At least two people on Facebook mentioned the Eighty Years War--the Dutch Republic's ultimately successful struggle for independence from Catholic Hapsburg Spain--before this article popped up on my RSS feed.
For those who like a little subtext with their soccer, an all-European World Cup final represents a sure thing. No matter what the combination, you know that at some point in history, the two combatants must have had a beef.
And this one comes with its own song – not just any song, but what is recognized as the oldest national anthem on Earth, the tune they’ve been singing in the Netherlands since 1568, and that they will be singing again Sunday at Soccer City.
Het Wilhelmus – The William, as in William of Orange – has 15 verses, but the first reference to the bad guys comes right at the beginning.
“The king of Spain / I have always honoured,” the Dutch sing, knowing the unspoken second half of that sentiment to be “but then he executed a couple of counts, unfairly taxed us and persecuted Calvinists,” thus inspiring the Dutch Revolt, which eventually resulted in them throwing off the shackles of the Spanish empire.
As it says in stanza 10: “Nothing makes me pity so much / in my adversity / then that are seen to be impoverishing / the good lands of the king. / That you are molested by the Spaniards / O noble Netherlands sweet / when I think of that / my noble heart bleeds.”
So why not? If the English and Germans can pull out all of the Second World War clichés every time their teams meet on a soccer pitch, why can’t Holland and Spain refight the Eighty Years’ War in the World Cup final?