Archive for April, 2007

promoting football

April 28th, 2007

Football as a sport is not really anything that special. It's how you wrap it and sell it that makes all the difference. The difference from a cult following to nationwide adoption, to domination even. This is why you have to be very shrewd about how you promote the competition.

I think we can agree that the English have this down to a pretty exact science. They are certainly the best at it. I don't know if they have the best national ratings (probably), but their product is proving the most palatable abroad at any rate (much to the chagrin of fans of non-English football in their respective English football dominated countries).

I give you the English football league:

  1. Premier League
  2. Football League Championship
  3. Football League One
  4. Football League Two
  5. Conference National

Now, you might say, why is league number three called League One? That's a good question. And why is the 2nd league called the Championship? Again a good question. In other leagues "winning the championship" actually means (in an unwritten understanding) winning the top league. Odd.

Elsewhere it's very easy to know where you are in the system. Primera, Segunda, Segunda B, Tercera (First, Second, Second B, Third). Serie A, Serie B, Serie C1, Serie C2, Serie D. Slightly confusing because there are two C's. But, of course, elsewhere isn't as successful at selling tv subscriptions, are they.

But you see it's all about how you wrap it. The truth of the matter is that the first league matters and none of the others do. If you invite someone to watch a match with you, thinking it's the top league they're watching, and it turns out it's the Championship, they are not going to be thrilled about it. It's like if you wanted to meet the Pope, would you settle for a bishop instead? No, it's not nearly the same thing.

But you can always distract people from the truth. League One sounds a lot better than League Three, which is what it actually is. And for the clubs in that division, it must feel a lot more satisfying to win League One.

This is my proposition for next year. It's too bad they can't use Champions League, which is reserved for something else.

  1. Premier League
  2. Championship
  3. The Super League
  4. Queens Finest League
  5. Premium League

moviestar worship

April 24th, 2007

Ever wanted to be a moviestar? Ok, you'll love this then. You are the star. For this blog entry anyway. You are the star, everyone wants to see you. You live in a mansion in Santa Monica (or wherever you wanna live, up to you). You go to New York for a weekend of shopping. The minute you show your face on the street, people are all over you. They want your autograph, they want to take your picture, they want to be around you, they want to be seen with you. You can't beat them off. You would, but you have an image to keep up, you have to be nice. You go to Paris and people come out to the airport to see you. They follow you around town, you actually need people around you to put some bodies between you and the fans. That's how much they love you. You're the one they want. Everywhere you go the photographers are all over you, they're dying for those pictures. Pictures you won't see, cause you don't buy those magazines, only fans do.

Do you ever think any of this is a bit.... strange? Of course you do, these people are possessed. Some of them really are nutters, but most are just very, very enthusiastic. About you. And they've never even been in a room with you, never even talked to you.

Indeed, this has come suddenly. Three years ago you were a struggling actor playing in second rate commercials, plays no one ever saw and jumped on every audition you could get. You came to Hollywood to be a star, to play in movies, to be on magazine covers. Yeah, you and thousands like you. You would walk down the street and no one would pay you any attention. People wouldn't look twice at you, you were a regular guy, what's there to see?

Then you finally caught a break. You got that audition for a proper movie and through a stroke of luck and divine intervention, you got the part, the main role. It wasn't a big movie, but it was an actual movie, and that's how you got noticed. You got a couple of similar parts until someone thought you'd be great in this year's blockbuster. That's right, big budget, expensive special effects, a corny Hollywood storyline, the whole nine yards. Up to now people would sometimes stare at you in the supermarket, thinking they may have seen you somewhere before. But now, with the movie coming out, they hooked you up. They set you up with a stylist, new clothes, new hair. To promote the movie you have to give interviews, you have to go on talkshows, you have to go to social events, you need to be seen. And you got a nice boost in your finances, didn't you.

So now you're the star. And everyone wants a piece of you. Well, maybe you look a little better, stylists exist for a reason. But on the whole you haven't changed much. You look about the same, you talk the same, you still believe in the same things, you're the same. And people are crazy about *you*. That's funny. A couple of years ago those same people would never notice you. And now their world revolves around you.

etiquette & cultural contrast

April 23rd, 2007

As a kid, I was used to silent transactions. You would go into a store, pick up some items, proceed to the checkout line, and when it was your turn, the cashier would say "that'll be 2.50" (kids don't have a lot of money). You would hand over the money, and if you wanted to be super polite you would say "here you go" as you did that. Transaction end. Silent or near silent.

Then came those holidays in Poland, which introduced a new set of problems. The elders would instruct you that upon entry you are obliged to say "good morning" (you can't just say "hi", that's rude). This goes not only to the person working there, but also all the other customers (if they are around). Then if you wanted to ask about something, you couldn't just say "do you have?", you'd have to say "dear miss, does the miss have...?" Then as money is changing hands, the "here you go" is not optional. And finally on exit, you're obliged to say goodbye to both the cashier and the other customers. The etiquette varies a bit, it doesn't apply so much in supermarkets (which didn't really exist at the time), but it applies in every small store, barber shop etc.

I always hated these rules, because they seemed so completely pointless. I get irked by anything that is overly complicated for its purpose. And it's not that people in Poland are nicer to each other, they just talk more. If you were mad at someone, you would still have to utter those pleasantries, although you would say them in a completely different tone of voice. So it's just pointless blather that doesn't add anything to the scene. Instead of saying good morning to actually wish someone a good morning, you're obliged to say this robotically to every person you interact with. If you're a really cheery person who wants to wish everyone a good morning, go ahead. But otherwise, why would you have to say that all the time?

I could not bring myself to pronounce those terms myself, out of how plain stupid they sound. I would always try to formulate myself in a way to get around the "dear miss" and "does the miss have". You can say "excuse me, is.... present?" and that way you avoid addressing the person at all, and it's still polite enough.

The language of these phrases is just totally out of context. Popular language in Poland is often very vulgar, more so than say Norwegian. If you're 13-16, you're not cool unless you use fuck in every sentence. In fact, to be on the safe side, use it several times. Fuck, I don't know what the fuck I'm gonna do fuck. (To be technical about it, the word used for fuck actually means whore.) This is the way people actually talk, and it's not just kids either, when grown men are in the company of their peers they do talk like this. And if you want a truly enriching experience, let your parents send you to summer camp; when kids get away from their parents, you'll hear little else that fuck, whore, bitch etc. (It's actually at camp that I felt completely estranged, didn't feel like I fit in at all with these weirdos.) So, when a group of teenagers is walking down the street and one of them stops to buy a magazine in a booth, he will switch from the fuck language to "does the miss have". The contrast is frankly shocking. When people need to be formal they are, otherwise they see no reason why they shouldn't be as vulgar as they possibly can.

To me, these are two worlds I don't fit into. The formal language is contrived and aristocratic like, and no one talks like that outside formal situations. And the popular language in many circles is completely foreign to me as well. Of course, I'm not foreign to curses, we all use them sometimes. But I don't mangle them into my sentences like that. So who's the barbarian here? The person who doesn't utter polite phrases, who only has one mode of expression, or the person who cycles between formality and vulgarity all the time?

Mind you, there are more oddities that come from strict etiquette. For instance, let's say you go into a little shop that only has one person working there, and there are already a few people in there. You enter with a group of 3. Now, what are you supposed to do? Does each of the three people have to say good morning? Is it okay if just the first person says it? If the cashier is currently doing business with a customer, how many times does she have to be interrupted by a good morning when a group enters the store? And whom do you address it to, the cashier, the other customers, everyone? You address the room. You generally look to the cashier, and whoever wants to respond is free to do so. Generally the person working in the store is obliged to respond. Of course, when you enter with your parents, who always go in first (and make the greeting) and you don't say it, they will come down on you. But how stupid is it for 4 or 6 or 9 people to come into a room, each saying good morning? What is this, a conveyor belt?

So maybe you think you're just gonna try and fit in. You observe people, what they do, and try to copy it. This is not easy. People are not consistent. In spite of these strict rules, people are not [complete] robots, they break rules all the time. And it's hard to determine what is definitely rude and what is acceptable.

Then, into my adolescence somewhere, a new trend started taking shape in Norway. People would be saying hi to you in stores for no reason, and sometimes say bye when you left. Continental influence probably. I found this odd at first, I hadn't grown up with it. But it's not a Napoleonic practice that stems from some kind of high aristocracy as in Poland, it's a very common kind of thing. The expressions aren't formal, they are common. It's the same language you use with your friends daily, so you don't have to wear that imaginary wig and pretend to be someone you're not. I got used to the practice and now I don't mind saying hi. When I say it I mean it, I'm not just saying it for show. If I don't want to say it, I won't say it, and no one will give me deathly stares over it. Kindness over politeness. Humans over robots.

Don't get me wrong, the intentions behind politeness are good. People who shaped these rules I think really wanted us to be friendly to each other. And if you take them in that spirit then I think you're doing a good thing. But people are not robots, just because you give them rules to follow does not mean they will a) follow them or b) follow them with the given intention. Politeness in Polish culture is such a strong norm that people follow it out of necessity, not kindness. In fact, think about that principle for a minute. Is there any way to enforce kindness? There isn't. What you can enforce is politeness, a rigid, blind, meaningless code that we feel obliged to adhere to. There is no shortage of good theories that don't work in practice.

a cultural lesson: Norway in a nutshell

April 21st, 2007

Rarely does a song lyric capture a nation's culture so comprehensibly and accurately, than does a fantastic song I just discovered. This text so profusely exposes the conceited nationalism and ingrained beliefs that are so prevalent. It's completely sarcastic, it's funny and it's lovable. And although we know all of these flaws, we still in a way love them.

Erik & Kriss - Lille Norge [little Norway]

For hvem vinner hver gang i ski og skøyteløp. Utvinner olje fra kilder i kjøle strøk. Nasjonalt vil vi fremstå som best, men tjener'u mer enn naboen bør'u helst holde kjeft. Individuelt teller ikke cash og fine damer, men som nasjon kan vi godt skryte av Lillehammer. Karnevalleriet blir som småfisk mot hai, for vi har både fakkeltog og 17. mai. Svalberg er bedre enn milevis med gullstrand. Og hvordan ville verden vært uten Harlem Brundtland. Hva tror'u du Nordmandie var for pyser, for verdenskrigen snudde brått når vi senket Blücher. Og fuck brie, vi har brunost og Jarlsberg. Og alle vet at norsk mjød grisebanker Carlsberg. Litt for stolt. Du kan si hva du vil, for Norge er det eneste jeg ville gå til krig for.

Who is it that wins every skiing and skating competition? [1] Extracting oil from chilly locations. [2] As a nation we want to appear the best, [3] but if you make more money than your neighbor, you had better shut up. [4] Individually, cash and ladies don't count for much, but as a nation we can brag about Lillehammer. [5] The carnival [6] is like small fish to a shark, cause we have both processions and the 17. of May. [7] Svalberg [8] is heaps better than miles of exotic beach. And what would the world be without Harlem Brundtland. [9] Normandy [10] were wimps, the world war turned around when we sunk Blücher. [11] Fuck brie, we have brunost [12] and Jarlsberg. [13] And everyone knows that Norwegian mead [14] beats Carlsberg. [15] A little too proud. Say what you want, but Norway is the only thing I'd go to war for.

  1. Norway has a very strong culture of winter sports and historically is one of the top nations in these disciplines, which is a huge point of pride, especially because they always dominate Sweden, the big brother country.
  2. Norway is a major producer of oil and gas, and one of the leading countries in offshore technology. These natural resources is the generally accepted cause of Norway's newfound wealth dating back to the 1960-70s, before which time the country was in no way prosperous on the continent.
  3. There is an ingrained national belief that "we are the best", probably as an influence mainly of the pride that has come through sporting achievements. Sport is the most highly appreciated cultural branch.
  4. As a social democratic country, social equality is of key interest and Norwegian society is completely dominated by the middle class. Class differences are minor, and differences in income levels are relatively modest between most professions.
  5. The Olympic games hosted in Lillehammer in 1994 were considered a huge success, both because of the recognition the country received as a host for the Olympics, and for the sporting success. The Olympics sparked a very strong, exaggerated, and often tasteless, nationalism.
  6. Obscure reference, but I think it refers to the Rio de Janeiro carnival.
  7. The 17th of May is Constitution Day, signed on this day in 1814. The 17th of May is celebrated each year with televised processions from every town in the country, central to which is a children's procession, where they represent their schools. The 17th of May is the most important national annual event.
  8. A pun. Svalberg meaning "a cool berg" (ie. rock that appears out of water), an obvious reference to Svalbard.
  9. Gro Harlem Brundtland is the most significant political figure of modern time. She was prime minister for a period of 10 years, and an icon for Norway.
  10. Referring to the invasion of Normandy of 1944.
  11. Norway's significance in World War 2 was fairly marginal, so Norway takes great pride in sinking the German navy's great battleship Blücher. This was a crucial historical event in Norway's World War 2 history.
  12. Brunost, a brown cheese made from goat milk is a ubiquitous national food product.
  13. Jarlsberg, a cheese product. The company ran a series of obnoxious tv ads a few years ago, slagging off famous foreign cheese products as silly and pretentious.
  14. Norway has a strong culture of illegally home brewed alcohol, because of the tight control and high tax on alcohol. Mentioned here mead is nowhere near as popular as hjemmebrent.
  15. Danish brand of beer. Denmark also happens to be a former reigning power to Norway, the two countries were in "union" (under Danish kings) for 400 years, up to 1814 (when Sweden took over until 1905).

Lille Norge, landet verden ikke klarer seg uten. Lille Norge. Verdenslandet ligger lengere nord. Lille Norge. Er'u heldig og slipper unna futen, blir du Haltet og kan gjøre det stort. Det er Lille Norge. Fedrelandet selv kongen gjør alt for. Furut værbitt er religion. Du klager alltid, men likevel er glad for. Og skryter at det er typisk norsk å være god.

Little Norway, the country the world can't do without. Little Norway, the world country is further north. Little Norway. If you're lucky enough to escape the tax man, [1] you'll make it big. Little Norway, the fatherland even the King would do anything for. Furut værbitt [2] is religion. You always complain, but you're happy anyway. And bragging about how it's typical for a Norwegian to be good. [3]

  1. Taxation in Norway is known to be high, and this is fairly accepted thing. The government is not shy about introducing new taxes on whatever is deemed unsavory, namely alcohol and tobacco (very high taxes on both), gasoline (to encourage use of public transportation), unhealthy food like soda and candy (called "health tax") etc. VAT is currently at 24%. Despite the high progressive income tax, Norway also boosts a class of millionaires who in large part successfully evade taxes, and get away with various other questionable financial schemes, notably Kjell Inge Røkke (a fascinating case of an industrialist using favorable public opinion, being as he is a self made man, to plead and negotiate for exemption from the authorities). The argument is that if these industrial magnates decided to relocate their companies abroad, thousands of jobs would go lost, and the government would lose the income generated by all the non-executives in these companies.
  2. "Furut værbitt", a quote out of the national anthem that everyone would recognize immediately.
  3. There is a truly tasteless common expression that goes "being good, typically Norwegian".

Å være vikinger sier ikke rent lite. Og sier [du] noe om Bjørn Dæhlie blir det helt stille. Vi har Rosmearie Köhn, hvem trenger paven? Og verden sto stille da Oddvar brakk staven. Julebordkultur som man ikke viker fra, drikke mer enn oss blir som å hoppe etter Wirkola. Bryr meg heller ikke hvem du er eller hvem du kjenner, for Matt Dillon or Robbie Williams are norgesvenner.

To be vikings says a lot. And if you mention Bjørn Dæhlie [1] the room goes silent. We got Rosemarie Köhn, [2] who needs the Pope. [3] The world stood still when Oddvar broke his pole. [4] Christmas table tradition [5] we stay true to. Drinking more than us is like jumping after Wirkola. [6] I don't care who you are or who you know, Matt Dillon and Robbie Williams are friends of Norway. [7]

  1. Bjørn Dæhlie is a very acclaimed former skier whose achievements surpass probably that of any other Norwegian athlete. He's also a very down to earth guy.
  2. Rosemarie Köhn became the first female bishop in the Protestant church, after much opposition from the traditionalists of the church. She had broad public support for her position, and eventually was granted the office.
  3. A hilarious gag at comparing Köhn to the Pope, which also shows a slight distaste towards the Catholic church, dating back to the Reformation.
  4. Oddvar Brå is a former skier who won the World Cup in 1982, during which race he broke his skiing pole. From this developed the term "where were you when Oddvar broke his pole?", which has become part of the language, "where were you when X happened", to mean that X was so important that everyone would remember what they were doing when they heard about X.
  5. The Norwegian Christmas table tradition is a ubiquitous annual event at every workplace. A few weeks before Christmas, any workplace will host a "Christmas table", which is an evening of food, but more importantly alcohol. Norwegian attitude toward alcohol is an immature one, given the high tax, and so when the opportunity arises, people often go overboard. Another famous notion of this is "danskebåten", the ferry to Denmark, where alcohol is sold cheaply, and Norwegian travelers are known to get drunk out of their minds.
  6. Bjørn Wirkola, yet another skier. His discipline was ski jump, a sport invented in Norway. The reference here refers to the warm reception from the audience Wirkola was known to get in his jumps, causing the next jumper to think it would be difficult to follow Wirkola.
  7. "Friends of Norway" is a strange expression used to raise the significance of Norway as a country by connecting it to the names of celebrities. Any celebrity coming to Norway who shows interest and appreciation toward the country has a chance to become a "friend of Norway". This will ensure a warm reception by the press on subsequent visits, thereby creating the impression that Norway is an important place since all these important people visit all the time.

Du ska'kke tro du er noe. Du kan'ke lære oss no'. Æda bæda, janteloven er noe yada-yada. Du ska'kke vise rikdom, men vi har mest i verden. Og gjør du som oss, kan du også bli best i verden. Du ska'kke tro du vet no'. Du duger ikke til no'. Æda bæda, janteloven er noe yada-yada. Drit i forsvaret, åndet vil sloss. Jeg stiller opp med Aamodt og Johan Olav Koss.

Don't think you are anybody. You can't teach us anything. Bladiblah, Jante Law is yada-yada. [1] You're not supposed to show wealth, but we got more than anyone. [2] If you do like us, you too can be the best in the world. Don't think you know anything. You're good for nothing. Bladiblah, Jante Law is yada-yada. Screw the military, the spirit wants to fight. I give you Aamodt and Johan Olav Koss. [3]

  1. Jante Law is a dogma postulated by novelist Aksel Sandemose as a set of rules of social interaction taken very much to heart in Norway. Norwegian society has embraced Jante Law as something to remember as a warning. It means that as an individual you should not be scared to be better than the person next to you, you should not feel like can't differ and excel beyond the norm. The principles or Jante Law describe an innate Norwegian character, which shows how it's natural to be modest, to fit in at all cost. Norwegian society (aside from sports, which is exempt from this) tends to supress excellence (for instance in schools among children) and focuses on "the good of the group" rather than individual achievement. Norwegian schools don't even assign grades until junior high, in the belief that children should not feel inferior to their peers. Norwegian culture is also that of encouragement, and very rarely outward criticism.
  2. Norway consistently ranks as #1 or in the very top in terms of standard of living. This is something Norwegians tend to feel very proud of, conveniently forgetting that it has far more to do with the abundance of natural resources than excellence in science or industry.
  3. Kjetil André Aamodt (alpine skier) and Johan Olav Koss (skater), both highly merited athletes.

Og Kjetil Rekdal fra.. ja!! han scorer. Norge leder 2-1!! Norge leder!! Viva la Norvège! Allez Norge! Vi ha'kke opplevd maken. Og dette vet jeg med fullt hjærte [er fortjent], 2-1 til Norge.
Kjetil Rekdal, from [insert small town]... yes!! he scores. Norway takes the lead 2-1!! Norway takes the lead!! Viva la Norvège! Allez Norge! We haven't seen anything like it. And this I know with all my heart is deserved. 2-1 Norway. [1]

  1. The voice of Arne Scheie, tv commentator. The moment marks one of the top Norwegian sporting achievements, namely the 2-1 victory against Brazil in the 1998 World Cup. It is on par with "where where you when Oddvar broke his pole", the entire nation remembers this night as something eternal (giving way to greater footballing success, which does not seem at all forthcoming). In his commentary, Scheie milked Norway's status as underdog to the fullest, emphasizing that Rekdal (the captain) is from a small city on the west coast (the classic rags to riches story), sinking Brazil the superpower of football.

frantic property demarkation

April 20th, 2007


Children have very strong reflexes and often react in a clear, unambiguous way. When you're a kid, even though you are one of them, it can still come as a bit of a shock at how paranoid and over reaching some reflexes can be. To start off, the concept of sharing, which is advocated by parents as such an amazing thing, is very problematic, for kids and adults alike. But with kids it's a lot more obvious. Say you're with another kid, you both have toys of your own, and of course you're most curious about the other kid's toys, cause your own you know inside out. Just the same way, the other kid is interested in your toys. So you pick up one of the toys you want to examine, and just like that, out of the blue, a siren goes off. Mine, mine, mine!!!! You look up, the other kid is yelling at you. You're caught off guard, not knowing what to do, you drop the toy to make this bastard (no pun intended) stop. Just as you do that, he clutches the toy (which 4 seconds ago he was not remotely interested in) and holds it to his chest. Is it time to send the little critter to therapy? Relax, I wasn't about to take it from you, I just wanted to pick it up and have a looksie. Just because I'm holding it right now doesn't mean I'm not going to give it back to you in a second, doesn't mean I'm going to keep it forever. Although that is what your reaction would have been appropriate to.

Of course, as an adult, you will laugh it off. Hahaha, kids...

A caravan is a fairly practical and inexpensive way to travel. You need a car with enough horsepower to pull it (so compact cars are out), but other than that you are your own master, go anywhere, sleep anywhere. That's the beauty of the car&caravan. You can go from campsite to campsite, but you don't have to. You can just as well pull over at a parking lot and spend the night there, quite comfortably. A caravan is bliss.

Unless you're in England. The English countryside (and allow me to generalize here) is not welcoming to caravans. In a classic caravan holiday scenario, you've driven for hours, you're approaching that landmark/city you're heading for, and it would be good to find a place right now to spend the night, so that tomorrow morning you can stroll into the city and check it out.

Normally, this is the easiest thing in the world. There's always a parking lot, a designated "sleep over" lot in the back of a gas station, a rest stop, or even just some side road where you can spend the night. Not so in England. Very hard to find that place to stop. Why? Because everything is private. Every side road is marked private and sealed off, you can't stop anywhere.


Rome is a very dense city. Parts (especially those of historical interest) are very old, with buildings planted very densely, narrow streets between them. This makes navigating (on foot) uncomfortable; yes, it's charming, but you start feeling like you can't get any space, everything is so cramp.

Because it's so dense, they tend to maximize the space they have. So when you look to the horizon and see this hilly terrain (because it is that as well), with these small pieces of property very close together, the land owners tend to leave no space between one piece of property and another. This is not the historical center, this is just plain 21st century Rome as it is. What you often see is a cascade of land property, every piece sealed off with a fence, and they're almost on top of each other. Some are small pieces of cultivated land, some are gardens, yet others are tiny football pitches.

Yes, football, the very reason I found myself in Italy the first time, what sparked my interest. Seeing that terrain arranged in that particular manner, I couldn't help thinking that boy it must be a pain to play football around here. There isn't one piece of land in sight that's actually open to the public, everything is sealed off with a fence, in these cramped little sections. So either you're blocked out (most likely), or you're at the mercy of someone to use the football field (not likely), or you're sneaking in to play hoping to not get caught (not such a great idea). Everything is private, there is no public space. How odd, how sad.

Da capo

It is with astonishment I notice the same culture in Holland. People are only too eager to put up signs telling other people to keep out of their property. It's mine, mine, mine!!! all over again. You come to a road that leads up to someone's house and there's a sign there saying private road, keep out. Relax, I wasn't about to build a cabin on your tiny stretch of road. I wasn't even going to park here, I just wanted to pull in so I could turn around and go the other way. You see this everywhere; there isn't one stretch of road or piece of land that doesn't carry a sign like this. Relax, I'm familiar with property.

Why are people so obsessed with marking their property, putting up fences, demonstrating in such a paranoid, over reaching way what is blindingly obvious?

Let's turn back to football. To the best of my knowledge, there isn't one, I repeat, not one football pitch in all of Utrecht that isn't sealed off with a fence. I can't say this for sure, but I know I've seen plenty, and all of them were sealed off. Why is this? Obviously, you won't leave your best grass pitch, that requires plenty of upkeep, open to the public for prompt destruction. But why isn't there anything that isn't restricted? (Short of those concrete-jungle playgrounds for kids in inner cities that are completely useless. Just to leave no doubt, you do not play football on concrete, case closed.)


Back in Norway, casual recreation is very big, and although the majority of kids start out in some sports club at age ~7, most of them quit pretty soon. These clubs are inexpensive for parents, they pay some fee, but sports clubs are also subsidized by the government to an extent. The property these clubs own is strictly speaking theirs, but it's usually not restricted in any way. We are not talking about professional clubs here, we're talking amateur clubs that (most of them) don't even have a senior squad.

The pitches are not surrounded by fences, anyone can come off the street any play, as you damn well please. That is, unless the club is using it, in which case they will shoo you away. (Which, of course, they do a lot, so you have to adjust to their schedule.) But basically, whatever pitch they have, gravel (standard in the 90s, phased out now), or astroturf (introduced en masse in the last decade), they use it, you use it, everyone's happy.

Of course, the clubs probably would prefer if you didn't play there. Any use will degrade the pitch, the goals, the nets, everything. But that's just the way it is. You pay taxes, they get a cut of it, the system works.

In Holland, no such thing. You wanna play some football? Love to. Where???

Ps. In the Baroque passacaglia you would have one theme and then any number of variations on that theme. In the Classical theme and variation it would be the same structure. In minuet and trio from the same era you have a theme, a contrast to the theme, and then the theme again, with each of the three parts further subdivided into smaller atomic pieces. Finally, in a rondo you would have a theme, then a contrast, then the theme again, then a development on the theme, then the theme again (and possibly more variations). There are codas to be found in quite a few of these structures, not strictly just at the very end, but also serving as interjections. However, the formula I concocted: a theme, a contrast, a variation of the contrast, a da capo and then a coda, does not fit any of these structures and is a non sequitor by all accounts, to either the Baroque or the the Classical era of music. Just so you wouldn't feel compelled to point out the obvious, I'm being quite frank about this.