Tuesday, June 8, 2010
“It’s quiet on the other side,” goes one of the most popular Dutch football chants. The other side in question is of course the other side of the stadium, where cowed rival fans look on meekly as their team loses to the Dutch – or at least that’s the idea.
But it’s not likely to be so quiet in the Netherlands over the next few weeks. Football means watching TV, drinking beer, shouting and singing. But why beer? Why don’t the football fans go with the trend and crack open a bottle of Prosecco or mix up a mojito like everyone else this summer?
Martijn de Rooi, sociologist and journalist, doesn’t have a cut and dried answer.
“It’s a cultural phenomenon. And I wouldn’t like to say why. Perhaps it goes back centuries to when we all drank beer because you couldn’t trust the water. Perhaps it’s also for financial reasons, because wine is more expensive than beer. And certainly among young people it’s looked on as strange if you don’t join in. Then you’re seen as a party-pooper and you’re not part of the group.”
It’s no coincidence then that the brewers wring as much publicity as they can out of football. Dutch brewer Heineken is the official sponsor of the Champions League, while the Belgian brand Jupiler sponsors the Netherlands’ second-highest division, known confusingly as the First Division. And the World Cup in South Africa has US beer giant Budweiser as its sponsor.
Football is war, the legendary Dutch coach Rinus Michels once said. But it’s also a beer war. That’s not surprising, because the Dutch brewers alone expect to sell 15 million litres more beer during the World Cup than in the rest of the summer.
Each Dutch beer brand fields its own gimmick in an effort to woo the drinkers’ favour. Grolsch has a portable cool box, Heineken has a Dutch take on the South African ‘makarapa’ football supporters’ helmet, and Bavaria has the ‘Dutch Dress’. see picture..
This orange mini dress has already sparked a row with Heineken during the Netherlands’ warm-up match against Mexico. Dozens of students turned up at the match sporting the tight-fitting orange frock. The ‘Bavaria babes’ drew plenty of attention in the stands, and also from the TV cameras. Heineken, as the Dutch team’s official sponsor, was reportedly none too pleased about the extra publicity for a rival brand. Bavaria swore it hadn’t hired the girls in specially, and they’d just worn the dress as a spontaneous student joke.
Heineken spokesman Norbert Cappetti says it’s over the top to talk about a beer war:
“There’s never been such a thing. From the start we’ve said that it gave us a good laugh too. We’re behind any form of support for the Dutch team. Whether it’s dresses or Heineken helmets, it doesn’t matter. It was just a publicity stunt.”
However, there’s nothing new about a beer war between Heineken and Bavaria. During the 2006 World cup the Dutch football association sought a stadium ban on Bavaria’s gimmick of trousers with a lion’s tail, because it was harming chief sponsor Heineken. But the courts declined to grant an injunction against lion-tailed trousers.
In South Africa too there are also reports of a guerrilla war between Heineken and South African Breweries, SAB. For the past few years Heineken has been producing an increasingly popular premium beer in the country. SAB accuses Heineken of short-changing its customers because it is charging the same price for smaller bottles.
South African wine producers aren’t leaving the field open for the beer brewers either. In the Cape Province, around Stellenbosch for example, hundreds of managers have been trained up to provide World Cup fans with expert wine advice. A well-chilled bottle of FIFA 2010 Dry Rosé to go with Serbia vs. Ghana – why not?
Thank you source RWD!