The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer
David Winner, 2008(2000), The Overlook Press
Soccer has a lot to owe the Netherlands because they introduced the beautiful and successful attacking soccer to the world, which provided the blueprint for today’s most successful teams with their ball possession play. Furthermore the country is a constant source of world-class soccer players, which play in all big leagues in Europe and it constantly competes above its weight in European and World Cup Finals, as Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski showed.
Nevertheless the Dutch have the impression that they miss out on big titles, especially with the national team and therefore a lot of legends were created why that is. David Winner takes up these stories and tries to understand why the Dutch national team is not able to win big international titles and how that is connected with the personality and society of the Dutch.
The center of gravity of the book and probably of all complaining about the failure of the men in orange is the World Cup Final 1974 which was probably the only final the Dutch team would “have deserved to win” based on the opinion of the experts, although they reached the final game far more often. Therefore all excursions into the Dutch psyche always circle back to this one game. At the beginning that is interesting, at the end it becomes to repetitive and you wonder if nothing has changed in the years after. It has and the author describes that shortly in some chapters which were probably added in the later editions of the book. But especially after the World Cup 2010 when the Dutch focused more on dirty in-fights than playing and were beaten by Spain with their own former way of playing, all the explanations why the men in orange always play beautiful and can never win anything with it do not hold true anymore.
Nevertheless, the book provides a nice description of the Dutch society, which, from the outside, looks very liberal but is in reality very conservative. As someone who worked for years with Dutch colleagues and always had problems with their “I know everything better” attitude and their lack of team spirit (meaning to subordinate your wishes and opinions under the team’s goals) , it was very insightful to understand where that comes from and how the Dutch society makes it work. Furthermore it was very interesting to learn how architecture and other art forms express the typical Dutch way of living.
The book is an interesting read if you want to learn more about the Dutch society and way of live and you don’t mind to read about soccer as a starting point for the discussions. The soccer part itself is a little bit outdated because the Dutch game has finally moved away from the standards set in the seventies.
Tactics & Game philosophy: 1/3