Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt was glowing with pride after his encounter with royalty when his team made it to the World Cup final for the first time in 32 years.
“She looked straight at me,” he said of the meeting with Princess Maxima, the 39-year-old wife of Prince Willem-Alexander, heir to the Dutch throne.
“Dirk, I thought all you players were wonderful, but you are my angel,” Kuyt said the princess told him in the team dressing immediately after the semifinals victory over Uruguay. After such praise, nobody in the Netherlands believes the team will lose the final — to do so would be an affront to the monarchy.
Some people feel the Dutch royals are capitalising on the success of the football team to put themselves in a better light, but they are in a minority.
“It's something really special when the wife of our future king says a thing like that to you,” said Kuyt, who plays professional football in the English Premiership with Liverpool.
Willem-Alexander, 43, does not come across as well as his attractive and temperamental Argentina-born wife, the mother of his three children — the princesses Amalia, 6, Alexia, 5, and Ariane, 3.
Doing his best
But he is doing his best to improve that image. At a recent photo call he disclosed the family has been wearing orange — the national team colours — since the World Cup began in South Africa on June 11.
To emphasise the family's World Cup fever, little Amalia showed off her skills at blowing a vuvuzela — coloured orange of course.
The World Cup euphoria has helped the royal couple recover from plunging popularity ratings triggered by their decision to build a luxury villa on a southern African peninsula at a time of financial crisis and then expect the taxpayer to foot the bill for their flights and security.
Maxima's numerous plane trips at taxpayers' cost and her shopping trips to Paris to buy expensive shoes have also been forgotten.
There is joy instead at the little dance made by Maxima when the Dutch scored to reach the final. The princess was in the stadium at Cape Town and her display of spontaneity was captured live on television for millions of viewers back home.
“She is very pleasant,” said striker Robin van Persie. “The enthusiasm when she came into the dressing room was tremendous.” The prince, himself, is a keen sports fan.”
The pleasure was written across his face after the victory over Uruguay ensured Holland a berth in Sunday's final against European champion Spain.
He told the players their country was proud of them and that he was convinced they would win the World Cup title.
“His words were quite powerful,” said Kuyt.
Even midfielder John Heitinga was impressed. “I was covered in goose pimples when the royal couple came to see us,” he said. — DPA