Dutch Courage

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By Phil Simms

Dutch Courage
Replica Nazi helmets bearing pro-Dutch slogans are being sold in a cynical attempt to make money from the bitter football rivalry between Germany and The Netherlands. Both countries are competing in this summer's World Cup hosted by Germany.

The orange plastic helmets, which cost five Euros each, have small Dutch flags printed on the side and bear slogans such as “Attack!” and “Go Netherlands Go,” in Dutch.

Dutch firm Free Time Products, from Schijndel, has already sold 15,000 plastic orange helmets in just two weeks of going on sale.

The German Nazi occupation of The Netherlands during World War II is still a touchy subject 60 years later. Many Dutch fans still hold a grudge that sometimes is played out in the fierce football rivalry between the two countries.

Designer Weno Geerts said they were meant as a joke and critics should lighten up. He said: “We just want to support our team and tease the Germans. Nothing else. That’s why we called it ‘Helmpje’ (Small helmet).

“There's no political message here, it’s just a joke. We’re making fun of Germans, just like they like to make fun of us.”

Indeed, after The Netherlands failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup, German pranksters started a website titled “Where’s Holland?”

Geerts said the company had received only a few complaints and expected to sell another 100,000 helmets before the finals this summer.

He added: “They are meant for the supporters who watch the game on the television, in the pub but also those who are traveling to Germany.”

But the Dutch Football Association KNVB said the helmets were in poor taste.

Official supporters club chairman Lloyd Vandenberg said: “They go too far. It has nothing to do with football. We go for friendship and we don’t want to refer to war times.”

The Dutch lost to Germany in the 1974 World Cup final, but beat their rivals in the semi-finals of the 1988 European Championship and went on to win the title.

The last time German and Dutch supporters clashed seriously was after a friendly match in 1996. They are in separate groups at this year’s World Cup and won’t meet unless both teams advance to the later rounds.

Frank Huizinga, KNVB, said he was not amused by the helmet stunt.

“We reject every link between soccer and the war, here are so many ways you can make a joke, but this is too obvious to be funny, it shows no creativity at all,” he said.

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