After the Lord Mayor's show, the hangover. There will be smiles on faces at the Feijenoord stadium today, though, as the work of cleaning up after last night's UEFA Cup final begins. Dutch football was facing a similar mess after the Netherlands national team failed to qualify for this summer's FIFA World Cup. But a summer that local pronosticators could only have forecast as bleak has now had its shining moment.
'Dutch football isn't dead'
The 'De Kuip' setting, the fact it was their first European success in 28 years, made Feyenoord's 3-2 victory over German champions BV Borussia Dortmund an event unique to Rotterdam. Yet it also gave hope to the rest of the country - perhaps even to Eindhoven and Amsterdam. "I think it proves that Feyenoord are in good shape and that Dutch football isn't dead yet, despite missing out on the [FIFA] World Cup," Feyenoord coach Bert van Marwijk said. "Our performances internationally have not been so good and we are not going to the World Cup, so this is a big positive for Dutch football."
An orange-tinted view? Yes, in that Feyenoord and Van Marwijk can pride themselves on the number of Dutch players in their side. Witness a spine of goalkeeper Edwin Zoetebier, defenders Patrick Paauwe and Kees van Wonderen, midfield player Paul Bosvelt and striker Pierre van Hooijdonk. Few other teams competing at this level can have displayed so much homegrown talent. And most would swap their nationhood for a player like Robin van Pierse, the Rotterdammers' teenage winger.
The last time an Eredivisie side lifted a European trophy - AFC Ajax's UEFA Champions League triumph of 1995 - was also the last occasion that team played together. The vultures from the continent's richest clubs came circling. Ajax's captain Danny Blind said on the eve of their win against Milan AC: "I am afraid the players are about to leave. We are playing well and the big Italian clubs are watching." How sweet, then, Feyenoord's semi-final victory against Internazionale FC, and Milan's elimination by Dortmund at the same stage.
'I am unbelievably happy'
Feyenoord have shown that clubs perceived as paupers by Europe's upwardly mobile can yet prevail on the European stage. "If someone had told me before the season that we would win the UEFA Cup, I would have said they were mad," Zoetebier admitted. "Normally this is the highest prize for a Dutch team to win, I am unbelievably happy," added Van Marwijk. And why not. Today Feyenoord are major purveyors of happiness. Not just to the thousands of Dutchmen whose hopes and dreams they represent, but also to those for whom football must never lose its capacity for surprise.
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