The screen was sixteen square meters in the Onze Lieve Vrouwe Kerkhof in the center of Amersfoort, seven years ago. A crowd of people saw the Netherlands lose in the semi-final against Argentina at the 2014 World Cup. “Full is full” was the rule at the time. And: “Fireworks are not allowed.”
Also read: Winning Orange made it unnecessarily difficult
Even now there are rules. “No entertainment like television screens,” according to the site of Rijksoverheid.nl. And even if TV screens were allowed, the rules still go against everything you understand by ‘watching football together in a cafe’. Reserve your spot. Stay there. Max. four people per table. Only move when you have to pee or pay. And: departure at 10 p.m. So after the first half – in the case of Orange’s first group match of this European Football Championship, this Sunday evening against Ukraine.
Almost nothing on the Onze Lieve Vrouwe Kerkhof reminds you of football this evening. In itself, the terraces are as full as the rules allow. But: only a few people wear orange. The most striking are the one meter high orange planters that line the terrace of café ‘t Witte Rabbit.
“We just watch here at home,” says Jeroen Berkouwer (26) from a balcony behind Eemplein, further in the city. Two naked friends stand next to him, drinking corona without irony. “Normally we always watch football at Long John’s Pub in town.” Long John’s has come up with something inventive for the European Championship matches of Orange: you can follow football on the radio – they ordered dozens of portable devices from bol.com last week. “I heard about those radios, yes,” says Berkouwer on his balcony. “But you want to watch football, don’t you? It’s not 1940!”
It’s not a storm at Long John’s. Shortly before the game, Joann Nair (30) and the brothers Martijn and Jeroen Schaap (30 and 27) are sitting outside on the garden terrace at a picnic table. “Very nice idea such a radio”, they say, beers between them. “But we already went home to look. We live five minutes from here.” Maybe, they say, they’ll come back if you can listen to the second half too.
On the lookout for excesses
When the Netherlands-Ukraine is forty in minute, many tables are empty. Two men talk and eat nachos – without a radio. Twenty minutes later, everyone is gone: 10 p.m., cafe curfew.
Boas from the municipality of Amersfoort Ellen and Henk (“prefer not to have a last name”) are walking through the city center in their blue-black uniform this evening, on the lookout for “excesses.” As? “Very large groups of people.” They haven’t come across any excess this evening. The municipality of Amersfoort says that it will first warn catering entrepreneurs in the event of a violation, and not immediately send them a receipt. Contacts with the catering industry are good, lines are short, the spokesperson said. Amersfoort has not yet issued a fine since the reopening of the catering industry.
Remarkably enough, you can watch the match at the Pathé cinema in Amersfoort – as with many Pathé branches in the country. Hall entrance at 20.45. The competition around that time is, among other things, from The Battle of the Scheldt and Demon Slayer – Mugen Train. Fifty people are allowed to watch Oranje, in room 3. But there are only sixteen reservations, says service manager at the cinema Edo Schipper (26). “I think because of the weather. Or people prefer to watch in the living room.”
Also read: Orange defender Jurriën Timber: imperturbable and with a strong intuition
Also look outside
Watching the match on a screen outside turns out to be possible at just under ten minutes by bike from the center, in the Lobeliastraat in the Soesterkwartier, probably the most orange street in Amersfoort. Flag lines between the houses, golden balloon letters on the awnings, red, white and blue garlands on the front doors. Resident Jan Koopman (49), in an orange shirt with number 14, puts the TV of his neighbor across the street on the orange-covered standing table in the front garden. His wife Monique Koopman-Van Thiel (46) says that they always watch the European Championships and World Cups here in the street. And this time they are the hostess and host of the street. For example, neighbor Chantal de Ros (44) comes to have a look, she says with a flag line just below her neck. “Yes, we must ‘officially’ keep a distance of one and a half meters,” says De Ros. She turns her fingers into quotation marks at the word official. “We have good contact with the local police officer.”
In the second half, the TV has been moved to the corner of the front garden: the residents, nine in number, sit in their garden chairs and look focused. In minute 58 they spring up. 2-0. Chantal de Ros, with Dutch flags painted on her cheeks, chin and forehead, shouts: ‘Better than the practice matches!’ After Ukraine’s 2-1, one of her neighbors adds: “Fuck man!”
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of June 14, 2021