Dutch Fans Stand by Their Team, if Not the World Cup

AMSTERDAM — In a normal World Cup year, bars, pubs and cafes in the Netherlands are decorated in orange well before the tournament and filled to maximum capacity with soccer fans. The Dutch call it “Orange fever.”

But this year, that fever has largely been lacking.

It might be because it’s winter. It might be because Qatar’s human rights issues have dominated the news coverage of the event. It might be because some establishments have decided not to show the games as they usually would.

“Normally during the World Cup, I’ve got a full bar,” said Mike Schuurman, who has owned his pub for almost nine years in Alphen aan den Rijn, a town about 20 miles from Amsterdam, and decided not to air the games. “Something didn’t feel right” about showing them, he said, because of corruption and human rights issues.

Across the country, several gay bars have also decided not to air the games, because of Qatar’s poor record on L.G.B.T.Q. issues, according to the Dutch broadcaster RTL.

But as the Dutch team got ready for its first game, against Senegal, on Monday afternoon local time, fans in Amsterdam slowly started gathering in bars and pubs, where in some cases orange balloons hung next to early Christmas decorations.

“The run-up has been different,” said Cuno Engwerda, 25, who was waiting for his friends to join him at a bar in central Amsterdam. “It’s a shame that it’s in Qatar,” he said. He understood the lack of excitement, but he had decided to watch the matches because he always supports the Dutch team.

“Normally, there are decorations everywhere in the city,” said Saira Bosma, 24, who was watching in a nearby bar. “It feels smaller.”

This month, a survey by a Dutch news program found that only 14 percent of people were looking forward to the tournament. That has left a dearth of the orange decorations, TV commercials and other preparations that are part of the usual run-up to a major tournament.

If the Dutch squad does well, Schuurman, the bar owner, stands to lose quite a bit of business, a price he said he was willing to pay.

“I’ll have to wait and see,” he said. “It might just become very busy with people who do not love soccer.”

Bar owners and workers who did decide to air the games had to think about the decision more than in previous years, when showing the World Cup was a foregone conclusion.

“I do not support it,” said Sander Schaap, the manager of a bar in the southern part of Amsterdam who ultimately made the business decision to air the games. “I happen to be gay, and I would not be able to enter a stadium in Qatar hand-in-hand with a partner.”

There’s one thing everyone seems to agree on: The national mood will depend on how well the Dutch team does.

“If we’re going to win, then everyone will go crazy and everyone will forget what happened in Qatar,” Schaap said.

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