The relative importance of penalties


[Thursday morning 10 July]  The Dutch dream is history. The national soccer team lost in the semi-finals against the Argentinians. Undoubtedly, there will be a lot of further scrutiny of this important match. Among the seventeen million inhabitants of the Kingdom of the Netherlands one easily finds ten million experts who can explain why the Dutch should have won.

I know very little about sports and only follow the major sportive events (such as the World Soccer Championships and the Tour de France that began a few days ago) only from afar. But inevitably one gradually learns a few things. In the past week I have finally understood what the term ‘offside’ means and why there may be a series of penalties at the end of a match that remained undecided.

However, even though I do not belong to those compatriots who drape the mirrors of their cars with orange, or wear an orange shirt, etc, or put orange banners along their balcony, I do by now know who is Arjan Robben and even began to feel some sympathy for Louis van Gaal. And, of course, I  hoped for finals between the Netherlands and Germany and a Dutch victory over the ‘Mannschaft’. Because, yes, winning against Germany remains very special . . .

Yet, it is a relief that it is almost over. The media were so dominated by the event in Brazil that there was hardly place and time for other things. (Even the Adventist media did not forget the world championship. I read a substantial article on the Adventist Review website about the ‘outreach’ activities of thousands of Adventist Brazilian volunteers, who distributed literature, meals, and drinks and hugged the soccer fans and tourists! Is this what is called ‘light evangelism’?)

From time to time during the past few weeks I watched an interview with some of the players and with commentators. One thing will remain with me from an interview with Tim Krul, the reserve-keeper whom van Gaal, quite unexpectedly, enlisted in the penalty-phase of the quarter finals between Netherlands and Costa Rica. By stopping two of the Costa Rican shots, Krul ensured a Dutch victory and became a national hero.

A day later Krul was interviewed on Dutch television. The journalist asked him what he considered the most beautiful moment of his life–suggesting that it must have been his accomplishment of the previous evening, when he gave the Dutch their victory. But no, when asked what had been the most sublime moment of his life, he  replied without hesitation: The birth of my little daughter!  I instantly turned into a fan of Tim Krul. At last, I thought, someone who is able to relativize this extravagant soccer-circus and knows what is truly important!