Behind-the-scenes account of Premier League Darts in Rotterdam
The Rotterdam roar has set new heights
By James Dielhenn in Rotterdam
Last Updated: 17/03/17 12:32pm
There’s nothing quite like watching darts in the Netherlands, where Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld are feted as arrow-wielding icons. Sky Sports spent a day in Rotterdam…
The blinding sea of orange was interspersed mainly with the odd flicker of lime green - Michael van Gerwen's most passionate fans, wearing his signature shirt, among the overwhelming colour synonymous with the Netherlands.
A lone Scotland flag stood out like a sore thumb in the Ahoy arena, perhaps suggesting Peter 'Snakebite' Wright had given the wrong ticket to a friend. It scarcely mattered, the pantomime boos for visiting players were all part of the friendly atmosphere that made Premier League Darts' second trip to Rotterdam a feel-good success.
The night was as much about celebrating Raymond van Barneveld the pioneer as it was about showcasing Michael van Gerwen the world champion.
'Barney Army' was chanted so vociferously by the fun-loving funs in advance of their hero's appearance that even Van Barneveld's opponent, Gary Anderson, shook his head in disbelief in the backstage area.
The rise of darts from pubs to arenas has been unprecedented but the Rotterdam roar represented new heights - like a travelling circus, the Premier League in foreign climes felt special even before 10,000 screaming Dutchmen willed Van Barneveld to throw some of his most special darts of recent years.
The iconic Barney had, weeks ago, expressed concern that British fans accustomed to watching Phil Taylor dominate would not adjust to Van Gerwen's emergence. Nobody watching the darts in Rotterdam, to back up Van Barneveld's point, could argue that a crowd don't favour their own.
But Sky Sports' Rod Studd doesn't envisage the popularity of Dutch heavyweights diminishing in the UK, saying: "Darts is a very strange phenomenon - sometimes there is some partisanship but generally fans go to support their favourite individual.
"The fact that Van Gerwen is Dutch and Taylor is English is, to most people in the crowd, irrelevant. People have their favourite player and it doesn't matter what nationality they are."
Van Gerwen and Taylor - who knows how much longer they will slug it out on the world's most famous oches? One more match was served up on Thursday, which Van Gerwen had to dig deep to survive. The Dutch crowd, naturally, gave Taylor some playful stick but you hope they savoured the opportunity to watch a 16-time world champion before he calls it a day.
The beer was swigged and the crowd was boisterous, but on impeccable behaviour with smiles on their faces. That's what a night at the darts creates, and the secret is spreading.
Watch Premier League Darts next Thursday, from The Manchester Arena, live on Sky Sports 1 HD from 7pm.
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