Sport in the Netherlands

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Arjen Robben in a UEFA Eurocup match.
Mark Schmetz, handball player
Women's national volleyvall team
Match of the Eredivisie ice hockey league
Wieteke Cramer, speed skater
Servais Knaven, professional cyclist
Michael van der Mark, Moto2 and Supersport motorcycle rider
Arie Luyendyk, winner of the Indianapolis 500, 24 Hours of Le Mans and 12 Hours of Sebring auto races

Approximately 4.5 million of the 16 million people in the Netherlands are registered to one of the 35,000 sports clubs in the country. About two thirds of the population older than 15 years participates in sports weekly.[1]

Football is the most popular sport in the Netherlands, with field hockey and volleyball as the second and third most popular team sports. Tennis, gymnastics and golf are the three most widely played individual sports.[2] A number of native Dutch sports are also practiced, such as fierljeppen (Polsstokverspringen), beugelen, kaatsen, klootschieten, kolven and korfball.

Organization of sports began at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Federations for sports were established (such as the speed skating federation in 1882), rules were unified and sports clubs came into existence. A Dutch National Olympic Committee was established in 1912. Thus far, the nation has won 230 medals at the Summer Olympic Games and another 78 medals at the Winter Olympic Games.

An influential figure in Dutch sport was Pim Mulier. In 1879 he founded the first rugby and football club in the Netherlands, he was involved in forming the first tennis club in 1884, established the predecessor of the Royal Dutch Football Association five years later, and introduced field hockey in 1896. He also introduced bandy. His hometown Haarlem and the English Bury Fen Bandy Club played the first international match.

Team sports[edit]

Football[edit]

The Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) is the largest sports federation in the country with 1,076,759 players (in 2005).[2] The organization came into being on December 19 , 1899 and was one of the founding members of FIFA (the world Football Association) in 1904.

Dutch football teams won three Olympic bronze medals in 1908, 1912 and 1920. Other successes came in the 1970s, when the national team played in the 1974 and 1978 FIFA World Cup finals, losing to the tournament's host on both occasions. In the same period, Dutch league sides Ajax and Feyenoord won European Cups from 1970 to 1973. In 1988, the national team won the only international title so far at the European Championships. PSV Eindhoven won the European Cup that year too. Ajax again won the European Cup in 1995.

Many Dutch football players have gained international fame, such as Johan Cruijff, Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Kluivert, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie. Rinus Michels was named coach of the century by FIFA in 1999. Additional football notoriety came with the Dutch team's participation in the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals, in which they lost to Spain, giving Spain their first world cup win.

Football stadiums Amsterdam ArenA and Feijenoord Stadion have UEFA's 5-star rating, enabling them to host finals of the UEFA Champions League and the European Championship.

Baseball[edit]

The Royal Dutch Baseball Federation was established on March 12, 1912. They merged with the softball federation to form the Royal Dutch Baseball and Softball Federation in 1971[3] In 2008 there were over 24,000 players active at one of the 184 clubs in the country.[4]

The Netherlands boasts the most successful national baseball team in Europe, winning the European Baseball Championship twenty times and frequently representing the continent in international competitions such as the World Baseball Classic and Baseball World Cup. There is a domestic professional baseball league whose best team, Neptunus of Rotterdam, regularly contends for the European club championship, including five consecutive titles from 2000–2004.

Baseball is especially popular on the island of Curaçao. In 2005, the Pabao Little League Champions of Willemstad advanced all the way to the championship game in the Little League World Series. Former New York Yankees outfielder Andruw Jones, now of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan's Pacific League, is arguably the most successful and popular baseball player to emerge from Curaçao, and in 2006 was a member of the Netherlands national baseball team that participated in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. Jair Jurrjens, pitcher for the Atlanta Braves became the first pitcher from Curaçao to pitch in the major leagues. John Houseman became the first Dutch-born player in the Major Leagues when he made his debut for the Chicago Colts in 1894.[5] Bert Blyleven was an All-Star and two-time World Series champion.

In 2009, the Netherlands twice upset the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. The Dominican Republic's entire roster played in Major League Baseball, while the Netherlands only had one player on a Major League roster. The Dominican teams' combined salary total in the Major Leagues was about $84 million, while the Netherlands totals for $400,000. The Dominican Republic were highly favored but in its first game against the Dominican, the Dutch won 3–2. The Dominican Republic won its next game against Panama to set up a rematch against the Netherlands. The Dutch stunned the Dominicans again and won 2–1 in extra innings.[6]

Basketball[edit]

Basketball is also a popular sport in the Netherlands. The national team had its most successful time during the 1980s. At the 1983 European Basketball Championship the team finished in the final four and qualified to the 1986 FIBA World Championship where the Dutch left behind strong competition such as Team Australia and Team Germany. During that time, the Dutch had its strong players in Jelle Esveldt and a young Rik Smits. Smits later became a NBA All-Star and emerged as the Dutch basketball-icon for years to come.

Since 2000, basketball in the Netherlands went through some revival and has been home to several NBA players, including Francisco Elson and Dan Gadzuric.

Field hockey[edit]

The Royal Dutch Hockey Federation was formed on October 8, 1898 and is, with 185,923 members (in 2005), the fifth largest sports federation.[2] Hoofdklasse hockey is the country's primary hockey competition since 1970, which is contested by 12 clubs (in both the male and female league).

The Netherlands women's national field hockey team is the most successful team in World Cup history, having won the title six times. At the 2012 London Olympics the women's team made it to the final and went on to beat Argentina. The Dutch male hockey team has won the world cup three times and Olympic gold on two occasions. Several Dutch hockey league clubs have won the European Cup.

Volleyball[edit]

Volleyball is the third most participated team sport in the country. Founded on September 6, 1947, the Dutch Volleyball Federation is with 128,693 players (in 2005) the ninth largest sports association.[2] The A-League is the highest division in which eight men's and women's teams compete for the national championships.

The national men's team is the most successful exponent, winning the silver medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics and the gold medal four years later in Atlanta. The biggest success of the women's national team was winning the European Championship in 1995 and the World Grand Prix in 2007

Cricket[edit]

Cricket is a popular sport in the Netherlands. The Royal Dutch Cricket Federation was formed in 1883.[7] The premier division is called the Topklasse (cricket), in which ten teams compete for the national championships.

The Netherlands national cricket team qualified for the cricket world cup on 4 occasions; 1996, 2003, 2007 and 2011, Also qualified for 2009 ICC World Twenty20. Netherlands beat England in the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 which is one of the biggest wins in Dutch cricket history.[8] The country has been considered one of the stronger "minnow" nations for some time. Although the sport is sustained by a small player base, some have won professional contracts in England. Netherlands is ranked within the top 15 teams in the world and has co-hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup in 1999.

Most recently at the 2009 World Twenty20 in England, the Dutch team made a name for themselves by their victory over hosts, England, in the opening match of the tournament. Though they failed to qualify for the Super Eight stage afterward, their win against England has been recognized as a major step forward in cricket development in the Netherlands and among associate and affiliate nations.

Rugby union[edit]

Rugby union is also played in the Netherlands. The first rugby club was HFC, established on September 15, 1879 by the 14 year old Pim Mulier, who first encountered the sport in 1870. However HFC switched to association football in 1883. The Delftsche Studenten Rugby Club was the first official rugby club on September 24, 1918. The Dutch Rugby Federation was founded on September 7, 1920 but ceased to exist in 1923 due to a lack of clubs. They reorganized on October 1, 1932, six months after the Netherlands national rugby union team played their first match against Belgium.[9] The Dutch Rugby Federation has 8,000 registered players (in 2007).[10]

Korfball[edit]

Korfball (Dutch: Korfbal) is a mixed gender or only female ball sport, with similarities to netball and basketball. It is played by two teams of eight players with four females and four males in each team or with eight female players in each team. The objective is to throw a ball through a bottomless basket that is mounted on a 3.5 m (11.5 feet) high pole. Mixed gender korfball is more general played in the north of the Netherlands, while all female korfball is general played in the south of the Netherlands. The sport was invented by Dutch schoolteacher Nico Broekhuysen in 1902. In the Netherlands, there are around 580 clubs and over 100,000 people playing korfball. The sport is also very popular in Belgium and Taiwan, and is played in 54 other countries. The Dutch korfball union is called Koninklijk Nederlands Korfbalverbond (KNKV).

Dutch korfball match "De Korfrakkers" (Erp) vs. "Swift" (Velden)

Individual sports[edit]

Tennis[edit]

The Royal Dutch Tennis Federation was founded on June 5, 1899 and is, with 709,277 members (in 2005), the second largest sports federation in the Netherlands.[2]

One of the most successful tennis players was Tom Okker, nicknamed The Flying Dutchman who was ranked among the world's top 10 singles players for seven consecutive years from 1968 through 1974, reaching a career high of World No. 3 in 1969. Betty Stöve reached the ladies' singles final at Wimbledon in 1977 and won 10 Grand Slam titles in women's doubles and mixed doubles between 1972 and 1981. Also noticeable is Richard Krajicek, who won Wimbledon in 1996, and the Paul Haarhuis/Jacco Eltingh doubles team, which won five Grand Slam titles and two world championships. Esther Vergeer is a four-time Paralympics tennis champion.

Netherlands is home to several tennis tournaments, including The ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, one of the best visited indoor tournaments in the world.

Cycling[edit]

Royal Dutch Cycling Union was instituted on January 26, 1928. Two Dutch road racing cyclist have won the Tour de France, Jan Janssen and Joop Zoetemelk, and seven have been World Champion on the road. On the track, several Olympic titles have been won, most recently by Leontien van Moorsel who won three Olympic gold medals at the 2000 Sydney Games. Erik Dekker won the 2001 Cycling World Cup and Bart Brentjens captured the gold medal for mountain biking in the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Ice skating is one of the most popular sports.

Ice skating[edit]

The Royal Dutch Skating Federation was formed on September 17, 1882.[11] With 161,673 members they are the seventh largest sports federation (in 2005).[2]

Speed skating[edit]

After a successful period around 1900, with Jaap Eden and Coen de Koning as World Champions, Dutch speed skating successes became numerous in the 1960s. Champions Kees Verkerk and Ard Schenk were immensely popular, causing a real speed skating hype in the country. Successes continue up to today, with the likes of Yvonne van Gennip (3 Olympic gold medals in 1988), Rintje Ritsma (4-time World Champion), Jochem Uytdehaage (2 Olympic gold medals in 2002), Marianne Timmer (3 Olympic gold medals in 1998 and 2006), Ireen Wüst (2 Olympic golds in 2006 and 2010 and 4 World Allround Speed Skating Championships) and Sven Kramer (an Olympic gold medal in 2010 and six World Allround Championships). The Dutch speed skaters' performance at the 2014 Winter Olympics, where they won 8 out of 12 events, 23 out of 36 medals, including 4 clean sweeps, is the most dominant performance in a single sport in Olympic history. Thialf Stadium in Heerenveen was the second indoor 400m speed skating oval in the world, the first to host an international championship and remains a world-class facility today.

Figure skating[edit]

Sjoukje Dijkstra is the most successful Dutch figure skater, winning the World Championships three times, the European Championships five times and two Olympic medals. Her Olympic gold in 1964 in Innsbruck was the first time an athlete from the Netherlands won gold at an Olympic Winter Games. Dianne de Leeuw won the silver medal in figure skating at the 1976 Winter Olympics.

Athletics[edit]

The Royal Dutch Athletics Association came into existence on April 28, 1901 and is, with 108,934 members (in 2005), the 13th largest sports federation.[2]

Most successful competitor was Fanny Blankers-Koen, who won four gold medals at the 1948 Summer Olympics. In 1999, she was voted "Female Athlete of the Century" by the International Association of Athletics Federations. Other notable athletes include Nelli Cooman, Ellen van Langen, Ria Stalman, Gerard Nijboer, Maria Gommers, Bertha Brouwer and Lien Gisolf.

Equestrianism[edit]

The Royal Dutch Equestrian Federation in its present form was founded after a fusion on January 1, 2002. It is the sixth largest sports federation in the country, with 180,023 members in 2005.[2] Numerous Dutch horseback riders have become world and Olympic champions in their field, including Charles Pahud de Mortanges, Anky van Grunsven, Jos Lansink and Piet Raymakers.

Swimming[edit]

Formed on August 14, 1888, The Royal Dutch Swimming Association has 148,599 members and is the eight largest sports federation.[2] Famous competitors include Rie Mastenbroek, who won the gold medal at the 1936 Summer Olympics in the 100 m freestyle, 400 m and 4 x 100 m freestyle. Recent champions include triple Olympic gold medalists Pieter van den Hoogenband and Ranomi Kromowidjojo, four-time Olympic champion Inge de Bruijn, and the current world record holder of the 50 metres freestyle, Marleen Veldhuis.

Judo[edit]

The Dutch Judo Federation in its current form was instituted on September 15, 1979.[12] Anton Geesink was the first non-Japanese competitor to become World Champion in Judo in 1961. Other notable judoka include Angelique Seriese, Wim Ruska, Dennis van der Geest and Mark Huizinga.

Kickboxing[edit]

Jan Plas, who learned kickboxing from Kenji Kurosaki, brought kickboxing to the Netherlands in 1978 where he founded Mejiro Gym and the NKBB (The Dutch Kickboxing Association). Ever since its inception in 1993, Dutch kickboxers have dominated the K-1 scene, causing "Wimbledon effects", with two record holding title champions Ernesto Hoost and Semmy Schilt, other world champions and contenders include Peter Aerts, Remy Bonjasky, Andy Souwer, Badr Hari, Albert Kraus, Alistair Overeem and Melvin Manhoef.

Other notable athletes[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]