Opinion: Predictable exit

POSTED: 06/19/12 11:43 AM

After the predictable exit from the European championship tournament Dutch sports journalists will spend probably the rest of the summer rehashing everything that went wrong and everything that should have been done better. Whining, finger pointing, suggestions that the coach ought to be kicked off the team – it will all be part of the sports fodder during the silly season. What a pity that the London Olympics will only begin on July 27; that will give sports reporters more than a month to get used to the idea that the Netherlands is not playing the best soccer in Europe.
As far as dealing with embarrassing sports losses the Dutch ought to take a leaf out of the book of Greg Popovich, the coach of the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs seemed well on their way to the NBA-finals after taking a 2-0 lead on their opponents, the Oklahoma City Thunder. But the thunder turned the best of seven series around and snatched the ticket to the finals ways from the Spurs.
Did the fans call for Popovich’s resignation? Did the coach blame his players? None if this happened, at least not in public. This is what Popovich had to say after the loss in game seven: “As sad and disappointed as we are, you really have to think about it’s almost like a Hollywood script for OKC in a sense. They went through Dallas, last year’s champion, then they went through the Lakers, then they went through us. Those three teams represent 10 of the last 13 championships. I don’t know if anybody has ever had a run or gone through a play off playing these kinds of teams. It’s just incredible and I think it’s pretty cool for them.”
On another occasion, Popovich had this to say about his team’s elimination from the play offs: “We all want more. It hurts every day. It’ll pass eventually.”
But the Dutch don’t think it’s pretty cool for the Portugese to qualify for the quarter finals. The Russians (with a Dutch coach) didn’t think it’s cool either for the Greeks to give their country something to celebrate after they got beaten by a lone goal from veteran Georgios Karagounis. Instead, the Dutch coach muttered something like: those Greeks did not want anything and they were unable to do anything.
This is how the Dutch mentality of misplaces arrogance has even reached Russia: the Russians played the best but they got their behinds kicked by the Greeks who, according to their opponent’s coach “could not do anything.”
Somehow, this mentality has permeated the whole Dutch society. One year, when Ajax was doing so badly in the national competition that it did not stand a chance to win the title, the coach simply declared that the national competition was not important, because Ajax focused on the European competition.
The coach that shows some respect for opponents that do better than his team still has to be born – at least in the Netherlands. This is also the main reason for the embarrassing exit from the European stage in the Ukraine this weekend. The Dutch team thought it was better than anybody else – even after Denmark proved them wrong in the very first match. Then the team was going to beat Germany and when that failed they were going to destroy those darn Portugese.
Well, we all know how that ended. Supermarkets are now donating their surplus of Orangemania food to charity (how embarrassing is that?) and all those panhandlers that stocked up on soccer fan paraphernalia are now left with stuff nobody wants to touch with a ten foot pole anymore.
But, when everything is said and done, soccer is only a game. Nobody got hurt, nobody died, and Greece is not only still in the Eurozone, it is also still a contender for the European soccer title. That’s because the Greeks practice sports with their hearts, not with their minds – and they vote the same way. That should give those Dutch soccer players something to think about.

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