Doetinchem, a small city less than 15km from the German border, has been in the footballing doldrums of late after its local team De Graafschap were relegated from the country's first division at the end of a season to forget. Then, just when the city folk needed their spirits lifted, along came the FIFA World Youth Championship Netherlands 2005. With no less than three Hispanic sides hosted there, Doetinchem became known as the unofficial Latin Quarter. The football lived up to expectations with the locals being treated to a glut of goals in one of the tournament's most exciting groups.
Spain, Morocco, Honduras and Chile all based themselves in the Hotel Palestra, a quaint complex of bungalows along the banks of a tranquil lake, a million miles from the hustle and bustle of the country's more famous cities. Despite its location off the beaten track, a large number of Chilean fans made their way to the team's headquarters to offer their support to La Rojjta.
The locals came out in droves too, especially to the VV Doetinchem Club and VIOD training grounds, where the teams had their practice games and training sessions. Children, taking advantage of school holidays and the fine weather, also thronged to the games - especially those of Spain - to try and spot as many stars as possible. No stone was left unturned in their quest to secure the autographs of the next Raúl or Hierro, with even the team doctor chased for his signature. Iñaki Sáez's assistant was another in constant demand, his pennants of the Spanish Football Federation proving hugely popular with the youngsters.
One of the many football-mad volunteers working at the training camp shows us a huge photo of more than 200 local kids in football gear. Pointing to one of the smiling faces, our guide says, "That's me. I used to play in the local youth side." Passion for the game permeates every corner of the region. The residents need no invitation to tell you that in the ranks of the local side back in the 60s was a player who went on to become one of the most successful coaches in Dutch football, Guus Hiddink.
Now coach of PSV Eindhoven, Hiddink has been watching the FIFA World Youth Championship intently and has visited his old stomping ground on several occasions, no doubt hoping to spot some talented youngsters to draft into his side.
The big prize, the Oranje
With a large and colourful turnout by the many Moroccan and Chilean fans living in the Netherlands, the group games were played in a competitive yet party atmosphere. Now that the competition has reached the last 16, the residents of Doetinchem can look forward to hosting the imminent clash between their country's youth side - runaway winners of Group A - and the third placed side from Group C, Chile. Expect a full house and a wonderful mix of red and orange when the sides meet on Wednesday, with the local supporters hoping the Oranje can provide some much needed cheer after De Graafschap's recent troubles.
With its vast expanse of green flatlands, the peace and tranquillity of a region famed for its cattle breeding and agriculture will be shattered for a few hours this week when a tidal wave of passionate supporters sweeps into town to roar on the talented young Oranje. Having had their appetite whetted with an incredible 30 goals during the group stage, the local fans will be hoping for a lot more of the same come 20:30 (CET) on June 22.
In Wednesday's earlier game in Doetinchem, there will be the chance to see a gifted young Nigerian side fresh from eliminating their Swiss counterparts. The Africans will be facing a Ukrainian team that has won many admirers thanks to spectacular goals and superbly executed free kicks from among others Oleksandr Aliiev.
All in all, two enticing duels will make for another great night's entertainment at Netherlands 2005.