Conflict part II: Dutch Football

soccer-enemy1The excerpt below comes from British football journalist Simon Kuper’s “Soccer Against the Enemy,” in explaining the differences in culture between the British and Dutch with regards to how they treat conflict, and how it impacts the sporting football fortunes of the two nations. The references are dated and I think this was originally published in 1992.

 “We Dutchmen are pigheaded,” summed up Johann Cruyff, the greatest of them all (and the most pigheaded). “Even when we’re on the other side of the world, we’re always telling people how to do things. In that respect, we’re an unpleasant nation.”

Unpleasant perhaps, but successful. Dutch soccer works. It seems that if you let players think for themselves they win soccer matches. Over the last 20 years, no other small nation (and of the large nations, only Germany and Argentina) has won as much as Holland. No one else has played as gloriously. It is precisely because the Dutch talk so much that they can play the way they do. A player has to understand his role.

One Genoa manager tried to make his team play total soccer like Ajax, and failed.  (Player) Vant Schip commented: “To play the Ajax system you have to understand it, and especially talk about it a lot.”

The difference is down to Dutch working-class culture. The Dutch working classes value debate. They are Calvinists (Even Dutch Catholics have strong Calvinist traits) and Calvin told the faithful to ignore priests and to read the Bible themselves. The result is that a 20-year-old Dutch soccer player assumes that he is as likely to have the Truth as his manager.

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One Response to “Conflict part II: Dutch Football”

  1. volleytaxi Says:

    I agree that this type of communication can be useful assuming that it is a culture understood by all participants.

    I can see issues with teams containing a mix of younger and older players if not all players understand what is happening with this practice of challenging each other.

    Equally it’s important for management and others outside the team to understand what is going on. In Ray Maclean’s book Any Given Team he describes how St Kilda Coach Stan Alves was sacked when by the committee when it was felt he had “lost” the team. The truth was his team had bought in to honest and challenging feedback. So when the committee asked about the coaches performance they were given a brutally honest answer assuming the committee understood this was part of day to day practices of the club.

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