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Culture

World Cup Mourning in the Land of Tulips

Just a few more days remain before the World Cup kicks off in Japan and Korea. But one of Europe's greatest soccer nations won't be part of it: the Netherlands. And the fans are miserable.

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Crying for the "Oranjes".

The relations between the Netherlands and Germany have been a rocky road. Many Dutch - particularly older people - still vividly remember Hitler's occupation of the Netherlands during World War Two.

For many years following the war, the Dutch regarded their neighbor with frostiness.

But political and economic ties have warmed up in the meantime. Particularly helpful was the visit by former Chancellor Helmut Kohl in 1995, whose clear acknowledgement of his nation's horrific past many saw as a breakthrough in German-Dutch relations.

Today, the two nations are partners in a number of treaties, cooperate on fighting cross-border crime and enjoy good business ties. They officially see themselves as "good neighbors".

Fierce rivals on the soccer field

But there remains an area of bitterness between the two – and it plays itself out on the soccer pitch. The fierce rivalry between Germany and Netherlands in soccer is untopped in Europe.

The fact that the Dutch team – known as the "Oranjes" – did not qualify for this year's World Cup is not an opportunity German fans leave untouched. The Netherlands, runner-up in 1974 and 1978, have not missed a World Cup since 1986.

The German website "ihr-seid-nicht-dabei", or "you-won't-be-there" wastes no time in rubbing it in. Users can read jokes about the Dutch or send in their own.

They can also have a go at "Oranje-Shoot", where Dutch players get hit with stereotypical items such as wooden clogs, fish, or a chunk of cheese. Or they can try their luck at a round of "Oranje-Memory".

However, the site stresses that it's based on pure satire. "All content is not to be taken seriously," it states in its disclaimer.

Giving soccer the cold shoulder

Such ridicule on the part of the Germans certainly isn't making the Dutch feel much better. More than eight months after the Oranje team flew out of the World Cup qualification, most of the nation is still in shock.

According to a study by polling institute NFO Trendbox, 57 percent of Dutch soccer fans say they have not yet gotten over the trauma of their team's early exit.

So it isn't surprising that World Cup fever just isn't hitting the land of tulips and cheese. Many fans are simply giving the whole event the cold shoulder. Only 30 percent of the nation plan to watch the games on television.

But there won't be any sympathy coming from the Germans. Many haven't forgotten the abuse they got from Dutch fans after the German team got booted out of the European Cup 2000 after just the first round.

As the saying goes: revenge is sweet.

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