Voetbal vs. Soccer - Teamspirit vs. Individualism?

Why do people in America call voetbal / football 'Soccer'?

And why do they call football 'football'? It just doesn't make sense to me. From what I've seen (and that's not much, I'm sorry) football doesn't include a lot of feet touching the ball. But if you read the article I placed at the word football, you will see there is a lot more to it.

world_soccer_cntry_100411References to 'soccer'



world_football_cntry_100411References to 'football'

(for more info see: This article)

If the difference in the name says anything about teamspirit, I do understand that they give it another name here.


My oldest son played voetbal in the Netherlands. He even did his first walking while playing voetbal. (He started walking very late, because he wanted to be sure he could do it well immediately, talking about being Gifted, ha!).

When we just moved here, he wanted to play voetbal again as soon as possible, so we started looking around for a good voetbal club. That was a pretty tough job. Fortunately a colleague of my husband knew a good club, whatever that means around here?!

In the Netherlands voetbal is a very popular sport. We used to live in Veldhoven, a village with about 44.000 residents. In Veldhoven there are four voetbal clubs. In Aurora, the city where we live now, is only one soccer club. And Aurora has about 200.000 residents.

TeamspiritMy former classmate Joris Mathijsen is in this picture showing teamspirit!

Playing voetbal in the Netherlands is much more about teamspirit then it is in the US:

  • Parents and children gather at the voetbal club, before they go to a game. They even drive together, because that is 'gezellig'!
  • After and before playing voetbal, all the children go to the dressing room. The trainer discusses the game in there. Parents are welcome after the trainer is done talking to the kids.
  • After a game all children shower together and have fun together. Parents help the children (if necessary).
  •  There are voetbal canteens at every club, where parents and children can talk and drink something after or before a game.
  • When a team goes to a tournament, the tournament lasts at least one day or more. There are multiple games taking place those days and in between those games, the children and parents have fun together.
  • There is a celebration in the canteen if a team ends at the first place during a season. They get their picture taken, a cake, something to drink and a lot of fun together.
  • A lot of parents volunteer at the voetbal clubs. They are trainers, coaches, canteen staff, board member etc. Almost the whole club runs on volunteers.
  • In our voetbal team one parent used to make coffee every morning before a game and share it with all the parents. Some even brought cookies for the whole team.
  • A lot of close friendships are the result of playing voetbal!

Dutch soccer jokeDutch soccer joke

What a difference with playing soccer in the States:

  • Everyone drives on their own unless they need someone to take care of their children.
  • The children gather at the field of the club they play that day. The trainer gives them a speech before playing, where ever. After the game he gives them a speech again, but there is no room for that. The next game is getting ready.
  • After a game no-one showers and everyone goes home on their own.
  • There are no 'having a drink together' time to have fun. People just leave, probably going to the next sport their child attends.
  • There are tournaments and they take place on different days. There usually is one game a day or maybe two games a day. When there are two games a day, there is so much time in between that everyone goes home (or again to another sport).
  • People do take pictures of teams that win, to put on Shutterfly.
  • A club doesn't ask you to become a volunteer, they force you. Everyone needs to help during a tournament. And when you are there, the task you have to do is completely unnecessary. There are volunteer jobs that you can choose, such as team manager. In my opinion the team manager does the job of the coach / trainer, without getting payed.
  • Here you only see your 'voetbal friends' while playing voetbal and nowhere else.

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A lot of children play as individualists here. They don't pass the ball, even if other players are all open! Of course there are Dutch players that 'pingel' all the time as well, but not everybody. (Pingelen means playing as an individual). I hear parents that make a promise, about using a tablet when their children score. I think this is related to 'following your dreams, being the best and get a scholarship'...while I wouldn't choose voetbal as your sport than. Football is way bigger around here.

Playing voetbal in the Netherlands costs you about 130 euro per year, which is about 180 dollars. Voetbal is partly subsidized by local government and partly sponsored by local companies. The outfit is usually sponsored, you usually don't have to pay for that. Here it is sponsored too, but you also have to pay for it. You only have to buy shin guards and cleats, if your clothes are sponsored. You do have to give the outfits back after a year, so other teams can wear them. And the club has balls to play with, you don't have to bring your own.

Here you pay about 1500 dollars a year and another 150 dollars for the clothes. If your team goes to a far away tournament, the players have to pay the coaches expenses. And if you want to play in winter as well, you pay extra for that. A lot of the volunteer coaches in the Netherlands were even better than those around here, who get a lot of money for coaching.

A voetbalclub in the Netherlands is comparible to community soccer here, moneywise. If you look at the level of soccer around here, the level of community soccer is way lower. In the Netherlands you go to a voetbalclub when you turn four. Children are put together based on their age level. The trainer / coach, teamleader and internal scouts follow the children. After playing voetbal for a year they don't have to try out. The club makes their own teams, based on what the experts of the club have seen. It doesn't matter how good you are at voetbal, you can always keep playing for the same club, as long as you have fun. Parents don't go shopping around for try-outs. A lot of children stay at the same voetbalclub their whole lives. They start as a four year old and end up being trainers and life time members.

We went to a game of the Chicago Fire once. While being there our son noted that the Chicago Fire team played at the same level as the first team of RKVVO (voetbalclub in the Netherlands). And my husband had to agree with him.

While watching the games or practise in the States there is no canteen, no shower or real team spirit. If you're lucky there is a real restroom and a field that is straight and without holes or goose poop.

Voetbal in the Netherlands creates teamspirit, lifetime friends and solidarity...

...maybe that is why the Dutch people don't need as many churches as the Americans, they find solidarity in other ways. But that's a whole other topic!

I wish all the people that love watching voetbal a lot of fun, while watching the World Championship!

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And of course I say "Hup Holland Hup"!


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Voetbal plaatjes



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    I think you are in a rotten snooty suburban club! Not all soccer clubs are alike here and most do not have clubhouses with showers, facilities for food, drink or restrooms, some do, but it's costly to build or find a building that could be converted. I wish we had a system more like that of the Netherlands (I'm a fan of Netherlands' soccer!) Of those clubs I've seen in my area and in our youth league, there IS team spirit on the field, among the families and players. The good coaches guide the players to work together as a team. Some coaches aren't so good and barely understand the game, they are parents who volunteered to 'coach' so that the kids could have a team, usually at the recreational level. There are better trained coaches who know the game at the travel level, the level we are in, it's more expensive (ours runs about $640 includes, uniforms, bags, patches, referee fees, tournament fees and pay for the professional coaching sessions they receive throughout the year). Our club has never forced anyone to volunteer and we all bring snacks to share or bring our own. Lacking an actual clubhouse, it's difficult to bring things for everyone most times. We celebrate birthdays together, have family get togethers in good weather and there is a lot of fun and friendship, before and after games too. We share our photos, support each other's kids, congratulate them or console them. Our tournaments last all day or all weekend. Our club isn't perfect, but it's good.

    We call it soccer after the older English term of calling it soccer, their early shortened name for Association Football, which was different from Rugby Football.

    I have loved soccer for almost 25 years, brought my husband into it and my son plays goalkeeper. It's the only sport he really knows or has much interest in. I played on my high school's first girl's soccer team in 1990. When I was young, soccer was only something played by those kids who had the money to afford to drive an hour to the closest club and for the fees. Kids played baseball and football, not soccer, most people had no idea what soccer was. You could play in high school and college (if you were a boy, most didn't have girls teams), but after that, you were lucky if the area you lived in had a local club or a city team to keep playing into adulthood. Those who played might schedule pick up games for fun. Now, children and adults have more options, there are more clubs, the youth leagues have grown. Also now that there is a major league level of soccer, our local clubs and lower leagues - NASL and USL, have expanded as well and will continue to expand and the level of play and interest is improving. It is a slow slog, but it's much better than it was before the US hosted the 1994 World Cup.

    Soccer, (football) is competing with the well established and more widely accepted sports of American football, baseball, hockey and basketball (none of which I enjoy). Only within the last 20 years since the '94 Cup has soccer begun to get more interest here. More cities are creating teams to join the MLS (most recently Orlando, Oklahoma City, NYC) and with them more USL teams. The local USL teams help support local clubs and kids by offering clinics, fun days, and training series. This weekend, they are having a free clinic before the afternoon game with reduced rate tickets for adults, kids get a free ticket, shirt, and will be introduced as a group before the game and walk out with the players. Our local USL team, Harrisburg City Islanders is the USL partner team of the Philadelphia Union (just formed in 2010). The Union sends it's players to the Islanders for training and play time. They have also promised to help the Islanders build a much needed better stadium. The team managers and some coaches of the Islanders also help run our local club, bringing in Islanders players to help coach teams or the summer camps and training sessions and series.

    We've come a long way, and have farther to go until our level of play is equal to that in other countries. We know our play isn't that great, but remember, we've only had our 'major league' soccer for 20 years, whereas most other countries have had soccer for much longer. We do get a bit chafed at being constantly chided for our level of play. Think of the Netherlands level play 60-70 years ago, the play is different, better now, right? That is about where we are in our early years of developing soccer in this country with a great deal of competition for fans and support. Stick with us, we'll get there!

    I do agree with you about the overabundance of churches in this country ;)

  • Hi Jen,
    Thanks for reading and explaining!

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