This week’s reading left me fascinated at the intersection of sports and politics. David Winner brilliantly captures the zeitgeist of 1960s Amsterdam — a turbulent postwar cultural revolution that enveloped all aspects of life in Holland, especially soccer. Perhaps most interestingly, Winner’s interpretation of Amsterdam’s radiant transformation suggests that the game of soccer and the cultural revolution were intertwined; that is, in the same way that the youth rebellion of 1960s Amsterdam impacted the game of soccer, the game of soccer was equally as impactful on the younger generation’s attitude.
According to Winner’s description, the concept of Dutch total football appears to share some characteristics that were integral to the counterculture rebellion. Winner states that this version of Dutch football was “being alive, kicking, and moving” — the version of Amsterdam that was comparable to the Provos, who frequently found themselves storming the streets in protest against the police, and the antithesis of the dull, dreary Amsterdam that was experienced by nihilist Albert Camus. Moreover, the “ultra-aggressive” style of play — one that rains “attacks from all angles” — reinforces this sentiment, mirroring the sheer anarchy incited by the culture shift.
I was particularly struck by how John Cruyff and the Ajax team impacted youth culture. Winner highlighted Cruyff’s impact on Holland as being analogous to John Lennon’s on England; while, this is a simple statement, the gravity of it is truly overwhelming. In Amsterdam, Winner pinpoints the footballer as being “far and away the most important rebel, icon, and symbol of the 1960s.” Clearly, Dutch football inspired significant change, paving the way for the city’s culture today. Finally, Ajax’s unlikely victory over Liverpool (and rise to international stardom) was in itself symbolic of the anti-establishment movement sweeping the country, for it provoked and upset the status quo — this time on the international stage.