BASEL (Reuters) - Thousands of orange-clad Dutch fans and a handful of Russian supporters took to the sun-baked streets of Basel on Saturday as a huge party got under way ahead of the third Euro 2008 quarter-final.
Organizers said they expected 100,000 Dutch supporters and about 10,000 Russians, while 245,000 liters of beer had been ordered in for the official fanzone areas.
“We hope it’s enough,” said Basel Euro 2008 delegate Hanspeter Weisshaupt.
The Dutch, who had taken over the Swiss capital Berne for their three group matches, filled central Basel, blowing horns, beating drums, setting off orange smoke canisters and sending footballs high into the sky over Marktplatz.
On the Mittlere Bruecke over the Rhine river, 35-year-old commercial manager Maico Muller and four friends from a scuba diving team near Arnhem were dressed in leotards and sporting orange snorkels and masks.
The group had left home at 2 a.m. on Saturday morning (6 p.m. EDT on Friday) for the six-hour drive to Basel and were planning to return after the match.
“We have been traveling together to the games for 10 years now,” Muller said as hundreds of fellow fans streamed past.
About 20,000 Dutch supporters had stadium tickets and the rest were just there for fun, he said, adding that more were coming to Euro 2008 because Netherlands were playing so well.
“I think all the Dutch have been surprised as we didn’t play that well in qualifying,” he said.
Supporters will stage their customary ‘orange march’ through the city to the St Jakob Park stadium at 1500 GMT (9 a.m. EDT) and stalls serving food and drink have been set up along the route.
Kitty Sluysmans from the village of Margraten, dressed in traditional Dutch costume with a wide-brimmed, orange-feathered hat, said the atmosphere in Basel was just as good as Berne.
“The Swiss have been very welcoming and friendly,” the 49-year-old secretary said over the noise of a nearby bass drum.
Saturday’s match has some added spice because Russia are coached by Dutchman Guus Hiddink, who was in charge of Netherlands for four years from 1994 and took them to the 1998 World Cup semi-finals.
“It’s going to be difficult for him if Russia win and he probably won’t be able to come to Holland for a year or so,” Muller joked. “He’s a fabulous coach and we all accept that.”
The winners will play Spain or Italy, whose quarter-final takes place in the Austrian capital on Sunday.
Editing by Ken Ferris