Dutch praying for first World Cup title
The Dutch will literally be praying for victory in the World Cup final.
On Sunday morning in the village of Obdam, north of Amsterdam, the Rev. Paul Vlaar and the members of his choir plan to wear orange robes for Mass before the Netherlands' match against Spain kicks off in South Africa.
The candles, piano and even the snacks served with coffee afterward will also bear the national hue.
"I will say a special prayer and talk about the football game in my sermon,'' Vlaar said Thursday.
He is expecting only a few hundred people in his small parish church, but the Roman Catholic priest has caught the mood of the nation as it heads to its first World Cup final in 32 years.
The country of the royal House of Orange is turning more orange than usual. Fans are snapping paraphernalia to show their support: orange wigs, crowns of twisted orange balloons and top-to-toe orange clothing are fast disappearing from stores.
The Netherlands is bidding to win the title for the first time after having finished as runners-up in 1974 and 1978.
Thousands of people tried to find last-minute flights to be in South Africa for the big match. Most were disappointed.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines arranged three special flights from Amsterdam and one from Paris to carry extra fans to Johannesburg on Saturday.
Wim Gramsma, manager of the Oad Travel Agency which partners the Dutch football association, said 12,000 people applied for the 1,000 seats that went on sale after Tuesday's 2-1 semifinal victory over Uruguay.
"Eleven thousand real Dutch fans are still waiting,'' Gramsma said.
He said the official FIFA ticket package costs €2,000-€2,500 ($2,520-$3,150), including flights, hotels and transportation to the stadium. By contrast, only a handful of tickets were up for sale on Craig's List for €2,000 ($2,530) each.
The Uruguay semifinal broke at least one Dutch record - as the most-watched television program, with 12.3 million viewers in a nation of 16.5 million citizens.
Following the match, the city of Amsterdam planned a floating victory parade on Tuesday through a network of canals, figuring on more than 2 million people flooding into the city to celebrate. The route was carefully plotted to avoid the narrow waterways lined with houseboats, which organizers feared could be severely damaged by the crowds.
Even if they lose, the Dutch team will be feted with a massive nationally televised party at Museum Square, the capital's largest playground.