Italy’s having a good year

Earlier this year, the Italian group Maneskin won Eurovision

… and there’s more high profile Italian success to be celebrated.

I’ve been following Wimbledon this year (I love Wimbledon!) and an Italian player I didn’t know called Matteo Berrettini made it to the finals. I’d seen him in the semi-finals as well where he had been impressive but yesterday in the final he lost to Novak Djokovic in 4 sets (Djokovic held on to his nerves better and won deservedly). Still, he won second place at Wimbledon which is impressive and he sure is easy on the eyes as well. I’m sure I’ll be hearing more of this Italian in the future.

And then last night Italy thankfully won the UEFA 2020 European football championships…

I won’t go into it again why I supported Italy, already did so in my previous post with lots of discussion to boot, but suffice it to say I felt more than justified in supporting Italy. Not only did English football fans prove yet again how awful they are (again starting to boo the opponents’ national anthem and I think the TV broadcast then switched off microphones so that it wouldn’t be heard and then later in the game booing when Italy was at the ball) but the Italian play (apart from maybe the first 20 or so minutes) was better too, as confirmed in match statistics. It’s a pity the winner had to be determined by a penalty shoot out.

In the aftermath, the three young Englishmen who missed scoring during the penalties are now receiving a whole load of extremely ugly racist abuse. Thankfully that is condemned but wow, something needs to be done about these so-called ‘fans’. How about banning England fans from stadiums (and social media) altogether until they can behave themselves?

Anyway, back to Italy – I’m very pleased with the Italian win, they deserved it. Richard Armitage has been gracious about the Italy win too…

Congratulations, Italy! 🇮🇹

My goodness, I never knew I could ever get so invested in football. It must be my daughter’s fault. Now that she’s been playing herself for these past two years, we watch it on TV far more. For now, it’s back to normal life and lower heartbeat rates.

It’s Coming to Rome

This past month we have watched virtually all the football matches in the European Football Championships. Well, the kids and husband have in any case, I sit there and watch it half while doing other things. This coming Sunday the final will be upon us and it will be England versus Italy and I fervently hope for this outcome…

(I’ve been seeing this all over Twitter, can’t figure out the souce but I think it’s quite funny!)

I don’t think I’ve ever felt as big of an antipathy towards the English as I do right now, and in this instance most particularly towards the English football fans. The English have always had this island-superiority complex but in recent years (I think I can pinpoint it to the Brexit vote five years ago) the English have felt more and more myopic and arrogant, in the ugliest of ways. I know there are so very many decent English people out there but these past few years mostly the ugly English underbelly has been increasingly showing and that includes current British leadership. Now, with the football, my annoyance with the English is coming to a new boil.

The England fans booed the German and Danish national anthems before those matches started and then booed when the opposing team was at the ball. And just a few hours ago I read that during the penalty shot, during extra time play in the Denmark vs England match, someone shone a laser into goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel’s eye! He went on to do a wonderful save only to have the winning goal pass him on the rebound, but what the….? Is this really the way a host country treats their guests? This is so unsportsmanlike and so arrogant! Where is English politeness and decency?

In addition, there’s also this hysterical “It’s coming home” nonsense. The English have never won the European championships before and just because football was invented in England, it doesn’t mean that is the only true home of football. The aforementioned quite awesome Danish goalie Schmeichel had a nice answer to one such a nationlistic bullshit question an English reporter had…

I was watching some BBC morning TV before the match against Denmark and I got very tired very quickly of this whole “Coming home” business, making England seem like the centre of the universe. I’m boycotting BBC news and sports coverage until after this is all over.

Of course, every country displays pride in their country at events such as these but English nationalistic pride and arrogance are at such a high point in such a disrespectful way that it has just become insufferable to me. I don’t know how it is in other countries but on Dutch Twitter the annoyance with the English is apparent as well and I even hear it in some of the commentaries on TV even though they don’t actually say it (or if they do, I’m not around long enough to hear it).

It’s not so much that we are pro Italy winning this championship, it is much more that we are anti the English winning and it’s all about their arrogance. We were sad the Danes didn’t beat them (they were my faves for the title, although that never was realistic) and I so hope the English will get their butts kicked by Italy in the finals on Sunday and maybe find some humility again. No, I have no sympathy for English football fans, on the stands or at home, right now, they feel alien to me and I am feeling very disappointed that such attitudes can so easily thrive. So, go Italy! I secretly think most of Europe will be cheering for Italy. Brexit all over again.

(Little disclaimer: the English football team itself and their head coach, Gareth Southgate, do seem decent.)

Venturing out more again

It’s going well here with the Corona crisis and vaccinations make it possible for people to move more freely now. This means that larger events are possible again and travel has also opened up. I’m chomping at the bit for travel, so we bit the bullet last weekend and just went ahead and booked our summer holiday. Eek!

We don’t dare to fly yet but one of the good things about living in Europe, and also living in a small country, is that you don’t have to drive far to go abroad. We also wanted something self-contained so that we can easily social distance. Junior isn’t coming with us, he is holidaying with his girlfriend, so it’s just the three of us. We booked a cottage to the north-west of Nantes, right near Brittany, in France for two weeks from mid to end August.

France requires from EU citizens either a recent negative Corona test before entry or a full vaccination that is two weeks or older. Mr Esther and I will have the full vaccination, mini me will only have received her second vaccination 3 days before we leave, so she will need to test right before we go. As we only drive through Belgium and won’t be there for more than 48 hours we won’t have to do anything special there.

Anyway, we felt we got a pretty good deal on that cottage for the middle of summer, so decided to also book two days in a hotel in Paris before that. Mini me really wanted that stopover in Paris (about 5 hours drive for us) as the last time we were there (for one day, during another summer holiday) she was 4 and a half years old and she barely remembers it…

We have a little time yet to get used to the idea of feeling brave enough to travel again and we can also cancel the trip without losing money up to a week before we leave, so that gives us a little peace of mind.

It’s not only the planned August holiday that will have me venturing out more again. Yesterday evening in the parents’ chat group of my daughter’s football team it was suggested we go to a live match the Dutch national women’s football team will be playing on Saturday, July 3rd. It’ll be a practice match against South Africa about an hour an a half away. Our Dutch women’s team is very good, they won the European Championships in 2017 and came in second (losing to the US) in the World Championships in 2019.

There was a lot of enthusiasm for this plan and I admit, the outing appealed to me as well. They needed parents to drive, so I volunteered and will be going as well. My daughter is a little dismayed as she doesn’t want me interfering with her enjoying the day with her team mates but I promised I’d keep a low profile and stick with the other parents. And oh my goodness, do I even remember how to still be social around other parents? We’ll see. We need to show a recent negative Covid test before being allowed to enter the stadium, so mini me and I have a testing appointment next week Friday afternoon. So far, I haven’t needed to Covid test before (the only one of the four of us who hasn’t had to) so I need to work up a little bravery to tolerate that swab up my nose.

It feels weird to be making these venturing out more plans but it also feels good that life can be picked up again somewhat.

Orange

This month’s Mach’ Was challenge has the colour orange as its theme. Well, the first thing that pops up in my mind when the word orange is mentioned is my country, The Netherlands. Orange is an important colour here.

Our royal family is from the noble house of Orange-Nassau, the name originates from the municipality of Orange in the south of France. While we do have a monarchy here (since 1815) our king has no real powers, all political power lies with the prime minister and the government. The king can’t even make an official speech that is not approved by the prime minister but the monarchy is popular here, for their representative and symbolic value. I won’t further elaborate on Dutch constitutional politics here, but what is essential to know is that because our King Willem-Alexander is from that house of Orange-Nassau (and his ancestors before him), orange has become our national colour. It’s a conspicuous colour and is used a lot here.

Orange has historically been an important colour because of this royal house association. During the Second World War it became a symbol for Dutch resistance after the Dutch capitulated to the Nazis in May 1940 and Queen Wilhelmina fled to England. During the war “Radio Oranje” became very important to the Dutch resistance, where messages were broadcast to the Dutch from London by Dutch officials and our Dutch queen Wilhelmina in exile. It was forbidden to listen to the radio during the war but secretly it was done a lot.

Official commendations given by the king are in orange. My father received one for his life’s work in 2003 (not actually from the queen at the time but presented to him by the mayor of the town he lived in).

Nowadays, the most popular use of orange is for anything to do with our national football (soccer to the Americans) teams. Football is our national sport and our national team is called “Oranje” (Dutch for orange). Our female football team is doing really well internationally and is called the “Oranje Leeuwinnen” (orange lionesses – the lion is part of the Dutch coat of arms, Mr Esther could tell you all about it, he is a heraldry expert).

Google ‘Oranje supporters’ (see search result here) and you can see how orange the fans get! The sports fans even have a name, they are called “Het Oranje Legioen” (the orange legion). During the football European and World Championships ‘orange fever’ hits the nation and the streets here are decorated in orange, some more than others (more examples of decorations in this article)…

Thankfully, I have never lived in a street that gets that orange. Frankly, such over the top, nationalistic displays always scare me a little. So far these have only ever been in good fun but what if nationalism like this gets taken too seriously, like it was in Nazi Germany and what I see in the US now as well? Not the topic to discuss in this post, but I do wonder sometimes when and if the scale will be tipped. Anyway, back to the colour orange as used by the Dutch…

For any big international sporting event, orange will always be represented somehow. It’s also popular duing speed skating events (the Dutch perform excellently on the world stage when it comes to speed skating)…

… even our king and his wife, Queen Maxima, come to show support dressed in orange…

International sports tournaments aside, there is one day every year where the country also turns orange and that is during King’s Day when our monarch’s birthday is celebrated. It used to be Queen’s Day when we had Queen Beatrix (who abdicated in 2013) but after 7 years I still catch myself sometimes saying “Koninginnedag” (Queen’s Day) instead of “Koningsdag” (King’s Day). I have posted about King’s Day several times before (see the King’s Day tag) and I admit that I give in to nationalist sentiment then when I wear my one orange item of clothing: an orange scarf that I’ve had for many years. It’s the one nationalist day a year that I really do enjoy, as everything is one big outdoor party.

We even have orange pastry to celebrate, with the oblong-shaped tompouce being the most popular orange pastry.

So yeah, when you come to The Netherlands, and especially when you stay here for a longer period, the colour orange can not be escaped! It is the symbol of Dutch togetherness and patriotism.