World Cup 2010 final: Amsterdam and Barcelona come to sweaty standstill

Hundreds of thousands of fans jostle for space around outdoor screens in two of Europe's hotbeds of football

Two of Europe's hotbeds of football came to a near-standstill tonight as hundreds of thousands of fans jostled for space around outdoor screens showing the World Cup final to the faithful in Amsterdam and in Barcelona.

In the sweaty hours before kick-off, the Dutch city was washed with an orange tide, as more or less everyone, locals, tourists, and even babies and the occasional dog, wore the national side's colour. As well as T-shirts, dresses, hats and earrings, even the countless vuvuzelas parping tunelessly throughout the streets were a uniform fluorescent amber. The crowds were shoulder-to-shoulder in sticky heat around a vast TV screen on the square adjoining the Van Gogh museum.

There were similar scenes, in similar temperatures, around Barcelona's Plaça Espanya. Here, the thousands of supporters bearing the Senyera, the four-barred yellow and red Catalan flag, were almost outnumbered by those carrying Spain's national flag, a rare sight in Catalonia.

On Saturday, a million people had marched through the city to protest at Madrid-imposed restrictions on their new autonomy charter, but some of those same people had turned out to cheer on the national team. Miquel, a university student, said: "Of course, I would like to see them playing for Catalonia, not Spain. But half the team is Catalan, and I'm proud of that. This is like Barcelona winning the World Cup."

Emotions in the Netherlands were more straightforward, if mixed with a realisation that their talented if occasionally workmanlike side were taking on a team playing in a manner once seen as typically Dutch ‑ the so-called total football notion, developed at Amsterdam's Ajax club and then exported to Barcelona by the great Johann Cruyff and others. "We're definitely the underdogs," admitted Axel de Koenig, a 23-year-old student.

"It's funny we're going against a country who play like the Dutch used to. They're more talented as individuals, but we have better team spirit, I hope."

In a bar near the main square, teachers Shaum and Mindi Loewen, originally from Colorado but now based in Berlin, had orange T-shirts and pledged Dutch allegiance after finding a long-planned holiday coinciding with the final.

"We're glad it's not Germany playing instead of Spain," said Shaun. "We'd have had to support them, and it might not have been fun if Holland lost."

Back in Barcelona, cooling off in a bar near Plaça Espanya, were Oriol Quera and his Dutch friend Cristian.

Oriol, a Catalan nationalist, said: "I want Holland to win. I'll watch the match because I like football. But if Spain win it will be insufferable for us."

"One nil to Holland," was Cristian's hopeful prediction. "But at least, if we lose, it will be because the Dutch taught Spain how to play good football."


Peter Walker in Amsterdam and Stephen Burgen in Barcelona

The GuardianTramp

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