With the World Cup in full flow, and the Netherlands picking up maximum points from their opening two group games to secure qualification, the aforementioned question is becoming increasingly relevant.

  • By Oliver Fisher
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de vrij oran

I feel the need to open up by defining “recognition”. When referring to the Eredivisie not being as recognised, I am talking about a few different factors, which I will outline.

Firstly, it comes down to status. For example, the Dutch domestic league is simply not regarded as one of the elite leagues in Europe. You could argue that it isn’t even in the top five, with the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1 all ranking above in terms of status and, in some people’s eyes, ranking of quality.

Secondly, it’s about knowledge as well. There aren’t the same viewership numbers for the Eredivisie as there are for the other top European leagues, and this causes journalists such as the ones out at the World Cup to make general, sweeping statements about players such as Janmaat, De Vrij and company as if they watch them week in week out. This isn’t acceptable, as committed and dedicated watchers of football in the Netherlands are sick of seeing the same scouting reports compiled of simply what the player showed in one World Cup game, or what they saw on a YouTube montage.

Why is this the case though? I mean, it isn’t as if the Dutch national team and the Eredivisie aren’t littered with talent. Look at the Oranje, where out of the final 23-man squad which is out in Brazil as we speak, ten currently play in the Eredivisie, but staggeringly Tim Krul is the only player out of the twenty-three that hasn’t played a game in the Eredivisie. Players such Feyenoord’s Jean-Paul Boetius, Jeroen Zoet of PSV and Karim Rekik who spent last season there on loan, Quincy Promes from Twente and Patrick van Aanholt (at Vitesse last season on loan from Chelsea) all narrowly missed out on selection for van Gaal’s squad.

The rock of the Dutch defense comes from Rotterdam, with the likes of Janmaat, De Vrij and Martins-Indi (all from Feyenoord) anchoring the back with help from Daley Blind of Ajax and Ron Vlaar, formerly of AZ Alkmaar and Feijenoord.

Attacking options such as the emerging, energetic young talent of Memphis Depay and the powerhouse of Georginio Wijnaldum, both from PSV, are available at van Gaal’s disposal. The point is, it is very easy to see how the Eredivisie can be closely tied with the success of a very impressive Netherlands side that has arguably looked the best at the World Cup finals so far. When you beat the defending champions 5-1, it is not a fluke, and the impact of such players mentioned previously play a large part in the result.

So, now we can see that the Netherlands is capable of producing wonderful footballers with the help of their domestic system, we go back to the original question, why isn’t it recognised as one of the “elite” leagues in Europe?

I feel the need to point out the fact that the household names of the Netherlands squad, such as RVP (Robin van Persie), Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder, no longer play their domestic football in the Dutch league. They all managed to secure big money moves, which ties in with the widely shared opinion that the Eredivisie is a feeder league. In my first article for the site I discussed why it was important that Feyenoord hangs on to their young talent as they are braced for bids from foreign giants, and this links with the mentality I strongly feel should be adopted by all Dutch clubs. Too often young stars are whipped away, and with the upcoming crop of impressive, talented young Netherlands players the problem could become greater. Imagine a league next season without Depay, Bakkali, Janmaat, De Vrij, Vilhena, Boetius and others (including non-Dutch players, it’s important to note). It wouldn’t quite be the same.

Money talks at the end of the day; the lure of playing in one of the top leagues in the world may be too much for such players, but all it would do is further prove the stereotype of a feeder type system in the Dutch domestic game.

The structure of the Eredivisie doesn’t really differ all that much from the other leagues in Europe. Competition is always tight at the top of the table, with four teams competing year in year out for the top spots in Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV, Twente and perhaps even Vitesse more recently. When you think about it, that is hardly different to the Premier League, where the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and the Manchester clubs battle it out for the title, domestic cups and European competition.

It’s also important to mention the likes of Heerenveen and Groningen, who also are there or thereabouts when discussing contention for the KNVB Cup or Europa League.

So, after all that, why isn’t the Eredivisie seen as an “elite” league when the Netherlands are seen as one of the world’s top teams? Well, contrary to my title question, I feel recognition for the Eredivisie is on the rise.

Take a look at Sky Sports, who very recently bought the rights to show the Eredivisie on their new European football channel Sky Sports 5. The Dutch league will be shown alongside La Liga, Copa del Rey, Copa Italia (which I assume they still have rights for), the Champions League and European qualifiers. This is a sign of recognition, right?

Demand was obviously there from customers to watch football from the Netherlands. Otherwise, it makes no sense as a business decision to purchase the right. It’s an exciting time, with unparalleled coverage (not just of the Eredivisie but also European football as a whole) set to hit our screens. Now, if only they could secure Serie A and the Bundesliga!

I keep referring to the youth, and the Oranje, and the role they play in promoting the prominence, prevalence and relevance of the Dutch league. In my opinion, it has been one of the main drivers in the move by Sky to pursue the rights. People want to see Depay, Bojan, Schaken and other exciting players with flair because, quite frankly, it makes for entertaining watching. If people watched a selection of a few Eredivisie games (having not done so before) then I think they would be pleasantly surprised and shocked at the quality on offer, as well as the passion of the supporters and the professionalism of the setup.

Knowledge of the league is also increasing, in my view. The World Cup has certainly assisted in the matter, with experts and analysts able to gain a clearer picture of the talent and style of Oranje players, and in the process they can hopefully compile a more accurate representation of the quality of the quality of the Eredivisie.

Either way, I am of the view that the relevance and importance of the Netherlands as a football powerhouse, domestically and internationally, is rising. It all adds to the growing reputation of the Dutch domestic system, and I share the opinion of many other football watchers when I say it cannot be bad.

Roll on August, and the start of the new season. I can’t wait.

Oliver Fisher (9 Posts)

Aspiring Sports Journalist and huge football fan, from Leeds, England. Follow @olifisher on Twitter