Thursday, April 25, 2024

Fans Wait


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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Hours before the World Cup final even started, thousands of Dutch and Spanish fans were strutting their stuff outside Soccer City stadium.
The orange-clad Dutch supporters weren’t only noticeable by their loud attire, they were also singing loudly and cheering. After many arrived in groups on orange buses, the fans were drinking and partying around the stadium, and singing along to traditional Dutch music.
“I already bought my ticket for the final in January as I knew we would go to the final,” said Winfried Witjes, a surgeon from Elst-Betuwe, Netherlands, who calls himself “De Oranje General.”
Dressed in orange military gear which he said he designed himself, Witjes said he earned his nickname because of his rabid support of the national team.
“I am a legend as I have attended every World Cup match since 1988,” Witjes said.
Kim Olthof, a 31-year-old product manager who was born in the Netherlands but now lives in London, said she was confident the Dutch would finally win the World Cup after losing in the 1974 and ’78 finals.
“It’s all here,” Olthof said. “We have been waiting.”
The Spanish supporters were more subdued, but their painted faces and red and yellow flags showed their confidence at becoming the third team to hold both the World Cup and European Championship titles at the same time.
“We have better players,” said Rafael Cores, a 33-year-old online editor from Spain who now lives in the United States. “If we had to play five games against the Dutch, I think we would probably win three out of the five.”
Both teams have a history of underachieving at the World Cup. Although the Dutch made two finals in the 1970s, they have never won the title despite having some of the best players in the world. The Spanish have been even more disappointing to their fans, reaching the semifinals for the first time in their history at this year’s tournament.
For some Spaniards, just getting this far is quite an accomplishment.
“We have a lot of respect for the Spanish team and even if they do come second, it will be a good place,” said Gabriel Contrens, a 60-year-old radiologist.
Contrens brother, Enrique, is thinking along the same lines.
“Although we are very confident that we will win, we came to have fun and that’s the important thing,” said Enrique, a 59-year-old high school teacher.
Some are expecting nothing but a victory, however.
“We are the best,” said Ana Zarapico, a 29-year-old engineer. “We don’t have one or two good players. It is all the players working together that make us the better team.”
Neutral fans also had to make a choice, and Candice Mason, a 23-year-old South African from Johannesburg, made her pick clear.
“Of course the Dutch will win,” Mason said confidently.
Edward Rusling, a 38-year-old publisher from London, had to pick another team after his favorite was knocked out in the second round, and he too chose the Netherlands.
“I know that it is the Netherlands’ destiny to win,” Rusling said.


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