BEN ICK VAN DUYTSCHEN BLOET (Am I of German blood)
Written by Bert Plomp
In the fifties, I had a steady group of friends at elementary school. The group consisted of Joop, Hans, Ton, Rinus, and myself. We all lived on Napoleonplantsoen in Utrecht. With these friends, I had, using a grand term, established a football club. The club had the mellifluous name SHUNU. The name referred to the initial letter of each member’s birthplace. Joop was born in Schoonhoven, Bert in Hengelo, Hans in Utrecht, Rinus in Nuremberg, and Ton in Utrecht.
Rinus had a Dutch father and a German mother. Narrow-minded people had quite a bit of trouble with that in those days. Rinus, therefore, regularly struggled with his attitude. However, we young people were far from concerned about where someone came from. We actually found it interesting to have a half-German friend. But many so-called adults thought differently. Who worries about that nowadays? For example, about the fact that almost one hundred percent German blood runs through the veins of our king? While the rest of the people frequently wrestle with that question, Willem-Alexander never has to wonder: Ben ick van Duytschen bloet? (Am I of German blood?)
In my neighborhood, a strong anti-German sentiment prevailed in the post-war years. It wasn’t easy for people like Rinus’ parents. Although Rinus’ mother was a very nice woman, well assimilated, she had never participated in an integration course. Such a course did not exist at that time. On the other hand, Rinus also wanted to show that he wasn’t weak and was a bit proud of his birthplace. Why not? Nuremberg was the European capital of toys. In terms of population, this historic South German city could measure up to the second-largest city in the Netherlands.
Former members of the NSB (Dutch National Socialist Movement) also had a tough time. The NSB had strong ties with the Nazis in Germany during the war. In Napoleonplantsoen lived a family whose head was claimed to have been a member of this national-socialist movement. You were immediately marked as a traitor. And as a collaborator, you had a hard time then.
Before and during the war, many Dutch people were members of the NSB or sympathized with it. It was often an expression of dissatisfaction with the prevailing politics. Almost everyone in my neighborhood looked down on the members of this family. I suspected many of those critical people of wisely keeping their mouths shut during the German occupation.
SHUNU was a sports club and didn’t involve itself in politics. The five members were much more lenient in their judgment of the family. Renée, the almost adult, attractive daughter, completely made everyone forget her father’s wrong attitude. Especially Renée’s ‘cup size double D’ made a lot of old resentments disappear like snow in the sun. There was even a heated discussion in the club about my suggestion to include Renée in the selection. I saw a solid striker in her. Actually, two. I also thought she could function well as a lightning rod. Additionally, I imagined how wonderful it would be to stand under the shower with her after the match. Just the two of us, evaluating the game under the pouring warm water. Asking her if she had a few points of attention for me. Unfortunately, the others were not in favor of a mixed team.
When SHUNU played football, it usually happened on the auxiliary fields of VELOX on Koningsweg. My friends and I also played there every two weeks on Saturday afternoons, but then as VELOX players. Before we could play football at all, the grazing cows had to be chased off the field. During the match, it was essential to be wary not only of your opponent’s actions but also of the numerous ‘cow pies.’ Like landmines, those droppings were scattered all over the grass. Most of those massive clumps had a sturdy crust. But if you went in with a straight leg and settled in the middle of the pie, the crust would burst open, and you’d be covered in cow dung.
The primitive football shoes I wore at that time hurt just by looking at them. The leather of the footwear was rock hard, and the toe seemed to be made of steel. Furthermore, to prevent slipping, leather nops were nailed under the shoes. Fastened with real nails. To make matters worse, these nasty things stuck somewhat through the sole and pricked into my feet. It felt like I was moving on a bed of nails. Every step hurt. Even my football socks didn’t feel comfortable. I didn’t have money to buy suitable, soft socks at a sports store. My mother had knitted a pair herself, which I received as a gift for Saint Nicholas. They were very stiff, black socks with a yellow cuff, the colors of VELOX. If I took a few steps with them, they would already slide down to my ankles. Not an impressive sight. To keep them up, I had a piece of elastic tied around my stockings at knee height, hidden under the cuff. However, the elastic cut nastily into my legs and thus blocked a healthy blood circulation. As a result, my lower legs turned blue over time. That meant even more suffering.
After a match, my soles were glowing red and looked battered. Furthermore, there was an unsightly imprint of a knitting pattern on my lower legs that slowly faded away. Due to the blisters and other injuries, I could hardly take another step for the rest of the day. In that condition, I had no desire to quickly clean my two cleats. I only did that just before the next match. By then, the cow dung between the nops had dried and become nice and hard. So, I could much more easily remove the muck with a potato peeler.