Before my trip to Netherlands and Germany I started Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer, by David Winner. I do not think I could have picked a better book. It was the perfect introduction to the Netherlands and is easily one of the best sports books I have ever read.
The description at Amazon.com is perfect:
“If any one thing, Brilliant Orange is about Dutch space and a people whose unique conception of it has led to ome of the most enduring art, the weirdest architecture, and a bizarrely crebral form of soccer–Total Football–that led in 1974 to a World Cup finalsmatch with arch-rival Germany and more recently to a devastating loss againstSpain in 2010. With its intricacy and oddity, it continues to mystify and delght observers around the world. As David Winner wryly observes, it is an expression of the Dutch psyche that has a shared ancestry with the Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie, Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, maybe even with Gouda cheese…”
Winner manages to weave between Dutch architecture, art, soccer, and society with the same kind of ease that the Dutch navigate their crowded bike-friendly streets, by constant negotiation and re-negotiation.
Like a walk along the streets of downtown Amsterdam, Dutch soccer, or Total Football, is a constant reimagining of space. Pedestrians, bikers, cars, and trucks are continually re-negotiating the space they move into. It is this spatial mindset, according to Winner, that is at the heart of Total Football, a beautiful re-thinking of the “beautiful game,” that could only have been conceived by the Dutch.
Brilliant Orange is an artful book and a fun read. I highly recommend it. And for the record, I also recommend a trip to the Netherlands!