Sunday, July 11, 2010

It's not you, it's me. Okay, I'm lying. It IS you.

I'm sorry, Holland.

It didn't have to be this way.

I wanted to love you. I wanted you to collapse on the field in happy tears, with wild, random, speechless transports of exhausted joy at finally becoming the champion team of the world's soccer nations. I wanted to remember this year as closing the door on the rue and regret of 1974 and 1978, when the exciting beauty of your play was kicked and beaten to death first by German ruthlessness, and then by Argentine duplicity.

I want to be transported with you.

But, instead, it seemed like you were shocked and frightened by the Spanish attack you encountered in the first fifteen minutes of the Cup Final. But, instead, you didn't react by becoming the Netherlands I wanted you to be. You didn't raise your game above the Furia Roja's.

No, you spent a quarter hour playing some of the nastiest, most cynical, most brutal soccer I've seen in an international match. No, all right, I'm lying; the most nasty, cynical, brutal soccer I've seen outside an Italy-Germany match.You thugged the game into inconsequence. You made the beautiful game a thing of grinding ugliness. And with every foul I found my love for you, my hopes for you, falling right alongside the Spanish players.

In regular time you had one lovely chance denied by lucky goalkeeping. But you kept right on fouling your way out of my heart. Into the overtime, your keeper made a terrific save on a Fabregas breakaway. But you kept relentlessly fouling, fouling. It was like you didn't believe in yourselves, or perhaps your coach, van Marwijk, didn't believe that you could play soccer like the Spanish.

And finally you went down to ten men - 90 minutes after you should have - and finally you gave up the goal on a lovely half-volley shot by Andres Inesta that beat your keeper to the far corner and made all your dirty play vain.

I'm sorry, Holland. I wanted you to win. I wanted to love you.

But finally you kicked me right in the heart, too.
And with all my heart I can't be sorry you left the field in tears, and not in tears of joy.

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