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The National Sport of Netherlands is Soccer.

Soccer in the Netherlands captivates hearts and souls with its vibrant fan culture and mesmerizing orange wave of support.

To learn more about sports culture in the Netherlands, read our article about the most popular sports in the Netherlands.


#1 History of Soccer

  • Early 19th century: Introduction of soccer to the Netherlands by English workers and sailors.
  • 1889: Formation of the Royal Dutch Football Association (Koninklijke Nederlandse Voetbalbond or KNVB).
  • 1954: Launch of the Netherlands’ professional football league, Eredivisie.
  • 1974: The Netherlands’ national team reaches the FIFA World Cup final for the first time, led by the legendary Johan Cruyff.
  • 1988: Netherlands wins the UEFA European Championship, their first major international trophy.
  • 2010: Netherlands reaches the FIFA World Cup final for the third time.

#2 Culture and Traditions

Soccer plays an integral part in the Netherlands’ cultural identity, with clubs like Ajax and PSV Eindhoven boasting rich histories and global fan bases. The national team, affectionately known as Oranje (the Dutch word for ‘Orange’), inspires fierce loyalty from the Orange Army of fans, who paint stadiums and streets orange during international tournaments.

Festivals and events, such as the annual Amsterdam Tournament and the KNVB Cup, showcase the country’s soccer prowess and talent. Public viewings of matches, particularly during the World Cup and European Championships, create a festive and energetic atmosphere, drawing fans together in camaraderie and celebration of the sport.

Traditions surrounding soccer in the Netherlands also extend to the youth level, with local clubs fostering a strong sense of community among players and supporters. The Dutch also have a long-standing footballing rivalry with neighboring Germany, with matches between the two nations drawing intense interest and passion from fans on both sides.

#3 How it Works: Rules, Gameplay, and Equipment

πŸ“• Rules & Gameplay

  • Match Duration: A standard match consists of two halves, each lasting 45 minutes, with a 15-minute break in between.
  • Objective: Each team tries to score by getting the ball into the opposing team’s goal.
  • Players: Each team has 11 players, including one goalkeeper.
  • Offside: A player is offside if they are nearer to the opponent’s goal than both the ball and the second last opponent when the ball is played to them.
  • Fouls: Direct and indirect free-kicks and penalty kicks are awarded for infringements of the rules.

βš™οΈ Equipment & Gear

  • Ball: Round and made of leather or another suitable material.
  • Goalposts: Located at each end of the field, they are 7.32 meters wide and 2.44 meters tall.
  • Kits: Teams wear distinguishing kits, with goalkeepers wearing different colors to stand out.
  • Shin Guards: Protection for players from potential tackles or hits.
  • Boots: Specialized shoes designed for the sport’s requirements.

#4 Modern Development of Soccer

In contemporary times, the Netherlands continues to have a significant influence on the global soccer landscape, thanks to the country’s innovative playing style, known as ‘Total Football,’ which emphasizes fluidity and positional versatility. The Dutch Soccer Academy has produced some of the world’s top players, contributing to the sport’s evolution and competitiveness.

Cultural and technological advancements have further shaped soccer in the Netherlands. The adoption of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology, for instance, aims to improve the accuracy of referee decisions during matches. Additionally, the increasing prominence of social media platforms brings fans closer to their favorite clubs and players, fostering stronger community ties and fan engagement.

Recent trends in the Netherlands’ soccer scene include the growing visibility of women’s soccer, with the Dutch women’s national team winning the 2017 UEFA Women’s European Championship and finishing as runner-up in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. This success has sparked greater interest and investment in the sport, and it is expected to grow in prominence in the coming years.

#5 Soccer and the Olympics

Soccer has had a presence in the Olympic Games since the early 20th century, with the men’s competition first held in 1908 and the women’s competition making its debut in 1996. The Netherlands’ men’s team secured a gold medal in the 1912 Summer Olympics and went on to win bronzes in the 1920 and 1948 editions. The women’s team has yet to make its Olympic debut, despite their impressive growth and success in recent years.

The Olympic Games have played an important role in promoting soccer’s global recognition. Competitions involving talented players from around the world provide a stage for emerging stars to showcase their skills and gain international attention, thereby raising the profile of the sport and fostering its growth and development worldwide.

#6 Famous Athletes and Achievements

  1. Johan Cruyff: Considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time, the three-time Ballon d’Or winner pioneered the ‘Total Football’ philosophy and was instrumental in the Netherlands’ journey to the 1974 World Cup final.
  2. Ruud Gullit: A versatile and skilled player, Gullit won the Ballon d’Or in 1987 and was part of the Netherlands’ victorious 1988 UEFA European Championship squad.
  3. Marco van Basten: A prolific striker known for his technical brilliance, Van Basten won the Ballon d’Or three times and scored an iconic goal in the 1988 UEFA European Championship final.
  4. Dennis Bergkamp: Renowned for his elegance, vision, and technique, Bergkamp enjoyed a successful club career with Ajax and Arsenal and was a key player for the Netherlands’ national team in the 1990s.
  5. Arjen Robben: A winger with exceptional skill and pace, Robben was integral to the Netherlands’ success in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and had an illustrious club career with clubs like Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

#7 Where to watch Soccer

  • ESPN, Fox Sports, and Ziggo Sport: Popular broadcasting platforms that provide comprehensive coverage of Eredivisie matches, Dutch national team games, and other European leagues.
  • Live in the Netherlands: Experience the electric atmosphere at iconic soccer venues such as the Johan Cruyff Arena (Amsterdam), Philips Stadion (Eindhoven), and De Kuip (Rotterdam).

Max is a sports enthusiast who loves all kinds of ball and water sports. He founded & runs stand-up-paddling.org (#1 German Paddleboarding Blog), played competitive Badminton and Mini Golf (competed on national level in Germany), started learning β€˜real’ Golf and dabbled in dozens of other sports & activities.

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