National Pride (of Lions)

A Pride of Welpies

Meet Welpie, the little lion given away with each €15 purchase at Albert Heijn, the local grocery chain. He’s in celebration of the Euro Cup ’08, which began Saturday. Sunday was the first match between the Netherlands and Italy, who happen to be in the same group. Bad luck.

We had a standing invitation at the local to watch the match there, with promises of civility and friendship, no matter the outcome. Originally, we weren’t going to go, since Giovanni was concerned about not feeling free to express himself during the match, when surrounded by a mass of Dutch fans. He decided to take a quick walk over and explain to Fred (the owner of the bar) and thank him for the invitation, nonetheless. When he left, I went upstairs to start getting ready. I suspected we would be going after all.

A smart move on my part.

He returned wearing a blue Bavaria beer t-shirt, which Fred had given him, saying they had convinced him to stay and watch and that Rene’ and Merian (the former owners of the house) were there as well. As soon as we stepped out of the house, I saw a sea of orange. Everyone seemed to be wearing some sort of orange shirt or hat or scarf. It was truly impressive. The bar was no different: a sea of giants wearing orange.

Have I mentioned just how tall the Dutch people are? Giovanni, despite the blue shirt, seemed to disappear into the crowd. I’m used to being one of the taller people around; now I’m average if not downright short!

Anyway, the crowd, as promised was surprisingly friendly and supportive of the one Italian supporter in their midst (I was neutral, happy either way). They became even friendlier when Italy began to lose. Oh yes. Italy, World Champions, lost the match 3-0. It was one of the best matches to watch — in terms of game play — up to that point in the tournament, but the outcome was a bit depressing. As the match wore on, Giovanni received sympathy from various people in the crowd, along with a few beers. Many people even tried to make him feel better, pointing out that Italy was playing fairly well, and certainly better than the French had played in the match earlier in the day! (France is also in our group, along with Romania.)

Despite the loss, Giovanni wasn’t too sad. He’s more than willing to support the Netherlands and would be happy to see them continue through the tournament. It’s not over for Italy yet, but they’re at the bottom of the group at the moment. Hopefully, things will go better on Friday during the next round of group matches. After the match, people were taking to the streets, cheering Holland’s victory. It was peaceful and joyous and a lot of fun to experience. At the end of the night, Giovanni was also gifted with an orange version of the t-shirt he’d been given earlier. This way he has something to wear for the next Holland match.

Hup, Holland, Hup!

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