CAPE TOWN: The Dutch were South Africa`s first white settlers more than three centuries ago, but ahead of the World Cup final on Sunday, locals say that`s all history.
South Africans in Cape Town, where Dutch traders set up a supply station to replenish passing ships in 1652, said a common heritage and the team`s World Cup showing had earned their cheers for a first-ever orange championship.
The city`s Dutch ties are evident in buildings, names and the widely-spoken derivative language Afrikaans -- a symbol of the former white minority apartheid regime that denied black South Africans the vote until 1994.
"I`m supporting the Netherlands. It doesn`t matter to me. That was then, now it`s now, it`s a free country," said Fundi Nqoloba, 34, who is following her 11-year-old son in cheering for the team.
More than 200,000 people flocked to the inner city for the Netherlands 3-2 semi-final win over Uruguay on Tuesday, with more than 49,000 fans setting a record attendance at the orange-dominated fan fest.
The Dutch were the "closest team to South Africa", explained Goesain Sadien, 27, whose favourite player is Arsenal-based Dutch striker Robin van Persie.
"Where South Africa is standing at the moment, I think the history shows now that we are moving on and it`s getting better," he said.
The Dutch under Jan van Riebeeck built South Africa`s oldest surviving building, the Castle of Good Hope, where tour guide Grace Mahalefele, 27, will also be hoping for a Dutch win over Spain on Sunday.
"If they didn`t build the Castle, I wouldn`t have been working here," she said in the courtyard of the 344-year-old fort.
"But from the start until now since they`ve reached the final, I think they`ve really played very well."
The British joined South Africa`s colonial fray in the late 18th century, leading to territorial power-struggles that culminated in war.
In 1948, the conservative, pro-Afrikaans National Party took power and institutionalised apartheid whose harsh laws denying rights to blacks stretched to pass-laws and rigid separation between races.
As South Africa hosts Africa`s first World Cup 16 years after Nelson Mandela became the country`s first democratic leader, many in Cape Town shrugged off the painful past.
"That is history. It doesn`t really bother me," said William Heyns, 47, who has supported Holland since 1974, joking that perhaps it was due to the colour orange.
The use of Afrikaans in schools sparked a bloody 1976 uprising among black students in Johannesburg`s Soweto township. But in 2010, it has inspired some to support the Dutch team on Sunday.
"The reason why I`m supporting them is we are Afrikaans speaking and their language and my language is the same," said Magmoeda van Wyk, 32.
For others, supporting the Dutch is based purely on the on-field action.
"I just like the type of soccer they`re playing: constructive, straight-forward, team play, that is what I like," Jeremy Johannes, 42, who believes a Dutch team in the final is long overdue.
"We were schooled with the Jan van Riebeeck era and all that but ... my links with them is just purely based on soccer."
BDST: 1223 hrs, July 09, 2010