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Dutch way wins respect

Dutch football can be traced back to 1889 and the initiative of a young man in The Hague.
Dutch way wins respect
The Dutch players rejoice as they are handed the trophy at the 1988 UEFA European Championship ©empics

Dutch way wins respect

Dutch football can be traced back to 1889 and the initiative of a young man in The Hague.

In 1889 Pim Mulier, a 24-year-old Dutchman, founded the Nederlandse Voetbal en Atletiek Bond (NVAB) in The Hague. The organisation comprised nine clubs and Mulier was its president.

Initially the competition was somewhat haphazard with teams free to decide when they played their matches. However, the removal of the athletics element in 1895 and attendant launch of the Nederlandse Voetbalbond (NVB) heralded a more serious competition, beginning in 1897/98.

The NVB achieved wider recognition as a founder member of world governing body FIFA in 1904, and a year later the Netherlands played their first official international, against Belgium. By late 2009, the Low Country neighbours had met 124 times. The association's 40th anniversary in 1929 proved an auspicious occasion. The NVB received the designation of 'Koninklijke' (Royal) from the Queen, thus becoming the Koninklijke Nederlandse Voetbalbond (KNVB).

The KNVB was not the country's only football association, though, as religious sectarianism had caused Catholics and Protestants to form one each. The two merged in 1940 under German pressure, and remained united following liberation in 1945. In a land where religious segregation prevailed in areas of everyday life, here was football breaking down barriers.

The late 1940s and early 1950s saw many Dutch players leave for France and Italy as the KNVB resisted calls to introduce professionalism. The situation came to a head when two charity matches were staged to raise money for survivors of the great flood in 1953. The national team lost 2-1 at home to Denmark, while in contrast Dutch professionals beat France 2-1 in Paris. A year later the KNVB finally conceded and merged with the NBVB, a separate professional body not recognised by FIFA, signalling the arrival of professionalism. Fast-forward to 2010 and the barrier between amateur and professional football also came down – meaning amateur sides can be promoted to the professional First Division and professional teams relegated to the top amateur league.

Dutch football put itself firmly on the map in the 1970s. A national team featuring the Netherlands' greatest player, Johan Cruyff, reached the FIFA World Cup final in Germany in 1974, before repeating the feat four years later in Argentina. Despite losing both finals, their brand of football became synonymous with the Dutch game: total football.

Another milestone was reached on 8 April 1978 when the KNVB became the first, and still only, organisation in the Netherlands to register its millionth member, a certain Arjan Kruisinga. It had come a long way in a short time. After the 2008/09 season the KNVB counted almost 1.2 million members, including more than 112,000 women and girls.

The Netherlands' finest hour, however, came with a 2-0 win against the USSR in the 1988 UEFA European Championship final. Rinus Michels was the coach, Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard the booted architects of victory. They join the likes of Johan Neeskens, Willem van Hanegem, Ruud Krol, Ronald Koeman, Dennis Bergkamp, Edwin van der Sar and Clarence Seedorf in the pantheon of Dutchman to have made a mark on European football.

Administrators such as Karel Lotsy, Lodewijk Brunt, Jos Coler, Jo van Marle and Mathieu Sprengers have set the players a good example, and most have honorary UEFA titles. Clubs like Feyenoord, AFC Ajax and PSV Eindhoven also continue to foster enormous respect for the Dutch game around the world. Four teams at the 2006 World Cup – the Netherlands, Australia, Korea Republic and Trinidad & Tobago – had Dutch coaches, and it was also one of their own, Bert van Marwijk, who led the Oranje to the final of the 2010 tournament in South Africa. Since March 2009, meanwhile, KNVB president Michael van Praag is a member of the UEFA Executive Committee.

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Michael van Praag

Michael van Praag

Nationality: Dutch
Date of Birth: 28 September 1947
Association president since: 2008

• Michael van Praag's father Jaap was AFC Ajax president from 1964 to 1978, during which time the club won three successive European Champion Clubs' Cups. He followed in his father's footsteps, serving as club president from 1989 to 1993, with Ajax winning a UEFA Cup and the UEFA Champions League under his leadership.

• An amateur player and referee, Van Praag is also a keen musician – perhaps no surprise given that his uncle Max was a famous singer in the Netherlands – playing drums, piano, vibraphone and tuba, and playing in the Dutch national team's Teletoeters band. In addition, he set up a chain of tax-free audiovisual concessions at airports.

• Succeeding the late Mathieu Sprengers as Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) president in 2008, the married father of one said of his time at Ajax: "I am proud of winning the Champions League in 1995. My most beautiful moment was flying over Amsterdam with the team and the pilot doing a special manoeuvre to salute the crowd in red-and-white on the ground." He was re-elected as KNVB president in December 2013, and won another three-year term in November 2016.

General secretary


Bert van Oostveen

Bert van Oostveen

Nationality: Dutch
Date of birth: 30 October 1970
Association general secretary since: 2012

• Bert van Oostveen studied politics at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, and also has qualifications in human resource management. Before 1996, he worked for the German CDU political party in Bonn and the Royal (Dutch) Air Company (KLM).

• Van Oostveen has worked for the KNVB since 1996, and was originally involved in match organisation and managing referee matters. In 2002, he was appointed as manager of competition affairs and vice-director of professional football. In that role, he was project leader for the 2006 FIFA World Cup tournament and UEFA EURO 2008, as well as the 2010 World Cup.

• On 1 September 2010, he became director of professional football, and was appointed as general secretary of the KNVB from 1 September 2012. In his free time, he enjoys bicycle racing, golf and winter sports. Until a few years ago, he was also a goalkeeper at amateur level.

Association info

  • Founded: 1889
  • UEFA affiliation: 1954
  • FIFA affiliation: 1904
  • Address: Woudenbergseweg 56-58 Postbus 515 3700 AM ZEIST
  • Telephone: +31 343 499 201
  • Fax: +31 343 499 189

Association club coefficients

11Czech RepublicCzech Republic3/532.575
Last updated: 07/12/2016 08:39 CET

Honours by National Teams

Domestic competitions

Dutch First Division 2016/17

2AFC Ajax2763
3PSV Eindhoven2761
4FC Utrecht2744
5AZ Alkmaar2741
6FC Twente2741
8sc Heerenveen2737
9Willem II2733
10Heracles Almelo2731
11PEC Zwolle2730
12FC Groningen2729
13Sparta Rotterdam2728
14NEC Nijmegen2728
15SBV Excelsior2724
16Roda JC2723
17ADO Den Haag2722
18Go Ahead Eagles2720
Last updated: 27/03/2017 12:55 CET