Like most girls, I don’t like football. But even I know that only fools fail to recognise how big a deal World Cup is. This is the only time, every four years, when football makes the world stop. It’s when everybody must be watching football – if not for the game, at least for hotties like The Boatengs and Origi. However, that Netherlands is playing at World Cup coincides with my trip to Netherlands, doesn’t really cross my mind. But even though World Cup doesn’t feature anywhere in my daily schedule and plan, somehow, it intersects with my plans and ends up making great memories.
It’s Sunday afternoon. Tonight Netherlands is playing against Mexico at 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. It’s a night of firsts.
I am leaving Amsterdam for Hague (where I am visiting for the first time) to meet a group of friends for dinner. Just left my company, all boys, in disbelief that I wouldn’t be watching the anticipated game (in Netherlands) with them in Amsterdam. It’s a big deal because today is the first time Netherlands is playing at World Cup while we’re here. This is also my first time to take a train in Netherlands, and I will be alone. Since my last train ride in Kenya was total hell, I am really looking forward to this while hoping I don’t get lost or something. As I await the train to Hague while at Amsterdam Centraal Station’s upper platform, I panoramically see that everyone, yes – everyone (even little babies in prams) is dressed in Orange—the colour of the Dutch Royal Family and show of patriotism. Now I am certain that everyone can’t wait to watch the game. The orange reminds me of the super nice receptionist in Bergen’s Hotel 1900, where I just came from the second day of the Wedding of the Year, a little earlier on. He was also in orange.
I walk into a Café to buy coffee and while inside I meet a little pretty girl with kinky hair. She tells her Daddy she would like a photo with me because I’ve got hair kinky as hers. Super cute. “She can’t speak English, she’s German but she says she really loves your hair,” her Dad thanks me on my way out. My heart swells.
I have a fancy plan of how I’ll be reading my book – Eat, Pray, Love – as I enjoy the beautiful scenery from Amsterdam to Hague while in the train. But as soon as I enter the train, my eyelids won’t stop hanging. I try to stay alert incase someone comes to ask to see my train ticket—but no one does, so I slip into a nap that emits nonlinear dreams of sandy beaches and Kenya. I’ve never slept for more than four hours in the past five days but instead had very crazy long days and nights, since my arrival in Netherlands a week ago.
I arrive at Den Haag Centraal about an hour before the game commences. My friend from Kenya, Danny (who before reuniting with in Amsterdam a few days ago I hadn’t seen in more than three years) spots me as soon as I reach my cell to call him. ‘Isn’t anyone ever late in Netherlands?’ – I wonder. Soon, he is pulling his bike along and I am happily galloping, as we head towards some fancy white-coloured apartment building, where he stays – about eight minutes walk from the station. I am astounded by Hague’s beauty. Buildings along Frederikstraat street look like a mashup of Amsterdam’s old architecture and something a little modern yet classic. Also, there aren’t edifices too tall around Danny’s hood; I feel at home.
Serendipitously, along the whimsical roads, we bump into my friend from Sweden Sylvia (who is also staying in Amsterdam over our brief stay in Netherlands). She’s in Hague to visit a friend, who she’s with. Somehow, while in Netherlands, my friends and friends of my friends easily all become friends; so Danny and I end up tagging them along. Danny has planned for us to watch the Netherlands Vs Mexico World Cup game first before heading out to Lucia’s for dinner. But first, we have to go Dutch: “We have to wear appropriate gear, otherwise they will think we are supporting Mexico,” Danny advises. We walk into his apartment and voila! Each one of us has orange paraphernalia. I’ve got a hat and a wristband on.
We are now part of the orange army, and proud to make our way downstairs and right into the intimate Le Moulin Fou (restaurant that serves traditional French cuisine, situated right opposite Danny’s apartment building), tonight transformed into a pub. The sizeable venue is full to capacity. Seats and tables have been set outside to accommodate the overflowing crowd (98% Dutch or just European). The streets along Le Moulin Fou have been decorated using anything and everything orange, hanging loose or tightly fit.
Their red wine is bad but the game is worse. Mexico is first to score. By the time Netherlands scores a goal, too, 90 minutes is almost over. I can see how bad Dutch people want to win this game; nobody cares anymore for their drinks but cringing and praying. The air feels so tense. Just as Danny and I are standing to assess the situation, a waitress comes up to us with free shots of some drink that tastes like a mix of Martini, lime and a little whisky. She’s got a sad face, “For Holland”—she says, while offering. We look at each other as we take down the shots. Danny speculates, “Maybe these were meant to celebrate a win …We just have to take them anyway even though we are losing.” I agree, saying, “You know what would be epic? Is if this game turned out just like 2014 UEFA Championships League Final and we scored last-minute” – Danny immediately starts to record a video of us and the crowd like he just got sparked by a sixth sense. All of a sudden, the Dutch delight in a turn of events, scoring another goal in the final few minutes of the game—this has put Netherlands in the quarterfinals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. The game has ended! We won!
Pandemonium! Drinks! More free shots make rounds! We are all hugging! All the other people are singing, kissing and hugging and cheering and pouring beer and throwing bottles at each other and yelling—celebrating in all fashion. The whole place is merrily Orange.
As soon as I post pictures and videos of the riot on Instagram, my new friend, Iris from Amsterdam, comments saying that her mother actually lives right by the street where Le Moulin Fou is located. We briefly get back into Danny’s apartment where I enjoy the aerial view of the happy singing crowd, through the window. Some guys are beckoning me to come down and blowing kisses (which I gladly send back). I am still wearing my orange hat and wristband – it doesn’t feel silly or like a show. For a brief moment, I can’t separate myself from the Dutch die-hard support and love for their country at World Cup. I could see even children, seemingly below 10 years, celebrating Netherlands win against Mexico, as if they really knew what it meant. They must have.
We soon leave for Lucia’s crib in Chinatown (located in Hague’s city centre). It’s dinnertime, and in true Italian style … as I am yet to discover.
BONUS: Look out for the final part of this blog: World Cup 2014 from Holland: Going Global (Part II), coming soon. You might also dig another one from my Travel Tales: discovering the mystery behind Lord Egerton’s Castle.