D.C.'s Dutch soccer fans find comfort in numbers as they see dream die -- again

A goal by Andres Iniesta in the 116th minute lifts Spain over the Netherlands, 1-0, in the 2010 FIFA World Cup final in South Africa.
By Stephanie Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 12, 2010

In the 116th minute, the bar fell silent.

Until that moment, the crowd at Mackey's Public House could not have been louder. It was the day of the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands -- two countries that had come frustratingly close to capturing previous World Cup titles.

At the pub in Northwest, more than 250 yelling, foot-stomping, orange-wearing fans crammed in to cheer on their beloved Dutch. They wrapped themselves in flags, blared vuvuzelas and bit their nails. They cheered every movement toward Spain's goal and screamed obscenities at every foul, the volume increasing with each newly poured cup of beer.

And in the 116th minute, it became quiet.

As Andres Iniesta of Spain fired the ball past Maarten Stekelenburg and into the net, utter silence settled over the bar patrons.

"There's still time," some muttered, mostly to themselves. "It's not over."

But a few minutes later, it was.

Macha Kemperman, 29, a native of the Netherlands who works at the World Bank, struggled to find the right words. "I thought we had a small chance that we might still win, but . . . " She paused and tried to smile. "It was difficult."

Sitting on a stool was Eelco Bosch van Rosenthal, a correspondent for Dutch Public TV. He stared blankly at the row of screens, on which the Spaniards, halfway across the world in South Africa, raised their arms in victory. The team won 1-0.

"The longing for the World Cup will be even more and more, and it will become a myth," said the Amsterdam native. "It sucks, to be honest."

Mackey's has long been a popular destination for Dutch Washingtonians, even before this year's World Cup. When Martin De Groot, 44, and his wife, Siet Meijer, 37, moved from the Netherlands to the District 10 years ago, they began rounding up fellow Dutch for periodic gatherings. Now about 50 of them meet at the bar every month and in recent weeks have watched the World Cup there together.

Even though Sunday was painful for Dutch soccer fans, the couple said they plan to keep up the meetings at their favorite bar.

"We'll be here," Meijer said. "What else would we be doing?"

But coming to terms with the silver medal won't be an easy process.

As a deflated crowd slowly filed out of Mackey's, Huib Kooij lingered at the counter, twirling a Dutch flag between his fingers.

"We lost in '74, we lost in '78," he said, "and we lost again."

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