Guest post by Emma Coolen, would-be professional soccer player, whose ambition is to be part of the Netherlands squad for the 2019 World Cup.
‘Come on ladies. Make us proud. Show the entire country what you are capable of!’, I wrote on my blog on July 16th, earlier this year .
That evening, the Dutch women’s national soccer team, also known as the ‘Oranjeleeuwinnen’ (Orange Lionesses) were scheduled to play the opening match of Women’s Euro 2017 on home soil.
I only had one real hope for the outcome of the tournament: that the people of in the Netherlands would finally show some enthusiasm for women’s soccer. In the weeks that followed the moment when I pressed ‘publish’ on that somewhat optimistic blog post, the country’s perception of the sport would change forever.
A few hours before the opening game between the Netherlands and Norway, I was standing on the sidewalk of a street in Utrecht called ‘Stadionlaan’. In the distance, I could see the outlines of the stadium where the tournament was set to kick off later that day.
In front of me, thousands and thousands of people, dressed in orange, waving flags and singing at the top of their lungs, were walking by. For a moment, I stood there, enjoying the moment. All of this, for women’s soccer. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I probably wouldn’t have believed it.
The best moments in life are those that exceed even your wildest dreams. Sure, all the ingredients were there to make ‘WEURO 2017’ a successful tournament for the Dutch ladies. There had been a peak in media attention for the team when they qualified for the Women’s World Cup two years earlier, and this time, the Dutch were awarded the opportunity to host the tournament.
This made it a lot easier for fans to watch the games than in Canada two years prior, when Dutch supporters had to set their alarm clocks in the middle of the night to see any of the match action. But even adding all of those factors up couldn’t have predicted the ‘orange madness’ that swept over the country this year.
The unexpected success of the Dutch women’s team at WEURO came at the perfect time, and it’s hard to predict if they’ll ever be able to repeat it. But what that victory has brought about in their home nation will probably last for decades.
For the first time in history, women’s soccer is taken seriously in the Netherlands. And that might be worth even more than winning the European title.