Press Review Tuesday 15 June 2010

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Sour grapes over not so sweet Dutch victory It was inevitable really. The mood of jubilant expectation in yesterday's papers just had to give way to disappointment and the chance for a good old moan. No one's complaining about the result of the Netherlands’ 2010 World Cup debut: a 2-0 victory and a place as group leader. But they all agree that it was a far from resounding victory: a dodgy Dutch performance shored up by an own goal from opponents Denmark.

Trouw describes the match as a triumph of "perseverance over beauty" and reports that an "awkward Dutch team only managed to shake off the Danes in the second half". De Telegraaf complains that the Dutch performance "left a lot to be desired" but pragmatically concludes "the first three points are in the bag". notes that "the Netherlands ... did not live up to expectations" and that "attitude problems among the star players got in the way of the team".   If the papers are positive about anyone, it's winger Eljero Elia who came on as a substitute and by all accounts played a blinder, outshining the Dutch squad's star players. As de Volkskrant puts it "When the Big Three let you down, there's always Elia". AD reckons he "added the much needed gravy to a match that for a long time had all the flavour of a lump of dried out meat."   Trouw notes that the Dutch team "had plenty of excuses for its mediocre performance": "the ball, the altitude, the temperature and the slow pace of the pitch". Still, why not look on the bright side? Commentator Hugo Borst does just that in AD: "What a perfect way to start! We played somewhere between mediocre and terrible and we still won!"   Meanwhile, back in the Netherlands… The Dutch team may not be in any danger of peaking too soon in this World Cup, but the Dutch papers certainly are! It's only the first match of the first round and already they’re devoting pages and pages to cheering fans festooned in orange. Despite the endless gallery of tense and ecstatic faces, De Telegraaf reports: "No one was very enthusiastic after yesterday's match, except those who'd had too much to drink."   Yet there's no denying the match had a considerable effect on the country. AD sums up the state of the nation "on 14 June 2010, between 13.30 and 15.15 ... anything but a normal Monday": traffic tailbacks down by 50%, water consumption up by 75% due to half-time toilet breaks and 17% of the country’s workforce nowhere to be seen.   Of course, the local celebs aren't about to miss out on a ready-made opportunity for shameless self-promotion. De Telegraaf gleefully obliges with a full page devoted to "Dutch celebs getting in the mood". You have to wonder about their football credentials though. "I just love football," coos camp crooner Gerard Joling while getting in a plug for his latest single. "It gives me such a warm feeling of brotherly love." A lesser-known showbiz colleague chimes in "Germany won the Eurovision Song Contest, so we're going to win the World Cup!" So much for expert analysis.   Dutch take a look at Belgian ballot With Dutch coalition talks at an interesting, but inconclusive stage, many of today's papers take a look across the border at Belgium's national ballot. With the country paralysed by long-running disputes between its French and Flemish speakers, what to make of the spectacular rise of a new party promoting Flemish independence? De Volkskrant takes a cynical tone as it compares the Dutch and Belgian election results: "It wouldn't surprise me if Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and King Albert of Belgium pick up the phone over the next few days to console each other in the face of the political havoc that the voters have inflicted on both their countries ... Forming a new government in Brussels will be an even more devilish dilemma than in The Hague."   The paper goes on to profile the odd couple in whose hands the political future of Belgium lies: bespectacled bow-tied French-speaking socialist Elio Di Rupo who describes politics as "an art" and barrel-chested Flemish nationalist Bart De Wever who says "politics is a hard-boiled business and one I take the greatest of pleasure in". It doesn't look like a promising combination.   But Trouw puts a far more positive spin on things, insisting that "De Wever and Di Rupo now have the chance to reform Belgium". The paper argues that "De Wever appears to recognise that he will have to compromise with the French-speakers ... and that his huge victory creates weighty obligations and gives him the mandate to reach a historic agreement". In Di Rupo, the paper also sees "the genuine understanding that there is a clear and pressing need for such an agreement". It concludes optimistically that Belgium's upcoming EU presidency may provide "a wonderful incentive to break the stalemate in the country once and for all".   Is Afghanistan really sitting on a goldmine? Several of today’s newspapers pick up on the news in The New York Times that the “US identifies vast mineral riches in Afghanistan”. AD reports that “foreign powers are licking their lips at the prospect of Afghan riches” and quotes US general David Petraeus as saying “this is an unbelievable opportunity”.   De Volkskrant calls it “the discovery of a goldmine”, but is quick to add that Dutch experts have their reservations. “The fact that this stuff is in the ground does not automatically mean it will become an important mining area,” warns one. The paper points out that even if there are concentrations of ore ripe for exploitation, mining calls for unbelievably large amounts of water, energy and infrastructure “none of which are readily available in Afghanistan.”   Trouw hints at a much darker side to the discovery, juxtaposing it with the situation in Congo where it says “the lucrative mining industry … is leading to sexual violence”. The paper notes that while Congo’s war officially ended in 2003, both rebels and poorly paid government troops “are trying to gain control over the mines by driving away the local population and that rape is a way of achieving this.” The paper’s conclusion that security concerns rule out mining in Afghanistan for the time being may yet be a blessing in disguise.   Police discrimination not so positive after all reports that the Dutch police have incurred the wrath of the Equal Rights Commission with a job ad in last Saturday’s papers. The ad states that “The Dutch police is seeking to create greater diversity among its senior ranks. This job is therefore only open to female candidates and candidates from an ethnic minority background.”   A spokesperson for the committee points out “you are allowed to give preferential treatment to women or ethnic minorities if you have more than one suitable candidate … but everyone must be given the chance to apply in the first place”. The force insist they have the blessing of the authorities “all the way up to the minister” in actively excluding white males from the job. It’ll be interesting to see what the minister has to say about that…


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