When thinking of the Netherlands, you might not instantly associate it with rich sporting history, but we still pack a punch throughout the sporting world despite our country's small size!
That's why I put together this list of facts about sports in the Netherlands. We discuss everything from field hockey to gymnastics in all eras!
So would you like to learn more about Dutch sports? Then don't wait any longer and read below the 30 most interesting Dutch sport facts!
The Netherlands has a particularly large history in football or soccer for the Americans out there. While the Dutch football team has been home to some of the world’s greatest players, it has achieved relatively little success over the years.
The one big exception to that rule came in 1988 when the Netherlands won the European Championship for the first, and so far last, time!
Back in the late ’80s, the Dutch team housed some of the world’s best in the form of Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit. After a long tournament, the Dutch squad faced the Soviet Union. After a blistering match, the Netherlands managed to take a 2-0 win thanks to amazing goals scored by Van Basten and Gullit.
A true piece of Dutch sporting history, and one that is yet to be beaten!
As we’ve mentioned before, the European Championship of 1988 was a nice exception to our usually disappointing performances in large football tournaments.
This is clearly shown by the dreadful record of most World Cup finals without a win. The Netherlands has reached the final of this prestigious tournament exactly 3 times, in the years 1974, 1978, and most recently 2010.
All of these finals were sadly lost. Our national team has had some exceptional generations, containing some exceptional players but sadly none of them were able to convert their incredible talent into silverware.
In the 2010's final, we got the closest to gold, as we lost 1-0 to Spain in the final minutes of extra time. This match became a part of Dutch culture, and any Dutch football fan will still be able to describe that excruciating extra time moment in stunning detail!
Away from international soccer and into the domestic competition. The Netherlands is a decent soccer country, yet the Eredivisie, the highest competition in the country, does not contain much great talent. The first and second divisions combined count 43 professional soccer clubs.
In total the Netherlands hosts a whopping 2.900 football clubs. The most famous of these clubs has to be either Feyenoord or Ajax. Both teams have had both domestic and international success, and the debate continues to divide the Netherlands in two.
Our little country is of course known for its abundance of water. Most Dutch people hold water close to their hearts and it has become a true part of Dutch culture.
This can clearly be seen in the results of Dutch sailors! The prestigious race around the world, known as the Volvo Ocean Race, hosts not one, but two Dutch boats!
The Olympics are also dominated by Dutch sailors as they brought home a total of 22 sailing medals. Dutch sailor Marit Bouwmeester has been declared sailor of the year multiple times in a row, and rightfully so.
Of course, our great performance in this area comes as no surprise, as water is embedded in Dutch culture!
When it comes to speed skating, the Dutch are also a force to be reckoned with. Skating is a regular pastime for many Dutch people during the winter months, and it shows on a professional level.
Dutch skating legend Sven Kramer became a national hero in 2008 when he destroyed all competition by winning the 10,000 meters by an insane margin of 21.1 seconds. This was at the World Championship in Nagano, Japan.
These results don’t come as a surprise as the Dutch skating team has dominated the speed skating rinks for years now, using advanced technology we manage to stay ahead of the competition!
Both in the man and women division, we are a dominant force, and there are no signs of this prospect changing anytime soon.
We've talked about it briefly, but we just can't get enough! Marit Bouwmeester is not only the best sailor in the Netherlands, but she has conquered the world and she is ready to go down in the history books as one of the greats of all time.
She has racked up a crazy 16 medals over the past years. Among these medals are a gold Olympic medal and a whopping 8 World Championship medals. It doesn’t surprise that she has been chosen as the sailor of the year for multiple years in a row now.
Luckily for us, she has shown no signs of stopping and we’ll be waiting to see what she can do at the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo!
We can’t make a list of Dutch sports facts without including the legend himself, Johan Cruyff. He is known by many, as one of the greatest soccer players of all time.
Johan Cruyff has played for the best clubs in the world in the form of Ajax and FC Barcelona and was deservedly voted player of the 20th century in 1999. He is the man behind some of soccer's most amazing moments and he fully deserves his place in the Dutch sports hall of fame.
After his recent death in 2016, the Ajax stadium was named after him, further engraving his legacy on the soccer world. Everywhere he played he left this incredible legacy. This makes him one of Holland's proudest and most famous sports figures of all time!
After soccer, we come to another great sport here in the Netherlands, field hockey. The Netherlands has dominated the world of field hockey for many years, with multiple Olympic medals and World Championships.
In the domestic league, known as "De Hoofdklasse", AH&BC, better known as hockey club Amsterdam, is the best in its class. The club has obtained 41 national titles in total, 21 for the men, and 20 for the women. The club from Amsterdam is also known for their international success, as they always perform great in European competitions as well.
Field hockey is an incredibly big sport in the Netherlands, it is more popular here than anywhere else in the world and this is evident in the incredible results that the Dutch field hockey teams have achieved over the years.
(Click here to learn more about field hockey in the Netherlands)
The Netherlands is of course known for its large amount of bicycles and bikes. Almost everyone owns a bicycle, and many people consider the bicycle their daily means of transportation.
This love for cycling is also reflected in competitive cycling, as the famous Dutch cyclist Tom Dumoulin proved to the world in 2017. He became known for winning the prestigious cycling race known as the Giro d'Italia.
It remained gut-wrenching right until the end, but Dumoulin managed to win the competition in the final time trial race. In doing so, he secured his place in Dutch history as one of the greats of all time!
Dumoulin's victory in Italy is a wonderful moment in Dutch cycling history, and it shows how a small nation can still be incredibly competitive at the highest level.
(Click here if you would like to know why cycling is so popular in the Netherlands)
The Olympics is the event of the decade for many athletes, and for many sports, it is the highest level of achievement. As you may know, this sporting spectacle is held once every four years at a location chosen by the organization.
Over the years we’ve seen many big cities host the Olympics such as London, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, and Sydney.
But did you know that the Netherlands once hosted the Olympic Games? Yes, that's right, our little country was the center of the sports world at the Olympics back in 1928.
The games were held in the capital city of Amsterdam, and the athletics stadium is used to this day! That's the only time the Netherlands has hosted the Olympics, but no one knows what the future holds for us!
We’ve come across many different sports on this list, but soccer or football will always remain the number 1 sport in terms of popularity in the Netherlands. This is the case in most European countries and for all the right reasons.
More than a million people play soccer in the Netherlands, which is amazing for such a small country. It is also by far the most popular sport on television, with many live matches as well as several talk shows about soccer.
The Netherlands has produced some of the best footballers this world has ever seen, and that can clearly be traced back to the huge popularity of the sport here in the Netherlands. Most people play it, most people watch it, therefore it is the most popular sport in the Netherlands!
(Click here to find out why the Netherlands is so good at football)
From soccer to a totally different sport, fishing! It may surprise you to learn that fishing is one of the most popular sports in the Netherlands. The Dutch Fisheries Council has reported over 2 million members, which is over 10% of the Dutch population!
Fishing is of course very popular due to the large quantities of open water available in the Netherlands. There are many different places to fish and there’s a large variety of different fish to catch.
The Netherlands is one of the leading countries in fishing in Europe, and it has become a real competition. With such stunning statistics, it should come as no surprise that fishing is one of the most popular sports in the Netherlands!
How could we make a list of Dutch sports facts without including the infamous Max Verstappen?
Max Verstappen has climbed the ranks of motorsports and reached the most prestigious competition of all, Formula One, in the year 2015. There too, he quickly climbed the rankings and was promoted to a top team midway through the 2016 season.
At that moment he rewrote the history books, as he won the first race with his new team. Not only did he win the race, but he was also the youngest person ever to win a Formula One Grand Prix!
That is why the 2016 GP of Spain will forever be cherished by Dutch sports fans. Max Verstappen has brought Formula 1 into our culture, and it's here to stay! And hopefully, he will be able to win the championship soon.
You may not recognize the name, but he has certainly done well for himself. Dutchman Xander Bogaerts plays professional baseball in America's highest league, Major League Baseball.
In 2010, he signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox for a whopping 111 million euros (132 million dollars) for 7 years. In those 7 years, he really made a name for himself in the United States.
Surprisingly, this immense salary is nowhere near the best-paid player in baseball. American baseball is a lucrative business, and it would not be surprising to see our Dutchman start earning more and more as he advances in the sport.
Although not many people know him in the Netherlands, he is definitely the wealthiest Dutch athlete at the moment.
Dutch soccer player Wesley Sneijder is known as one of the best midfielders in the country. He makes matches a joy to watch, and he has scored some incredible goals over the years.
He recently retired from soccer, but it's safe to say that Sneijder amassed some impressive statistics during his time as an international of the Netherlands.
He is the record holder for the most international matches he has played for the Netherlands. He played a whopping 134 matches for the national team, including that dreaded World Cup final in 2010 and many more!
He is true pride for the Dutch nation and he has served his country well with incredible soccer!
From one incredible footballer to another, Robin van Persie. Every Dutchman will know his name, and he too has recently called it quits on his soccer career.
Van Persie was a true striker, he helped the Netherlands through many tournaments and he scored some of the craziest goals ever.
His goal-scoring skills are only confirmed by the incredible statistics in his favor. He is the international top scorer of the Netherlands! In his 102 international matches, he has put an incredible 50 goals in the back of the net.
There is a reason why everyone in the Netherlands knows his name, he is a world-class player.
Back to speed skating, we have another Dutch legend, this time in the women's division. Ireen Wüst has had an incredible skating career, winning a gold Olympic medal at the age of 19! She has always been incredibly talented, and this is clearly reflected in her winning results.
And it is those winning results that earned her a place on this list, she is the most successful Olympic athlete from the Netherlands ever!
During her career, she has won no less than 11 Olympic medals, 5 gold, 5 silver, and one bronze. And not only is she the Dutch record holder, but she also holds the record for most medals by a speed skater.
These incredible performances have made her famous both in and outside the Netherlands!
The Netherlands is an incredibly talented sporting nation, and while you might not immediately associate the small country with Olympic success you certainly should! Over the years, our small country has won countless medals thanks to amazing performances in all disciplines.
This incredible perseverance has earned the Netherlands a total of 130 Olympic gold medals at the time of writing. Currently, the country shows no signs of stopping anytime soon!
All medals added up, the Netherlands is the 17th most successful country at the Olympics, which is an incredible achievement for such a small country!
Most of the highlights on this list are from the past, but that doesn't mean that the Netherlands isn't performing today. On the contrary, both the men's and women's teams recently won the 2021 European Field Hockey Championships!
Both teams faced Germany in the final and both teams managed to take home the trophy. This achievement solidifies the Dutch position as the best field hockey nation in the world, and with the new generations lurking around the corner, this title will not be taken away from us any time soon!
These incredible results can be traced back to the enormous popularity of field hockey in the Netherlands and the many youth players who want to succeed in the sport!
Let's go back to our country's most popular sport, soccer. As we mentioned before, the Netherlands has 34 professional clubs, but only one of them can call itself the best. The Netherlands has many big clubs, such as Ajax, PSV, and Feyenoord.
Statistics tell us that Ajax Amsterdam is the most successful soccer club in Dutch history. Some fans may disagree, but statistics just don't lie. The club has won 35 national titles over the years, the most recent being this season (2020/2021).
They have won the National Cup no less than 20 times, and outside the country, they have enjoyed similar success. They won the prestigious Champions League 4 times, and they have earned many other trophies in other international competitions!
Max Verstappen can rightly be called an era of greatness, and we will no doubt see him go down in the history books when he retires. Even in his relatively short racing career, he is only 23 years old, he has managed to achieve some incredible feats.
In fact, he accomplished enough of these feats to be considered the best Dutch race car driver our country has ever known. The Netherlands have put forward numerous formula one drivers over the years, but none of them have quite made an impact as he has.
Max Verstappen keeps getting poles and wins to his name, weekend after weekend, and he might just win his first world title this year. All these incredible achievements only confirm his place as the best Dutch driver ever!
Among Dutch people, the name Björn Kuipers will immediately ring a bell; outside our small country, he may be less well known. Kuipers is a referee for the international soccer association, better known as FIFA. He is known as one of the best referees in the world!
He has had numerous major soccer matches under his control over the years. Among them are the prestigious Champions League finals and the World and European Championships. He has an almost impeccable refereeing record and he continues to shine at the world's biggest games to this day.
He also referees in the Dutch national league, where he is one of the best in the business. He does pretty well for himself, as he has reportedly become a millionaire from refereeing and as the owner of his own supermarket.
On the Dutch coast, surrounded by sand dunes, is a very famous racing circuit, better known as Zandvoort.
This circuit has hosted many insane Formula One races over the past century and has seen an incredible amount of racing action over the years. Unfortunately, the circuit has not been included in the Formula One calendar since 1986.
Race fans will be delighted to know that the famous Dutch circuit will be making its Formula One return in the 2021 season!
The track has been completely revamped, and it's ready to welcome the fastest cars in the world again! Formula One fans have had to wait a year longer for the Dutch Grand Prix due to Covid measures, but in September 2021 is finally here again!
Epke Zonderland is a name that is known in the Netherlands like no other, he is the pride of gymnastics in the Netherlands and he has captured the hearts of many through his incredible performances on the horizontal bar!
Epke Zonderland has had an incredible gymnastics career. He won the 2012 Olympics and won multiple European and world titles. He plans to strike again this summer at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Not many people know that Epke Zonderland has actually completed his medical study to the side of his gymnastics career, he’s actually a doctor now!
This just goes to show how far perseverance, strength, and brains can take you, as Epke Zonderland has become an idol for many young Dutch gymnasts who are training to become the next Epke Zonderland!
You may think of soccer as a man's sport, but nothing could be further from the truth! More and more young girls are playing soccer and the sport has been gaining popularity for years. This popularity clearly pays off in the results, as the Dutch women’s soccer team is stronger than ever!
They clearly demonstrated this strength at the 2017 European Championships, when they took home the trophy after an exciting tournament! They showed their dominance again in the 2019 World Cup when they finished second and lost the final to the United States!
Women's soccer in the Netherlands has grown since then, and many little girls have decided to pick up the soccer shoes to follow in the footsteps of their idols like Lieke Martens!
This is one of the more random facts on this list, and it has seemingly nothing to do with Dutch sports.
The Dutch national team has a total of 26 of the country's best players. This number has been increased from 24 to 26 for the 2021 European Championship, as the players have had a tiring year in terms of matches and tournaments.
The team obviously consists of 11 starting players, the remaining 15 can be found on the bench. Only a selected part of those 15 players can be substituted in the match. The rules of soccer allow only 5 substitutions in a match during the 2021 European Championship.
Of course, we can't make a list of Dutch sports facts without including Dutch tennis player Kiki Bertens.
She came out of nowhere and she has risen the ranks of the sport like a true rocket. She has inspired many young Dutch girls to pick up the racket and start playing tennis, and rightfully so.
She has accomplished all this by achieving incredible results in the biggest tournaments in tennis. She has achieved a 443-261 win-loss balance in all of her matches. She reached an all-time high in 2019 when she placed 4th on the world ranking.
This makes her the best tennis player in the history of Dutch tennis! These incredible results have since driven the popularity of the sport like no other!
This brings us to another Dutch sports legend, Dafne Schippers. This name sends shivers down every Dutch athletics fan's spine. She is the best athlete the Netherlands has ever seen, with two world titles and one Olympic gold medal.
She has made the sport of athletics grow like crazy and has rightfully earned her place in the Dutch sports hall of fame!
For some, playing darts is an activity for the pub, but for others, it is a very serious sport. The Netherlands has been at the top of darts for many years.
It all started in the mid-90s when Raymond van Barneveld reached the final of the Embassy. This success brought about an enormous popularity boast and put the sport on the map. Eventually, Raymond van Barneveld managed to win the World Championship 5 times.
Around 2006, another Dutchman, Michael van Gerwen appeared at the top of the darts sport. Michael van Gerwen is now the most successful dart player ever after darts legend Phil Taylor.
But there is a big chance that Michael van Gerwen will break all records since he still has a long career ahead of him.
Last but certainly not least, we look at Dutch swimmer Sharon van Rouwendaal. She won the Olympic medal in open water swimming in 2016. Prior to that moment, few people knew her, but when she grabbed that gold medal, she cemented herself directly into Dutch sports history like no other!
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There you have it, the 30 Dutch sport facts! The Netherlands has some pretty impressive numbers when it comes to sports, especially considering the size of the country. The Dutch are a force to be reckoned with on any sport, as can be seen in this list!
I hope you enjoyed the facts as much as I did, and thanks for reading!