Dutch Courage

From Media Guardian:

For Dutch football fans it has become the summer’s cult outfit. Over the past few months, a quarter of a million Holland supporters have bought themselves a pair of patriotic orange lederhosen – wearing them whenever Holland take to the pitch in the World Cup.
But when Holland fans turned up on Friday to watch their team play the Ivory Coast, wearing the garish trousers, officials from Fifa were not amused.

The lederhosen carry the name of a Dutch beer, Bavaria. The only problem is that the Dutch brewery which makes Bavaria is not an official World Cup sponsor. And so, in one of the most surreal incidents of the World Cup so far, stadium officials in Stuttgart made the supporters take their trousers off – leaving many of them to watch Holland’s 2-1 victory in their underpants.

“They put our trousers in the bin,” said an aggrieved Peer Swinkels, the chairman of Bavaria, Holland’s second biggest brewery. “Fans going into the stadium had to dump them in a big container. Fifa said that the supporters could get them back afterwards. But the container was full of rubbish so most people didn’t bother. I understand that Fifa wants to protect its sponsors. But this is very strange.”

Critics say the decision to make more than 1,000 Dutch fans strip off last Friday is evidence of the extraordinary lengths to which Fifa has gone to protect the interests of World Cup sponsors – at the expense of ordinary fans. Fifa, however, says it has done nothing wrong and is entitled to defend itself against what it calls “ambush marketing”.

Either way, there is little doubt of the seemingly unlimited power that sponsors now wield over global sporting events – with British politicians controversially voting to give sponsors a major role in the 2012 London Olympics.

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