Van Marwijk does the only right thing to do

Posted on 5 October 2010


This afternoon it became clear that Netherlands manager Bert van Marwijk has decided to punish Nigel de Jong for his most recent horror tackle. De Jong was dropped from the squad that will face Moldova and Sweden in the coming days, and rightfully so!

For those who’ve missed a bit of the news: yes, Nigel has done it again. Nigel de Jong, the man who came to symbolize Holland’s destructive attitude of the past World Cup after planting his boot in Xabi Alonso’s chest. After no less than five violent incidents involving the defensive midfielder, he is once again in the footballing world’s center of negative attention. In Manchester City’s match against Newcastle, he has managed to break new signing Hatem Ben Arfa’s leg.

This incident, less than a week before a double Euro 2012 qualifying round, came at a perfect time for van Marwijk.

After all, it was his Dutch team that provoked the world with its playing style, preferring to break down rather than to control. Newspapers made comparisons of dancers versus thugs and judged the Dutch guilty of playing anti-football rather than Total Football

Those familiar with the work of a certain David Winner know how painfully recognizable his dissection of our Dutch society is. His very well constructed standard-work on Dutch football history, Brilliant Orange, has recently been enriched with an afterlude, delving into the recent developments during the 2010 World Cup and shortly thereafter. Without giving too much away, Winner’s parallel between a military operation and the Dutch team at this World Cup is simply, well, brilliant. Ranging from the kick-off statement “We have a mission” to the “Welcome home, heroes!” newspaper ad after the final, the significance of WWII is never far away.

More recent political developments, like the progressive individualism and a shattering of the Dutch political landscape are explained too. In a country were every individual feels entitled to his rights rather than his duties, the World Cup expectations grew and grew. After all, with our 1988 European Championship now over twenty years ago, the present generation acclaimed the right to a party of their own.

This highlights the importance of van Marwijk’s position as a national team coach. After all, and this has not often been heard during the World Cup, there’s more than reaching the final of the tournament. Van Marwijk’s “mission” should go further than to bring 11 Orange shirts as close to the World Cup as possible. He, as a national coach should serve the best interest of Dutch football as a whole…

And his team may have won the World Cup’s silver medal, Dutch football as a whole has lost more than that makes up for.

Well, my hypothesis on this World Cup debacle is that a very well planned out strategy was less well carried out by the troops in the field, ehh, on the pitch. The lack of discipline, and experience perhaps, has led this over-eager Dutch team too far over the edge, with de Jong’s final tackle symbolizing the problem.

Van Marwijk therefore deserves credit for standing by his team, in spite of how his plan unfolded. By taking responsibility and dropping de Jong for the next few games he can’t undo the damage that’s been done. But by dropping de Jong for violence committed in a Manchester City shirt, he indirectly admits that something went wrong in South Africa.

We should embrace this as a first step on a long road towards regaining what’s been lost in the past few months.

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