Inevitably the seeds of Dutch football were sown in England. The sport was introduced in the mid 1870s, despite the lack of suitable grounds and equipment, by students who had attended English Public Schools.
Many of the earliest clubs were short lived, and only the enthusiasm and dedication of men like Pim Muller, who founded H.F.C.* on September 15, 1879, ensured that the game would thrive. Although no longer in the top flight, the Royal Haarlem Football Club, as it is now called, fields no less than forty teams every Sunday during the season - a lasting monument to Pim Muller and his friends.
Almost exactly a decade after H.F.C. first took the field, Muller became President of the new Netherlands Football and Athletic Association, who had eight other member clubs, among them H.V.V. (The Hague), now in the Third Division, Sport, V.V.A. and R.A.P. (all Amsterdam). Soon Sparta of Rotterdam was to join them, taking part in the country's first inter-club match against an English amateur side, Harwich and Parkestone. Within six years Muller and his friend, J. W. Kips, had been so successful in selling the British conception of sport to the Dutch public that Athletics needed a separate association of its own.
The second President of the Nederlandsche Veotball Bond, Jasper Warner, was primarily responsible for establishing Dutch soccer on an acceptable international basis. He remained in office for no less than twenty-two years (from 1897 to 1919), and during this era the Netherlands inaugurated their first club competitions (League 1888, Cup 1889), became a founder-member of F.I.F.A. (1904), and commenced international matches by beating Belgium 4-1 in 1905. He had an able ally in the famous banker. C. A. W. Hirschmann, the prime mover in the creation of F.I.F.A., and the organisation's first Treasurer.
Victories over Belgium and France showed that the national side, drawn from the elite of the ninety-six amateur clubs then in membership, was in fine fettle by 1908. Coached by the former England player, Edgar Chadwick, they lost 4-0 to a powerful United Kingdom side in the London Olympiad, but beat Sweden 2-0 in the final of the consolation tournament. Contemporary reports described their players as big, strong and fast, if lacking in imagination. Forty Eight hours after this triumph over the Swedes, the two teams met again at The Hague - and Holland won 5-3. Both goalkeepers, so the story goes, had been sea-sick on the Channel crossing!
The Netherlands went on to take third place in both the Stockholm and Antwerp Games, but during the 1920s found herself outstripped by other European nations. The reasons were two fold. Firstly, traditional Dutch puritanism frowned on the popularisation of football so that it involved mass-participation. It was argued in some quarters that success would evolve from the coaching of a pinnacle of intelligentsia, not from offering facilities to a broad strata of the people.
Secondly, an obstinate adherence to amateurism when most of Europe was openly embracing professional soccer had retarded her development on the field of play. Holland restricted herself to matches against other amateur nations for several years, and refused to call on any players who had sought remuneration abroad. Messrs Mulier and Kips fought strongly against both these trends, and although an attempt to introduce professionalism proved abortive, they succeeded to a large measure in propagating the social advantages of soccer as a public sport. It was no idle gesture of Queen Wilhelmina to bestow the title "Royal" on November 23, 1929, "in recognition of the important social work of the Royal Netherlands Football Association during the years 1889-1929".
Social phenomena ultimately ensured the popularisation of football. Industrialisation and the new code of laws establishing an eight-hour working day provided new organisations, new amenities and new opportunities for football. During the Great Depression, mid-week matches were arranged for the unemployed, attendances at top matches multiplied and thousands of supporters accompanied the National Team to matches in neighbouring countries. The Dutch coach, Karel Lotsy, later President of F.I.F.A., took advantage of the decrease in working hours to introduce concentrated and regular training for the leading players. As a direct result the Netherlands amateurs began once again to hold their own with professionals. On May 18, 1935, a team consisting of Halle (Go Ahead); Caldenhove (D.W.S.), Van Run (P.S.V.); Bas Paauwe (Feyenoord), Anderiesen (Ajax), Van Heel (Feyenoord); Wels (Unitas), Drok (R.F.C.), Bakhuijs (Z.A.C.), Smit (Haarlem) and Mijnders (D.F.C.) lost by a single goal to a powerful England eleven at Amsterdam.
Holland qualified for the 1938 World Cup Finals in France, and six of these players featured in a most unfortunate defeat by Czechoslovakia in the First Round. The Dutch were without their leading goalscorer, Bakhuijs, and they lost inside-right Van der Veen through injury after an hour. Yet the defence, brilliantly marshalled by fullback Berthus Caldenhove, aged forty, and centre- half Willem Andriesen, the captain, kept the Czechs out until extra time. Although the Netherlands eventually lost 3-0, it was their eighteen-year-old winger Berthas de Harder, destined to win a Cup medal with Bordeaux in 1952, who looked the best forward on the field.
After the war the trickle of aspiring Dutch mercenaries became a flood. The great Faas Wilkes, who played for the Rest of Europe against Great Britain in 1947, left Holland and joineda succession of foreign clubs - Internazionale, Torino, Valencia and Levante. Goalkeeper Frans de Munck, claimed by many to be the best Holland has ever produced, went to West Germany and played for Cologne. Several other players, among them centre-half Cony Van der Hart and forwards Thee Timmermarts and Brom Appel, joined de Harder in France. The Dutch President, Karel Lotsy, a die-hard supporter of amateurism, refused to bow to the inevitable. It was only after he was succeeded by the more flexible H. F. Hopster in 1953 that the top clubs felt able to force the issue. The following year, led by Fortuna '54 (then Fortuna Geleen), they formed a breakaway association (N.V.V.B.) embracing professionalism. After months of negotiation a settlement was reached with the K.N.V.B. that accepted paid players "over a period" and permitted the "experiment" of a professional league. The period has become a decade, and although a few clubs have amalgamated or reverted to amateur status, the League is well-established.
Salaries cannot yet compare favourably with the vast sums paid in Italy, France and England, but full-time footballers (each club is permitted four) earn between £1,200 and £1,600 a year on an average, plus win and draw bonuses of £12 and £5 per match. They are able to negotiate shares in transfer fees, which frequently reach five figures. In 1963, Feyenoord paid £17,000 to A.D.O. for Auguste Haak and £20,000 to Ajax for Henk Greet. Investments in business are popular. Coen Mouljin (Feyenoord) owns a menswear shop at Rotterdam; his teammate Pieters-Graafland a sports shop; Ben Muller, Jacques Swart (Ajax) and Greet each a tobacconists.
Some professionals supplement their, income by part-time occupations. Fens Van Wissen (P.S.V.) works in the office of the huge Philips electrical company; Tony Pronk (Ajax) in a textiles factory; Rinus Bennaars (Feyenoord) and Haak for an import-export firm, where the latter is chief accountant. Another Feyenoord player, Kerkum, a civil engineer, is probably the highest-paid of all: he earns £10,000 a year.
The drift of stars has been reversed, and many foreign players have been attracted into Dutch football - Helmut Rahn, Trevor Ford and Johnny Croton amongst them. Industrialisation, both of soccer and society, has forced the oldest clubs to give way to the "younger" teams supported by commerce - Sparta Rotterdam, P.S.V. Eindhoven, and Feyenoord Rotterdam. Haarlem have not won the Championship since 1946, while Feyenoord lead the League at the time of writing and attract almost twice as many spectators as any other leading Dutch side. In 1960-61 they achieved the remarkable home average of 47,000, the fourth highest in Europe, and after two successive Championships went on to reach the Semi-Finals of the European Cup.
Feyenoord, named after a suburb of Rotterdam, took advantage of the 1938 boom to build a stadium still reckoned amongst the most modern in Europe. It can accommodate 64,000 spectators comfortably (or 70,000 uncomfortably, writing from painful experience!), 42,000 of them seated, and makes up for any lack of cover by some magnificent floodlights, reception rooms and a railway station less than a hundred yards from the main entrance. Financed by the chief of the great coal mining industry, C. R. J. Kieboom, Feyenoord field forty-six teams of all ages and skills, and are fast claiming a place among the great clubs of Europe.
Despite the re-admission of her exiles - Wilkes, Van der Hart and Timmermans - in their 1955 internationals, Holland has yet to transfer the full benefits of professionalism to the national side. Real success, such as the win in West Germany (1956) and a 9-1 victory over Belgium (1959) have been balanced by real failure, such as the defeats by Norway and Denmark in 1962. The English team manager Denis Neville, whose name has been mentioned in connection with the vacant post at Fulham as I write, has built a strong defensive side around the D.W.S. Amsterdam trio, Schrijvers, Israel and Flinkerleugel, but the attack scores very few goals and lacks any real flare.
The Netherlands' hopes of qualifying for the 1966 World Cup Finals - brighter following their two wins over Albania - rest heavily on Graafland, Muller and Moulijn. Eddie Pieters, Graafland, thirty-one years and thirty-two caps, began keeping goal for Ajax at the age of sixteen, and was transferred to Feyenoord for a record fee in 1959. Sharp reflexes and impeccable handling have made him an automatic choice for several seasons. His former club-mate, Ben Muller, has earned twenty five caps as a tough, midfield dynamo; his partnership with Fransen (G.V.A.V.) worried England throughout the Jubilee Match. But above all the artistry of Coen Moulijn, whose brilliant goal set the Dutch crowd singing, caused the most discomfiture.
Moulijn, Footballer of the Year, first attracted attention on the left wing of Rotterdam's amateur club, Xerces, from whom he was signed by Feyenoord back in 1954 when still only sixteen.
A fast, intelligent player with fine ball control and a great shot, Moulijn combines something of the speed of Ghento with the subtleties of Zagalo. In adding to his twenty-seven caps he may well become known as the finest left-winger on the Continent.
If anything has symbolised the seventy-five years of organised Dutch football, then it is her sportsmanship. In 1928, the Netherlands reached the final of the consolation tournament in their own Olympiad at Amsterdam, and drew with Chile. A coin was tossed and although the Dutch won, they gave the Cup to the Chileans - a fine gesture. Ten years later, when they lost to Czechoslovakia in the 1938 World Cup, the Netherlands paid the French referee, M. Leclerq, a rare compliment in inviting him to take charge of their next home international, against Hungary. Dutch referees themselves are in great demand, with Eymers, Groofholf, Horn and Mutters amongst the best in soccer's history. Leo Horn is probably the finest referee of the post-war period.
If one has to look for an explanation beyond the temperament and integrity of the Dutch nation, then it probably lies in their basic philosophy that "football is only a game". In a sombre moment, even the most fanatical supporter would have to admit that they are absolutely right.
This article originally appeared in the February 1965 edition of World Soccer.
*U.D. Deventer were founded on October 13, 1875, but they played rugby during their early years.