The Euro Diaries: Triumph and disaster

Once again, I’ve gotten my hopes up, been let down, and let the Netherlands hurt me, but you know what? That’s okay.

On the whole, I’m not a big fan of poems. I find most of the ones I read pretentious, often nonsensical and generally fail to be touched by their supposed deeper meanings.

That being said, there have been a few I’ve come across that have stuck with me. One of them is If – by Rudyard Kipling, and these lines in particular:

If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;

According to Kipling, if you can do that – not let ultimately unimportant and temporary success and failure influence you too much – and a bunch of other stuff, you’ll be a man, whatever that means.

If that is indeed the case, last weekend confirmed that I am still very much a boy.

Prior to kick off in the match against the Czech Republic, triumph, in a manner of forms, was on my mind.

For one, the Netherlands had just had the perfect group stage, winning all three matches and, on the whole, looking pretty good. What’s more, we had what was on paper a pretty easy run to the semi-finals ahead of us.

I had achieved something of a personal triumph myself too. Watching Oranje live at a tournament has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember, and despite the best efforts of a global pandemic in trying to stop me, I was in Budapest and finally going to do it.

So yeah, heading to Hungary, I was flying as high as the Ryanair plane I was on, which made the fall all the more painful.

Strangely, it didn’t take long for my mood to drop on matchday. I had a bad gut feeling about the game all morning, and around 20 minutes in, turned to my sister and told her that we were going to lose.

Why? Well, asides from the gut feeling I had, a number of our key players – particularly Memphis, Wijnaldum and De Jong – just seemed shadows of their usual selves, and for some bizarre reason, we had decided to play the long ball game against a side that’s rather strong in the air.

I was, of course, proven right, with Czech Republic securing what was ultimately a comfortable 2-0 victory following De Ligt’s red card early in the second half, and it hurt.

There were still a lot of positives to take from the day. I had gotten to go on holiday to a great city after COVID-19 had stopped me from travelling abroad for a year, I had gotten to fulfil my dream of watching us at a major tournament, and the result would mean we’d probably end up with a better manager. Did any of this cheer me up at the time? Did it fuck.

Instead, I kept replaying Malen’s miss just before the red card over and over in my head, dwelling on the fact that we had thrown away such a big opportunity to get deep into the tournament, and wishing I hadn’t spent so much money and gone to so much effort – three COVID tests and a 10-day quarantine upon return to the UK – to go to the match.

Quite clearly, I had allowed disaster to get to me, and it was made all the worse by the fact that I’d also let the prior triumphs do the same. Sorry, Rudyard.

Almost a week on since I left for Budapest, I still feel largely the same way, although I am starting to look back a little more fondly on the trip.

Nevertheless, I said at the start of this series of diary entries that I wouldn’t change the fact that “a group of men that I don’t know and have never met have the power to put me on top of the world or leave me absolutely miserable for weeks on end, all with how they kick a ball,” and I stand by that.

While letting football wreak havoc with your emotions can be rough, when the Netherlands do finally triumph again, being so invested will make it feel oh so much better, and worth all the pain caused by the many disasters.

That’s the message I’d like to end this series and my Euro 2020 coverage on; one of hope, because there is lots of it for us Netherlands fans.

We still have a number of world-class players, plenty of youngsters that are only going to get better, and they could soon be managed by a top coach such as Louis van Gaal. And that is an encouraging thought.

To quote the great Michael Scott: There’s no doubt about it; I am ready to get hurt again. And again. And again.

All that’s left to say is thank you so much to all of you who have read one of these posts, listened to any of the podcasts or interacted on Twitter over the last few weeks. The Clockwork Oranje community has really grown, and it makes me really, really happy.

Hup Holland, now and always.

Finley Crebolder

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