From a report for a course at school. I somehow managed to make this chapter on hockey a logical and appropriate introduction for a chapter on teamwork:
Never have I ever been into sport, yet here we are. Dismembering the couch, yelling at the TV, as if they could hear me. My throat hurts, and so does my brain. They’re doing it again. Exactly now when it really matters, because playoff season is upon us. I made a pact with the devil a while back where, either they win on my birthday, or I am no turning a year older. The perfect pact! Except from the fact that they may not even be in the running anymore by the time it’s my turn to blow out the candles.
That’s boring! Screw the devil! Much more interesting is it to retrace all the steps I took from a bona fide sportophobe to a swearing, poutine-whipping, couch-throwing, beer-flinging, coffee table-hurling hockey fanatic.
The Netherlands are / Holland is (they both mean the same country, and it really does not matter how you call it – except for people living in the low-lands. The argument of where Holland stops and the Netherlands begin is very much alive. The line is only in our heads. Just how the Ural Mountains in Russia are not so much an actual chain of granite teeth but made up for the sake of a division between Europe and Asia on a map) a hockey-vacuum. For some reason this amazing sports event never took off below sea-level. We have the high-speed skating, which we do super well, and we have the field hockey, which we also do super well, but no-one ever thought to put their hands together, big-bang style.
We would watch high speed skating as a family, huddled together on the couch or around the dinner table (skating was one of the only events we’d watch during supper), watching Dutch people for once being really awesome in something. I’d admire the Dutch skating fans, who are insanely outgoing, dress head-to-toe in the most outrageous orange outfits, and then go on cheering on everybody. As I grew up I fell disinterested with the sport- bored even (have you ever watched through the men’s 10 kilometres? Half an hour a set! Nightmare! You just sit there and watch them go round and round and round…). It wasn’t for me anymore.
Field hockey was that thing I could do moderately well –ish in High school gym class. This sport however is something only practiced in sort of posh neighbourhoods, and does therefore deserve to be made fun of. Football, although insanely popular in my country, does not interest me one tiny bit.
Something about this crazy sport makes me jump up with excitement, and curl up in a big bawling ball of sadness other times. I care. Deeply, passionately, loudly. I tend to care very loudly at the TV. I don’t know why. I don’t feel at all inspired to live a healthier life style, or work out more. Never have I ever set foot in a gym, and I never will; I just don’t think it’s normal. The game itself is fun; I love the speed and the energy. There is no room for big egos on the ice.
Of course, watching dudes ram into each other either on the telly or in real life makes for a great evening, but there is something more to this phenomenon. In Dutch, the word is ‘clubliefde’. I only heard that today in a talk with a poet called Jules Deelder. Deelder is one of those people who seems infinitely intertwined with his city (Rotterdam). He tends to be a bit outspoken, and only recently I have been searching for his material.
He is a passionate supporter of a smaller football club from Rotterdam (Sparta), the oldest in the country. I do not care much for football, but the way Deelder passionately cares about his club speaks to me. This passion goes beyond money, or transfers, or performance. It is a sense of belonging to a tribe, a devoted group of people who have but one thing in common: a few colours, a few songs, and a team.
In my case, it is dudes in yellow and black from a town called Lappeenranta, where, incidentally, my boyfriend is from. We have spent a few months there, and for some reason the colours of the local hockey team really managed to stick with me.
‘Clubliefde’ is about this intense sense of belonging. The supporting of something greater than all of us. And when the game is over, and the banners put away, we adjourn wherever it is we adjourn to, the colours of our team we carry onward around our neck, and in our hearts.