For more than 25 years, Winfried Witjes has traveled the world to attend the vast majority of the Netherlands' matches dressed as The Oranje General. Like Brazil's Gaucho da Copa, The General has become an immediately recognizable part of major international tournaments. But due to financial trouble, he wasn't going to be able to travel to Brazil for this World Cup.
Other Dutch fans wouldn't stand for this though, and so a crowdfunding campaign was launched to raise the money necessary to send the team's unofficial mascot to Brazil for as long as the Netherlands remained in the tournament. Which ended up being one day short of the whole thing.
The money was raised and The General was able to lead the Netherlands' support from beginning of the journey right to the very end. Here he is giving Van Persie and the rest of the team a proper send-off at Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam before the tournament started...
So after a month of traversing Brazil as the most brightly dressed fan in the country, The General was in the front row to see his team claim third-place medals and Van Persie decided that he deserved a reward, as well. He then pointed right at The General and handed him the captain's armband, prompting Witjes to kiss his hand in appreciation.
This will surely go down as one of The General's greatest memories in all of his many football travels, but it's not the first time Van Persie has given him a gift to show his appreciation for his loyal support. In 2011, Van Persie became the first player to give The General his shirt after a match, and as Witjes says the striker told him, "My shirt — it's for you. You always come to the games, you are a good guy and this shirt is for you."
Last year, a short documentary was made about Witjes and his daily life in the small town of Elst, Gelderland. Watch it below.
- Sports & Recreation
- Robin van Persie
- the Netherlands