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Friday, December 12, 2003

Brilliant Orange

I've almost finished reading this very fine book. According to the cover it's about 'the neurotic genius of Dutch football', which is true. Really though it's about the Dutch mentality and Dutch culture over the last thirty years or so. There are interviews with architects, rockers, artists, buskers, sociologists and of course the odd football player or coach. While nominally about football the books theory is that the dutch play football the way they do because Holland is the way it is.

Holland is flat, and the Dutch had to make their own space ergo Dutch footballers think differently about space, this is a typical idea explored in the book. Ruud Van Nistelroy was recently quoted saying that the idea was interesting, but he wasn't too convinced by it.

On the other hand in the same interview he went on to explain why he doesn't think he's that good a footballer, he wants to be a Dutch number 10, all perfect passes and clever through balls. The fact that he's a classic English number 9, a relentless goal machine, physically imposing and mentally focused isn't all that admired in Holland. The book nails this perfectly, and then tries to explain why the Dutch would rather play well and lose than win with ugly football.

Mostly though the book is great because it uses football to open up Dutch life in a way that the Dutch don't. There's a look at how Holland went from dull, conservative and old fashioned in the 1950's to vibrant, thriving and trendy in the 1970's. All this combined with explanations of how total football actually works, why no one plays like that anymore, and why Louis Van Gaals Ajax side were at once better and worse.

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