WEURO 2017 - Emma Coolen

Time to make history: How the Netherlands became captivated by the Orange Lionesses

These days, I have to pinch myself from time to time. Because the hype that’s currently building around the Dutch women’s national team, also called the ‘Orange Lionesses’, and the European Championships in our country… I think many of us didn’t even dared to dream of it. Milestones happen in such rapid succession that even a social media junkie like me has a hard time keeping up. There was the very first cover of Holland’s biggest soccer magazine VI with the women’s national team on it, one of the most well-known criticasters of women’s soccer publicbly stated that he has changed his opinion on the sport, and big sponsors are finally showing their support for the ladies. Today, after years, months, and weeks of counting down, the Euros finally start. Time to make some history.

Bizarre

Okay, not everyone is convinced right away, and that’s not what was expected either. There will probably always be a group of die hard male supporters that say women’s soccer is ‘nice as a side project but can’t be taken too seriously’. But living in Holland, it’s hard to deny a paradigm shift is happening as we speak. And sometimes, being a part of that is almost bizarre.

As I’ve written on my blog on several previous occasions, 15 years ago, when my parents told people their daughter played soccer, they were laughed at. And now? Now big websites like VICE and Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant are writing articles on the upcoming tournament, and you can even collect Panini stickers with the women’s teams on them.

Virus

That the virus is not only spreading amongst the people in Holland is proven by this photo, where you can see how a significant portion of the population of Iceland made their way to the local airport to cheer on the women as they boarded their plane to the Netherlands:

Taking steps

With all the craziness going on, you’d almost forget that women’s soccer has some very large steps left to take. Not only in the salary that players are paid, but also in the professionalization of the sport and thereby also the overall level of play. But in that process, every step counts, and the massive media attention for the Euros on home soil could potentially be a huge leap for the Dutch women. In my eyes, the situation is in its essence quite simple. More attention for the women’s game draws more spectators to the stadium, which in turn generates more profit that the sport can use to take the next step in professionalization.

However, that first hurdle has proven to be difficult to overcome in the past years. But very carefully, the first positive signals are coming in. Reaching the World Cup two years ago was a massive success for the Dutch team, but unfortunately the games were in the middle of the night for their home fans because of the time difference. But with the rise of social media, some players have built a massive fanbase, who show up to watch games and buy jerseys in ever-growing numbers.

Make us proud

No, women’s soccer is not ‘finished’ yet. But the step that the Dutch women’s team is going to be taking at 18:00 tonight in a sold-out Galgenwaard Stadium in Utrecht, in front of over 23,000 spectators, is a gigantic one. And that I’m part of the generation that sees all of that happening makes me so incredibly proud. Not (yet) as a part of the national team, but for the time being, that’s perfectly fine. I’m going to cheer for our Lionesses until my throat is sore these coming weeks. Come on, ladies. Make us proud. Show the entire country what you are capable of!

Thanks for reading, talk soon! 🙂

 

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