This Monday the Dutch newspapers were full of the following horrific story:
“A Dutch man has died after being kicked and punched by a group of teenage football players for whom he acted as linesman in a Sunday league match.
Richard Nieuwenhuizen collapsed and was taken to hospital hours after he was beaten by three players from Amsterdam club Nieuw Sloten. He died on Monday.” Source
You may have heard of the story, as it was in the news all around the world. Me, as a pedagogue, can’t help but wonder where in the world this sort of violence comes from. The three 15 and 16 year olds were apparently not happy with his decisions on the field and decided to confront him about it. When he did not give the ‘appropriate’ response, they attacked him. The worst thing about this story was that after they had beaten him to a pulp he did not want to report his attackers to the police. He just wanted to go home and be done with it. It wasn’t till later that he collapsed.
It was later released that that the tree kids were of Moroccan descent and of course a lot of people said things like ‘well, there you go then’ as if that is all the explanation they needed. I find this ridiculous. Descent is in no way a precursor to violence. What I do think though is that people, educators, have become afraid of addressing such issues with kids from Moroccan descent. I think this because there is a politician in this country (Geert Wilders) who has taken it upon himself to blame every bit of wrongdoing on foreigners. He does this with such malice and disregard for the people he’s talking about that he has played a lot of people against him. What I think has happened is that because of that is that people are becoming apprehensive of addressing such violent and unwanted behaviour in fear of being compared to him. It also puts the kids who he’s targeting in a sort of victim role with the mindset “if you expect the worst, you’re going to get the worst”.
How can boys derail so far that they think it’s okay to fatally harm someone because they didn’t get their way? Was there no signs of this kind of behaviour in school or at home that would have alerted someone? Were they just too scared to act upon it? Or was this kind of behaviour condoned and maybe even promoted by their parents? A sort of “show them who’s boss mentality”. I damn sure hope not.
The Dutch phrase in the title of this Blog – Zonder Respect Geen Voetbal- is the slogan which ran in all the newspapers later in the week. It means: Without Respect No Football and I sincerely hope this is true. It is about time that this country is going to put more effort into getting kids – all the kids – off the streets and into programs which prevents this kind of behaviour. When I was in my third year of my BA degree I did an internship in a secondary school near the neighbourhood where those kids were from. This means that almost all the kids weren’t of Dutch descent. A couple of times I talked to the students about Geert Wilders and about what he was saying at this time. Often, the reaction would be “if I ever see him, I’ll kill him for what he has been saying about us” and I tried to tell them.. Don’t you see that’s what he wants? He want’s you to behave like that just so he can say that he was right. Don’t give him that pleasure.
I’m afraid that the situation with these youngsters is spiralling out of control. In this aspect I am a great fan of the American school system where sports are all a part of the school. If your grades are below par, you just don’t get in. It may be an idea to implement such a system in the Netherlands as well. Obviously, the way it is now is not working at all.
Rest in Peace Richard Niewenhuizen, you volunteered at that football match out of the goodness of your heart and your love for the game. You did not deserve this kind of end. I’m sorry for what happened to you.