The end has arrived. After a month in South Africa of drama and upsets, heartbreak and elation, the two teams that have risen to the pinnacle of the soccer world – the Netherlands and Spain – take the field at 2:30 p.m. Eastern today for the 2010 World Cup Final. This is a match up that not many foresaw (except that psychic German octopus – definitely a phrase I never thought I’d type), with powerhouse teams like Argentina, Brazil, Cote d’Ivoire, Italy, and Germany all eliminated in earlier rounds. Both teams still have something to prove as neither has ever won a World Cup: Spain has never made it to a final, while the Dutch team has been–and lost–twice.
It’s La Roja against the Oranje in this all-European battle for soccer supremacy. Both countries are intensely passionate about soccer and both teams have been impressive – but who’s got the celebratory know-how to back up the skills?
Although the Netherlands has Amsterdam, famous for its free-spirited partying atmosphere, the Spanish leave the Dutch in the dust when it comes to bizarre festivities. Take La Tomatina for instance, a celebration that takes place on the last Wednesday of every August in the province of Valencia.
The holiday, which dates back to the 1940s, consists of tens of thousands of tourists and locals descending on the town of Bunol to throw over 100 metric tons of overripe tomatoes at each other in the streets. La Tomatina, which was banned under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco for having no religious significance, lasts for a week and also includes music, parades, dancing, and fireworks. Another notable fiesta with an element of loco is the Bonfires of St. John, a multi-day celebration in late June. It takes place around Spain, but the largest occurs in Alicante. Townspeople erect papier-mache figurines in the streets before setting fire to them at night, and each bonfire has an elected “Beauty” from the town to represent it. The most surprising tradition during the celebration, however, is that children take turns jumping over the bonfires.
The Dutch are no party slouches, however, and Queen’s Day
(Koninginnedag) is proof. Held every April 30th to celebrate the birthday of the queen, the festivities begin the night before with Queen’s Night (Koninginnenacht). All-night parties, freemarkets (where anyone is allowed to set up a stall in the street, tax-free), music and parades occur all over the country. Amsterdam also hosts the Amsterdam Dance Event
in mid-October, claiming to be the world’s biggest club festival for electronic music. Over 2,000 professionals in the music industry descend on the city for conferences, while an estimated 100,000 people come solely to rock out at clubs across the city at night. For the even more daring, some more risque festivals include Amsterdam’s explicitly self-explanatory Europerve and High Times Cannabis Cup.
Be sure to tune in to ESPN at 2:30 to find out which nation will get an extra celebration this year.
To learn more about the countries behind the teams, check out our guides to Spain
and the Netherlands.
Photo: Dutch fans celebrate their team’s advancement to the final, by ValerioVeo via Flickr