An early football Christmas?

As the tropical heat of summer departs the Netherlands another heat wave is just arriving.  The stadiums and pitches of this country are starting to heat up as another season of the beautiful game gets underway.  For now, the empty stadiums and self-testing have become bad memories and the time to create new, lasting memories had arrives in their stead.   Looming large on the football calendar this year is the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.  High time for us to look at the pinnacle of the football world and offer a few tips and suggestions on how to enjoy it yourself. 

Here in the low countries, the Dutch top division, de Eredivise kicked off its 66th season of professional football in August.  The season will run until Sunday, 28 May but will be paused following the 14th Round in November for the World Cup in the Gulf.  With summer temperatures well in the 40’s, the only viable option was to play the tournament in a more moderate month of the year.  The football gnomes in Switzerland put pen to paper and here we are with a big gaping hole in the football calendar just before the traditional holiday breaks.  The break will interrupt all top division soccer throughout the world and all eyes will be fixed on the television as we cheer our home or adopted countries to victory.  

For the Dutch supporters, this tournament promises to be thrilling.  The Orange Army have their sights set high as trainer Louis van Gaal will put a very talented Oranje squad on the pitch in a pool that should provide only a modicum of resistance: Ecuador, Senegal and hosts Qatar.  The Cup kicks off on Monday, 21 November with Qatar vs. Ecuador, culminating in the final to be played on Sunday, 18 December in the Lusail Iconic Stadium.  During our normal summertime World Cups, the food and beverage of choice has been leaning towards barbecue and cold beer with more than one TV pushed into outdoor service in the garden.  This year, the fare will be decidedly different as we huddle inside and try to conserve gas during our wartime winter.  Luckily for us, the buyers at our nation’s supermarkets are busily preparing their offerings and will undoubtably be treating us to a tantalizing array of eats and drinks splashed out across the pages of their weekly folders.  The makers of orange food coloring will have put in overtime hours to make sure that our salon tables and bar tops are thoroughly decked out in apropos snack and décor.  Orange Pepernoten and footy?  Why not?

For the vast majority of us, watching the World Cup will be done right here glued to the screen.  The good news is, this country is one of the very best when it comes to events like the World Cup because for any of us with cable television, we have at least four national broadcasters at our disposal that will be airing the matches – that includes the BBC for those of us needing our footy in English.  The kickoff times are very Europe-friendly with most matches starting at either 4, 8 or 10:00 pm.  A few 11:00 am matches including Netherlands vs. Senegal on the opening day of the pool competition will serve as lunchtime fixtures and perhaps the best reason since the end of the pandemic to be back in the office.  Of course, there’s nothing like an office pool to keep everyone excited about the World Cup.  In short, the tournament can be a great way to keep morale high when the nights grow long…just remember to go easy on your colleagues from countries like Italy, Ireland or Sweden as their teams failed to qualify. 

The World Cup in Qatar has been under the looking glass since the day FIFA president Sepp Blatter used his cocktail sausage fingers to open the envelope and announce the winner of the farce that was the 2022 host nation competition.  However, the odds are longer than Qatar’s own football team winning the Cup than anyone or anything stopping it from happening so get those country-appropriate duds out of the closet and get ready to party.  Rather than bah humbug our pre-holiday Mondiale, let us embrace this once-off oddity and prop ourselves into pubs or shoehorn into a cozy Dutch living room and let our nights be lit by the glow of LED screens form action unfolding in the Gulf.  Perhaps Christmas will come early this year to the Netherlands and Santa will grant the wishes of Louis and his 11 helpers on the field.  Whatever the outcome, the World Cup is back and from 21 November until 18 December you’re likely to hear about it!

Written by John Mahnen