Who will Dutch fans follow at UEFA EURO 2016?

UEFA EURO 2016 is notably a few degrees less orange because of the Netherlands' absence from the finals, so who are their fans going to get behind this month?

The Netherlands are the most notable absentees at UEFA EURO 2016
The Netherlands are the most notable absentees at UEFA EURO 2016 ©AFP

Harry Vermeegen has caught something of the mood of the moment with his new song, a minor YouTube hit in the Netherlands.

Against a backdrop of fans eating the archetypically Belgian chips with mayonnaise, the Dutch sports journalist's Wi zijn ff Bellug (translation: We are temporarily Belgian) emphasises the strong cultural links between Belgium and the Netherlands – exhorting the Oranje faithful to transfer their loyalties to their southern neighbours, at least during UEFA EURO 2016.

The Netherlands are without doubt the final tournament's most notable absentees, having finished behind Czech Republic, Iceland and Turkey in Group A to miss out on their first EURO since 1984. Danny Blind's Oranje have beaten finalists Poland and Austria in recent friendlies, but the fun is over for now, inviting the question: who will some of Europe's most colourful fans be following at the finals?

The answer seems simple enough. As Vermeegen's song and accompanying Ik ben ff Bellug (I am temporarily Belgian) T-shirts suggest, plenty of Dutchmen are preparing to take a footballing form of dual-citizenship. "For the past six months, we have been very busy with Belgium merchandise," a spokesman for one major Dutch sports apparel company told Belgian daily Het Laatste News. "Our turnover has risen 200% since last year."

Wesley Sneijder shows his frustration
Wesley Sneijder shows his frustration©AFP/Getty Images

It is an unusual situation for Belgium, usually rather patronised by Dutch supporters as a supposedly lesser footballing nation. However, it is not without precedent. Back in the 1980s, when the Oranje were in something of a downward trend, Dutch fans got behind the Red Devils for major finals – even if the Flemish commentaries from Belgian broadcasters which featured on Dutch television caused mild amusement.

Flemish, to most Dutch listeners, is Dutch with a slightly countrified accent.

The Belgian supporters that piled on to social media in the days after the Netherlands' failure to qualify displayed more than a touch of schadenfreude. But they nonetheless encouraged their neighbours to switch sides for the EURO, and it appears – to a modest degree – they have been taken up on their offer.

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