Dutch delight at open-door policy
The Oranje can be sure of a healthy crowd for training on Tuesday (©Getty Images)
Netherlands coach Marco van Basten was so impressed by the 5,000 crowd that attended the first Oranje training session last week that he wants his side to practise in front of the fans again on Tuesday.
Some 5,000 spectators welcomed the Netherlands to their first run-out at the training base at the Stade Olympique de la Pontaise in Lausanne last Thursday, and the warm welcome clearly pleased Van Basten. Now, after negotiations between the Royal Netherlands Football Association, the civic authorities and UEFA EURO 2008™ organisers, the team will invite the public to watch them again on 10 June, the day after their Group C opener against Italy in Berne.
"We didn't draw as big a crowd as Portugal and Italy did, but it made us very happy nonetheless," Van Basten said. "We have been at this stadium a few times now and a good relationship has developed between the people of Lausanne and the Netherlands. A lot of locals came to watch us on Thursday and it is good for the atmosphere – it makes it nice to work. It's a positive thing."
According to embassy estimates, around 16,000 Dutch people live in Switzerland, most of them in the area around Zurich and Lake Geneva, where Lausanne is situated. The Oranje are no strangers to the region, having come here for pre-tournament training before both UEFA EURO 2004™ and the 2006 FIFA World Cup, and their regular visits have earned them a fair share of Swiss fans as well as the attentions of expatriates.
"I have been an Oranje supporter all my life," explained 18-year-old Swiss Jean Remarc. "I live in Lausanne and I'm glad they have come here again. I saw them two years ago when they came here for their World Cup preparations." Fleur, a Dutch woman resident in Lausanne for 19 years, added: "It's nice that they always come here. I came to see them on all their previous visits. It is lovely to see them again. It's special for me as my heart is still in the Netherlands."
Hans Hubert, a 49-year-old Dutchman, said: "I have lived in Montreux for five years and it is great to see the Oranje here with my son, who is even more fanatical then me. It's great here. I work with Italians, French and English, and in the office the talk is all about the EURO – mocking each other's teams. That is very special. We will go to the Italy game with some colleagues, so the Oranje had better win or I will not be allowed to forget it."
Fans wave the Netherlands off after their first training session in Lausanne