- Oranje Parades have been illuminating France 2019
- A 40-year-old bus, animated walks and a funky dance track make them
- Follow the Live Blog for #ITANED
The people of Le Havre, Valenciennes, Reims and Rennes will vindicate it: the Netherlands fans have painted their cities orange and turned them into temporary carnivals during their four stops at this FIFA Women’s World Cup™.
Over 15,000 Dutch supporters attended their match against Cameroon, with images and videos circulating on social media of them marching to the stadium. This march, or ‘Oranje Parade’ as it’s known, didn’t happen by chance and took plenty of organising.
The KNVB organise these marches, liaising closely with Henk van Beek, chairman of the Oranje Fans Bus, who has been at the forefront of these displays since UEFA EURO 2004. Henk, who lives in Uithoorn, just outside Amsterdam, is also the on-board DJ on the bus that leads fans to the stadium, though the up-tempo music he plays is a far cry from what he’s used to hearing at home.
“I only DJ on the bus,” he said. “When I am at home, I don’t play this music. I play classical piano and listen to classical music. But here [on the bus] I love it.”
The bus that leads the fans to the stadium is 40 years old, and because of that, comes with challenges. Repairs are one of those, while paperwork to get it into countries such as South Africa can be time-consuming.
“When I see the fans and all that orange, it gives me goosebumps," said Henk. "It’s something so very, very special.
“We started in 2004, and it was never our intention to do this, but we got approached by the Dutch Football Association, who organise the walk itself. They asked, ‘Can you and your team on the bus lead the parade?'
“The plan was just to continue up to 2010 – have a beer, have a laugh, some music, and that’s it. But here we are in France in 2019.”
The demand for Oranje Parades spiralled following the Netherlands' UEFA Women’s EURO triumph on home soil in 2017. Social media was awash with videos of fans marching to stadiums and dancing in the streets, and that has continued at France 2019. One scene continuously highlighted is the fans dancing from left to right to a high-tempo dance tune. That track is by Dutch party act Snollebollekes, and is titled ‘Links Rechts,’ which translates simply as ‘Left Right.’
“The men played a qualification game for the World Cup in 2016 in Sweden,” explained Henk. “I heard the song at a party in Holland when it wasn’t big. We had a small fan walk, maybe 800 fans, which was perhaps one kilometre to the stadium, but we walked anyway. So I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to play it,’ and look what happens.
“In 2017 at the EURO we had six fan walks. The first in Utrecht, and of course I remembered to play the song. Since then we cannot go anywhere and not play it – it’s not possible. Everyone wants this song because it is so much fun.”
The Oranjeleeuwinnen have reached the quarter-finals for the first time, and will face Italy in Valenciennes, which is just a few hours’ drive from various parts of the Netherlands. The interest in the women’s game has seen records broken back home as well, with 3.5 million viewers tuning in for the win over Japan – almost a quarter of the population.
“Now we have almost every stadium sold out, which is amazing,” said Henk. “I really love women’s football and I love what the Dutch FA is doing for it.
“The Oranjeleeuwinnen, after each match, are very open. They go to the side of the field for pictures and autographs. That is something so nice, and I think that’s maybe one of the biggest reasons they are so popular.”
Fans interested in attending the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 can still purchase tickets for the tournament via www.fifa.com/tickets, as well as via ticket booths located at stadia for remaining matches still available to the general public.