Afrikaners for Dutch in WCup because of heritage

Published Jul. 9, 2010 4:51 a.m. ET

For some South Africans, there is still a ''home'' team to cheer for in the World Cup final.

When the Netherlands faces Spain on Sunday at Soccer City, a sizable portion of the Afrikaner population will be watching closely, and mostly because of their Dutch roots.

''I feel a strong connection to them because of my heritage,'' said Anja Bredell, a 25-year-old fashion design student from Pretoria. ''I also have blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin like most of the Dutch.''

The Dutch East India Company established its first settlement in Cape Town in 1652, creating what became the Afrikaans culture. More and more Dutchmen settled in the Western Cape in the ensuing years, and it is still home to many Afrikaners.

''I certainly feel a connection to the Netherlands, and I feel like one of them as my great-grandparents are Dutch and because Afrikaners are possibly closer to them than to any other team that played in this World Cup,'' said Pieter Seyffert, a 24-year-old professional cyclist from Johannesburg.

Besides the ancestral ties between the Afrikaners and their forebears from the Netherlands, the two peoples also share a language - though the Afrikaans dialect may get some stares from people on the streets of Amsterdam.

''As Afrikaners, we do care whether the Netherlands win just because we have a connection to them,'' said Judith Visser, a 21-year-old student from Vanderbijlpark, south of Johannesburg. ''I think half of my family cheer for the Netherlands because of this reason.''


After the Dutch migrants, known as ''Boers,'' created settlements throughout much of what has become South Africa - displacing the peoples living in some areas - the English started to arrive in the country, creating a bitter rivalry that resulted in the 1899-1902 Anglo-Boer War.

The English won the war, but the Afrikaners - most of them poor and uneducated farmers - remained and thrived.

In the age of apartheid, between 1948 and 1994, the Afrikaner-dominated government segregated the population, forcing black people to live in townships while many whites resided in plush urban areas. Since the end of that era, civil rights have been restored. Dutch groups participated in the international effort to move South Africa toward democracy.

But close connection or not, not every Afrikaner cares too much about the historic relationship.

''I want Spain to win. I feel no connection whatsoever with the Dutch,'' said Greta Bredell, a 55-year-old copywriter from Pretoria. ''I don't like them at all.''

Since the end of apartheid, Afrikaans has become one of 11 official languages in the multicultural and multiracial South Africa, and many Afrikaner students now learn in English instead of their mother tongue. That may be one reason why some of the younger generation feel more separated from their roots.

''I am not really concerned about my language relations to the Netherlands,'' said Karin van Rooyen, a 21-year-old student from Witbank, a town southeast of Johannesburg. ''But if they should win, it would be great.''

Another reason for a certain amount of apathy toward the Dutch national soccer team is the lure of rugby, traditionally the main sport for most Afrikaners.

''To me it doesn't really matter. Whoever plays the best of the two teams should win,'' said 21-year-old David Maree from Potchefstroom. ''The Afrikaners in South Africa have only recently started to watch football, so they are not as focused on traditions but rather on whether the team that wins played well and fair.''