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Despite its small size over 1,000,000 people play football in the Netherlands, that is one out of every 16 citizens! Football is the most popular team sport in the Netherlands and has produced many famous players. The Dutch are well-known for their beautiful style of football and players like Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten and Denis Bergkamp are considered amongst the best players to have ever played the game. The Netherlands won the European Championship in 1988 with a wonder-strike from Marco van Basten.
The Dutch are also the current (2009) Under 21 champions of Europe. Dutch fans are considered some of the most loyal and passionate in the world and always decorate every tournament with their bright orange clothing.
Althought the Netherlands is small it has a well-respected national league and produced some famous clubs. Feyenoord of Rotterdam (www.feyenoord.nl) and PSV from Eindhoven (www.psv.nl/) have all won the Champions league at least once and Ajax from Amsterdam have won it four times, one more than Manchester United!
Many of the best clubs in the world like AC Milan, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have Dutch players. Some of the best play in the English Premiership, such as Robin van Persie, Edwin van der Saar, Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel. Guus Hiddink, is currently (2009) the manager of the Russian team and was temporary manager of Chelsea.
There’s more to life than football
Football is not the only sport played in the Netherlands and the Dutch take part in a wide number of other activities. Over 4.5 million people are registered at a sports club and nearly two thirds of adults take part in sport weekly. The Dutch love to cycle. Bicycles are a very popular sight across the Netherlands. Two Dutchmen - Jan Janssen and Joop Zoetemelk – have won the prestigious Tour de France. Tennis, field hockey, volleyball, swimming and speed skating are also very popular in the Netherlands and they have produced many world and Olympic champions. The Dutch also play some sports unique to the Netherlands. The Elfstedentocht (Eleven Cities Tour) is a skating race that takes place over 200km of frozen canals in Friesland –northern Netherlands – between eleven famous cities and, Kaatsen, a type of handball, is one of the oldest ball games in the world.
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