June 13th, 2008: The streets of Bern were covered in a sea of orange, occasionally spotted with the blue and red of a few proud France supporters. One had a feeling in the hours leading up to the match that today was a day for the Netherlands and their supporters. There was something special in the air, that rarefied electric atmosphere with everyone buzzing in anticipation for a strong showing from the Oranje. If only the players could oblige and fullfill the possibility of a complete and utter dismantling of Les Blues.
A large number of Swiss fans in Bern – dismayed by their countries exit from the tournament – were easily won over by the orange contingent that infected their city. Perhaps this came from being reluctant to support neighboring France or Italy as their adopted team in the Group of Death. Or it could have been how the Dutch side plays with an all around attacking style that easily seduces the neutral observer; either way, Bern was overwhelmingly Oranje for the day.
The city center was packed with the pro-Dutch crowd between the viewing parties at Bundeplatz and Waisenhausplatz and every street adjacent preparing for the pre-game march to the Stade de Suisse Wankdorf Bern. Around 5:00 the majority of the Dutch supporters marched 2.5 km to the stadium, regardless of whether they had tickets or not. And if they were looking for tickets, they weren’t going to come cheaply: they were being sold for as much as 1400 Euros with the price dropping to 800 Euros within an hour of kick-off.
Numerous brass bands gathered in an animated fashion around the many fountains in the prelude to the match belting out traditional Dutch tunes and entertaining supporters and on-lookers alike. Many of the paraders returned to the raucous atmosphere of the watch parties, crammed next to thousands of other fans. Others opted for a more subdued but nonetheless exciting impromptu viewing parties set up on sidewalks outside a bar or cafe.
Regardless of where fans watched the match, the Dutch did not disappoint. Picking up where they left off of their dismantling of World Cup holders Italy, the Netherlands showed once again why they must now be considered the tournament favorite. Wesly Sneijder’s brilliant stoppage time goal set the stage for the party to follow.
The viewing parties gave way to DJs on stage spinning dance music, and the rest of Bern followed suit in what transformed into a jubilant celebration for all those wearing orange. The party never seemed to end, with the beer flowing and the brass bands playing in to the early hours of the morning.
The official Euro 2008 fan guide boasts that Bern is home to over 100 fountains, 11 of which are still in their original condition. The condition of those fountains was at least temporarily altered for this night, but there was not much in Bern that could escape the Oranje tide which overtook everything in its path.
Sadly, the Oranje will not be present at the 2016 edition. If they were, it leaves no doubt they would be among the favourites to claim the title and that their fervent following could be observed all through France.