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‘So crazy’: thousands attend World Cup qualifier

For a moment, you could be mistaken for thinking that things were back to normal.Thousands of Dutch soccer fans, in their iconic orange gear, gathered to watch a World Cup qualifier in Amsterdam on Saturday (March 27) evening.This was an experimental trial allowing 5,000 fans – tested on the same day – to attend the match.For business student Joyce and schoolgirl Evi, it was a cause for excitement.”Of course nothing at all happens in daily life, so this is really something very strange. Also to be with all these people is so crazy.”There was one major way in which this World Cup qualifier was different from games gone by.Overseeing the clash between the Netherlands and Latvia was Stephanie Frappart.In doing so she became the first female head referee to officiate a men’s World Cup qualifier game.With a capacity of over 55,000, the crowds at the stadium were a fraction of what they could but Gijs de Jong, head of the Royal Dutch Football Association, said he hopes attendance can rise to 50% in time for the delayed Euro 2020 tournament in the summer.”I think this is the future but only for a limited amount of time. So hopefully this fills the gap between now and the moment we are all vaccinated, so probably in September or something, so for the coming three, four months.”De Jong also praised the Dutch players for using their platform to protest against Qatar’s human rights record.They wore t-shirts reading: “Football Supports Change”. The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported a month ago that at least 6,500 migrant workers – many working on World Cup projects – had died in Qatar since it won the right to stage the tournament ten years ago.On Thursday (March 25), a representative of the Qatari World Cup organisers said they had “always been transparent about the health and safety of workers”.For the Dutch fans on Saturday it was a cause for celebration.The Netherlands won 2-0 to get their World Cup qualifying hopes back on track after a shock loss to Turkey on Wednesday.

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