The KNVB and the embassy have been trying for months to prepare Dutch New Zealanders for the Women’s World Cup. The campaign did not yield much: less than two thousand tickets were sold for the orange team’s three group matches.
Dennis Sanders heaves a deep sigh along the Orange training ground. The Dutchman, who moved to New Zealand in 1988, is asked if the World Cup is alive in the country. “A little, but not enough. I wish it was more,” he said, wearing an orange cardigan.
Sanders and his daughter Alyssa (14) are big fans of the Dutch national team. At home in Christchurch, they see almost every Orange Women duel. Alyssa hopes to one day follow in the footsteps of her idol Lieke Martens.
They will visit two of Orange’s three group matches at the World Cup: those against the United States and Vietnam. Figures shared by the KNVB on Thursday show they will be among the few Dutch supporters in stadiums, even though there were two thousand requests for open training on Wednesday.
Only two thousand tickets for Orange’s three group matches at the World Cup have been sold to the Dutch. On Sunday, there are only 591 Dutch fans in the first World Cup match against Portugal. And this while 40,000 people with a Dutch passport and 150,000 people with a Dutch connection live in New Zealand.
Kaartverkoop Oranje (peildatum: 14 juli)
Zondag in Dunedin
7.954 kaarten verkocht
Waarvan 591 aan Nederlanders
Donderdag in Wellington
31.038 kaarten verkocht
Waarvan 1.083 aan Nederlanders
1 augustus in Dunedin
3.515 kaarten verkocht
Waarvan 226 aan Nederlanders
“Half the population plays rugby”
KNVB director Jan Dirk van der Zee has been told that New Zealanders often only buy a ticket at the last minute, he said on Thursday in response to the disappointing figures.
However, a “Sea of Orange” will not materialize in the near future. It remains with tufts of orange. And it’s painful: in recent months, the KNVB and the Dutch embassy have done a lot to mobilize the Dutch community in New Zealand. The KNVB expected only a few hundred Dutch people to make the expensive trip halfway around the world.
That’s why someone has been hired specifically to promote the Netherlands games in New Zealand. Ambassador Ard van der Vorst said on Wednesday that many messages were posted in groups on social media to bring the Dutch to the stadiums. A special mascot (Kicky) and Oranjemarsen around the duels have also been imagined.
All of this is useless. According to Sanders and Van der Vorst, the big problem is that New Zealand is not a football country. “In the Netherlands, one in sixteen people plays football, here half the population plays rugby,” explains Van der Vorst. More than five million people live in New Zealand.
The “All Blacks”, the nickname of New Zealand rugby players, are by far the most popular team in New Zealand. New Zealanders also love cricket. Football is another story. There is only one professional football club: Wellington Phoenix.
USA and Netherlands live in Wellington
The Netherlands are also unlucky that matches against Portugal and Vietnam are played in Dunedin. The city is located on the South Island of New Zealand. Only 1.1 million people live on this whole island. 3.6 million people live on the North Island. Auckland alone has 1.7 million inhabitants.
The game of the Netherlands against the United States in the capital Wellington is almost sold out, but that is mainly due to the Americans. They bought tens of thousands of tickets for the replay of the World Cup final four years ago. The United States is also much closer to New Zealand than to the Netherlands.
According to Van der Vorst, New Zealanders are excited about the duel at the Sky Stadium (34,500 capacity). “Everyone is talking about this game. It becomes a kind of magic game. We are going to make it a big party, as we can do very well in the Netherlands.”
It will be a party in a small circle. It will soon be up to the Dutch national team to bring more Dutch people like Sanders and his daughter to the stadium.
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