Germany and the Netherlands are set to clash at the European Football Championship on Wednesday night, reigniting a deep-seated rivalry between the neighboring countries. Dutch writer Leon de Winter tells SPIEGEL why the Dutch hate the Germans and need the "ritualized war" of the game.
SPIEGEL: Mr. de Winter, why do the Dutch hate us?
De Winter: Of course we don't hate you, but the rivalry is the inheritance of the Nazi era. The Dutch couldn't forgive Germany for occupying their country. You stole our bikes.
SPIEGEL: Your bikes?
De Winter: And second, the Nazis also showed the Dutch what cowards we are.
SPIEGEL: What is left of that mood today?
De Winter: For young people that is all just folklore. But don't forget how much fun hate can be. Hate makes a group feel stronger and defines its identity.
SPIEGEL: That doesn't sound very healthy.
De Winter: Football is a form of insanity. You can express feelings that are normally repressed. You identify with top athletes as though they are warriors. We all want to be warriors and to kill the other team. Shooting the ball into the goal is ritualized rape; our archaic impulses come to the fore.
SPIEGEL: Do the Germans want to rape the Dutch?
De Winter: No, of course not, but football is not all about beautiful passes and shiny jersies, it's about a battle. Forget the rest.
SPIEGEL: Did you like it when Dutch footballer Frank Rijkaard spat twice in his German opponent Rudi Völler's hair during a World Cup match between the two countries in 1990?
De Winter: Rijkaard wanted to communicate to Völler that he was a piece of shit. But he didn't get any reaction, which was disappointing.
SPIEGEL: Many Dutch footballers are now playing in Germany's national soccer league, the Bundesliga. Has that changed the rivalry between the two countries?
De Winter: Not at all. When the national flag is flying even the Dutch who play for Bayern Munich will try and injure the Germans. That is good. That's what football is about. Eleven players against eleven, all trying to break each others' legs.
SPIEGEL: But football isn't war.
De Winter: It is ritualised war. Why else would anyone want to be a fan. We need this ritualised war -- we don't need real war.
SPIEGEL: Why doesn't the Dutch team win any competitions?
De Winter: Maybe the players are too spoiled and rich. They are not hungry enough for final death. Look at Arjen Robben, he's clever but he lacks the killer instinct.
SPIEGEL: Sing us a nice Dutch fan song.
De Winter: Hup, Holland, hup. Laat de leeuw niet in z'n hempie staan.
SPIEGEL: What does that mean?
De Winter: Don't leave the lion standing in his undershirt. (Editor's note: The Dutch national football team's symbol is a lion, a reference to the country's coat of arms.)
Interview conducted by Takis Würger
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