They are probably the most orange Dutch supporters you will come across at the European Para Championships these weeks: Jan Twigt and Gert Twigt. As they describe themselves: the father and younger brother of Arie Twigt, and devoted fans of the Dutch Wheelchair Basketball team. Arie Twigt plays with jersey number 17 in the Dutch Wheelchair Basketball team, one of the teams in the quarter finals on Wednesday.
Even on a fully orange stand, you cannot miss the two men. With their bright orange coveralls, shirts, and wooden clogs, they make quite an appearance. They travel the world dressed in this outfit. They attend as many of their son and brother Arie’s matches as possible, always in this attire. As the years go by, the two of them become even more orange.
Finally, Dutch people in clogs
“We always used to wear orange, but then came the World Cup in Hamburg. We had a costume, but it wasn’t orange enough to our liking’’, brother Gert explains. “We had orange clogs then. After that, we thought: we can do better.” The quest for the ultimate costume began. “We got the coveralls and then looked for the shirts to match.” He makes it sound quite simple. They put on the clogs, and the outfit was complete.
Well, complete for now. Because who knows what the future holds. “Then we might become a sort of carrot’’, Jan laughs. “But if we come up with something fun, we can always add it.” The men also use the outfits to encourage other supporters. By being so orange themselves, they hope to inspire other attendees to wear orange and show their support for the team. “At the matches of the men, there are definitely others joining in, and with the women as well, though a bit fewer.’’
The clogs turn out to be a great conversation starter. In the Netherlands itself, but especially abroad. “We chose the clogs to connect with the Netherlands, but that’s what gets the most reactions.” Father Jan has an explanation for that: “I think many people abroad believe that Dutch people always wear wooden clogs. And then they don’t see any clogs on all the Dutch people they encounter. We have them. It was especially noticeable in Spain. They were absolutely thrilled about it.”
The European Para Championships are a great idea on many levels
The family doesn’t have to travel far for the matches at Ahoy. Initially, they were a bit skeptical about the idea of the European Para Championships, particularly because there are so many sports combined. After seeing it, they have completely changed their minds. “There are so many sports and so many different people, I actually think it’s fantastic’’, Jan says as he looks around. His son adds: “It’s also really good for people with disabilities who don’t know if and what sport they would like to do. Here, they can explore and get to know various sports.” He provides a concrete example: “Earlier this week, we referred someone to Wheelchair Basketball. That’s because we think it’s great. But in the same way, these people can also get in touch with other sports.’’
The men look back on the first week at Rotterdam Ahoy with satisfaction and joy. The highlight so far was the match against Germany on Tuesday. “Netherlands-Germany is a bit charged in almost every sport. And it’s great when you win. Plus, Arie now plays in Germany, so we recognize and know many of their supporters. It was also the most sportsmanlike match, I think. Intense, but very respectful towards each other.”
The ball will always be round, but…
How do Jan and Gert envision the rest of the tournament? “The chances of us still being here this weekend are getting bigger. Now they are group winners, they’ll face the 4th team from the other group, France.” Jan reflects for a moment. “You see, the ball will always be round, of course. But that would be a match they should be able to win. So, if they win they’ll definitely be in the top four. Yes, and then they should push through, in my opinion.” His son sums it up: “The chances are very high.” He shrugs his shoulders and adds: “At least from the sidelines, we’re doing everything we can.”