These football fans wore blackface, and the Dutch aren’t sure why it’s wrong

Let's stick to orange next time.

Dutch fans often make themselves known at major football events, normally by flooding the streets with oranje. But at Sunday’s European Championship match against Poland, their attire was a whole lot more controversial.

Three male supporters wanted to express their patriotism by recognising a Dutch football hero, Ruud Gullit, who was part of the Euros-winning team in 1988.

So, they grabbed their orange shirts, wigs and brown face paint… yeah, that’s where it all went wrong.

Now, the fans are receiving worldwide criticism for wearing ‘blackface’, which is considered a racist and deeply offensive tradition, as RTL reports.

The Netherlands versus The World

Football is a game of attack and defence; the same goes for the supporters now facing different opinions from people all over the world.

Many believe this is another case of the-Dutch-do-blackface-and-think-it’s-fine, with the Daily Mail explaining, “it is a particularly controversial issue in the Netherlands, where the tradition of Christmas character Zwarte Piet causes much division.”

And, well, the Dutch aren’t exactly doing much to disprove that theory. 😬

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #120: Struggle with their colonial past

The so-called “tribute” to Gullit has prompted “only nice reactions”, one of the fans reveals to RTL anonymously.

Some people believe the criticism is over the top and justify face painting as a “fun” way to honour their favourite footballer.

Time to tackle the tradition

Sunday’s incident adds to an already problematic legacy when it comes to the Dutch colonial past and history of blackface.

Many claim troubling traditions like Zwarte Piet are a thing of the past, and awareness is growing in the Netherlands. But it’s not just the Ruud Gullit wannabes that suggest otherwise.

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #50: Disagree about Zwarte Piet all the time

Reinette Klever, who looks to be the Dutch government’s new Minister for Foreign Trade co-founded broadcast channel ON which started as a protest against the disappearance of Zwarte Piet.

So, for those defending the Oranje fans, consider if their face painting is really as harmless as it seems. “It’s easy to say it wasn’t intended that way. People ignore the impact of that intention”, sociologist Aspha Bijnaar tells RTL.

Blowing the whistle

Can we expect to see more Ruud Gullit dress-up at the next match? Not in the case of one of the fans.

He tells RTL, “It turns out that I offend people with it. That’s really the last thing I want, so I decided to stop.”

What do you think about the controversy surrounding these fans wearing blackface? Let us know in the comments below.

Feature Image:DutchReview/Canva
Lottie Gale 🇬🇧
Lottie Gale 🇬🇧
Lottie joins DutchReview as an editorial intern after gaining a Bachelor’s in English from her native England. She continues to pursue all things literature in her MA Literature Today at Utrecht University. She is loving life here, and the ever-looming rainclouds often make it feel like a home from home. Lottie arrived to complete her studies and hone her writing skills — she’ll stay for the Dutch tranquility, tulips and tompouce.


  1. Dressing up as Ruud Gullit is not racist. Wrongly denying 20000 people their welfare payments, that’s racist.

    • Exactly! If Foreigners want to discuss an item from the Netherlands, at least they should have the correct information!
      Always other people from the sidelines, who have zero knowledge of Dutch traditions think they have the right to discuss the habits and traditions of our country! 😔


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