Go Netherlands Go!

Roberto Lescrauwaet, NYUAD Class of 2017, finds time for football fandom, even while conducting research with a non-profit NGO in India.

My home is Ecuador. There is no doubt about that. I was brought up in an Ecuadorian home, went to an Ecuadorian school, and I love Ecuadorian food. To a great extent, my character is defined by Latino values. Yet, I do display certain cultural traits passed on subconsciously by my father — a very pragmatic and chill Dutchman.

Growing up in a bicultural home allows me to cherry-pick the best aspects of my Latino-Ecuadorian and Dutch heritage; however, despite cultural differences, both countries are deeply and irrationally in love with football. The Ecuadorian president even declared a nationwide holiday the day Ecuador played its most important 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil match against France.

While I do follow the Ecuadorian games, I have to accept the fact that Ecuador has a long way to go before anyone can enjoy a game where technique and finesse play a greater role than sheer luck and perseverance. A common Ecuadorian saying is: Jugamos como nunca, perdimos como siempre. It means "we played like never before, but lose like always."

In the world of football, I love no other team more than the Dutch — and my dad loves me for that. So naturally, my World Cup allegiance is with the Dutch. I know it sounds terrible of me to pick the stronger team, but the Dutch team allows me to watch and enjoy a great game of football.

Since the start of the World Cup, I have been in Hyderabad, India, conducting research with a non-profit NGO to submit a paper with policy proposals that will hopefully be adopted in the G20 summit in Australia this November. I enjoy my time here except for one thing — there is no football culture. The day Netherlands played Chile in order to qualify for the first knockout stage, I was desperately looking for somewhere to watch the game on a big screen. I entered a sports pub and inquired if they were broadcasting the match, only to have a very serious local reply, "Sorry friend, no football here." This encounter perfectly summarized my World Cup experience in South Asia so far.

Nevertheless, this minor setback did not stop me from ardently supporting my team. I began a search for someone with the television package that included Sony Six, which, according to my South-Asian friends, is the only channel that broadcasts the matches.

My perseverance paid off. I found a barber a few blocks from my residence who supports the French team, has Sony Six, and works late into the night. We watch important matches together, while I try to catch other matches online.

It has been a great experience in Hyderabad trying to find football in a culture that does not have an audience for any sport other than cricket; it made me realize that the passion of a football fan knows no bounds.

As I write this post, the Dutch team has now moved into the top eight after eliminating Spain and Mexico, and is preparing for its match against Costa Rica for a spot in the semifinals. I am confident that I will be raising a cup of delicious chai as my team raises, for the first time, the ever-elusive FIFA World Cup.