim that Völler had racially abused him – the old story – but Rijkaard inconveniently denied it.
"Mr Referee, this nasty man has discharged in my hair"
Our 3-1 win at Euro 92 was very enjoyable, but only a reworking of 1988 and it was the last time the countries met in a competitive match. Since then Holland vs Germany has lost much of its fizz for the Dutch (just as the Germans begin to cotton on).
I realised that something had changed in February 2000, when the Germans came to Amsterdam for a friendly. Matthäus gave
a sort of grand farewell interview to European journalists. Confusingly, he was friendly and charming, much like his fellow villains Völler and Kohler. I asked why the Dutch disliked him so much. “I’d rather ask the Dutch that,” he said. “It continues to be a mystery to me.”
I said, “The Dutch hate you because to them you are Germany, you are the team.”
(I didn’t add, “Because they think you are
a violent, ugly diver.”)
Matthäus replied, “So every whistle is
really a nice compliment for me?”
But in the stadium two days later, hardly anybody whistled him. He was winning his 144th cap, a world record if you didn’t count certain African players, which FIFA didn’t, and before the match the Dutch captain Edgar Davids presented him with a bouquet of
flowers. Matthäus looked surprised, perhaps because the socially dysfunctional Davids was captaining Holland, probably because he had never expected flowers in Holland. When
he waved the bouquet at the crowd, there
was far more clapping than booing. The
arch-German (“Matthäus = Hitler”, said a Dutch banner at a Holland vs Germany game in 1989) had been accepted by the Dutch.
In fact, this was an insult. The Dutch had stopped hating Germans because they had stopped fearing them. When Germany was reunited in 1990, many Dutch feared the huge new country would become a threat again. The German economy was mighty. Even the football team were world champions. But
a decade later, Germany had no noticeable foreign policy, a stagnating economy and
a terrible football team. Matthäus was nearly 40. Admittedly two years later Germany reached the final of a World Cup for which Holland hadn’t qualified, but it didn’t matter – they still had a terrible team.
While Germany had ceased to be an Evil Empire, the Dutch no longer believed in their own Goodness. In the 1990s, revisionist books about the Dutch war demolished the myth that everyone had been in the Resistance. The period 1940-45 is now seen as a shameful episode in the nation’s history, not something to beat the Germans over the head with.
Nor is it easy to claim that the Germans are racist now the Dutch have a large anti-immigrant party, created by the assassinated homosexual columnist Pim Fortuyn. We still do have black players in our team, but most Dutch people would prefer to see Kluivert, Seedorf and Davids dropped, while Germany have
fielded their first black player for two decades (and only the third ever) in Gerald Asamoah.
Oh, for the days of Good versus Evil.
Words: Uli Hesse and Simon Kuper. From the July 2004 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!
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