Netherlands star Nathan Ake defends fans who were slammed for Ruud Gullit blackface

Nathan Ake has dismissed the controversy. (Image: GETTY)

Nathan Ake has defended Netherlands supporters who caused controversy by doing ‘blackface’ as they dressed up as Ruud Gullit at Euro 2024. The Oranje centre-back doesn’t see the issue with the fans paying tribute to one of their country’s greatest football icons at the tournament in Germany.

The Netherlands fought back from a goal down to beat Poland 2-1 in their Group D opener last Sunday, ending the first round of fixtures ahead of France at the summit.

Adam Buksa fired Poland in front after 16 minutes, but Cody Gakpo cashed in on Ronald Koeman’s side’s dominance later in the first half, striking from range to level the score.

Wout Weghorst contributed – as he so often does for his country – the winning goal in the 83rd minute, just moments after replacing Memphis Depay.

The Netherlands were understandably in a celebratory mood after getting off to a winning start at Euro 2024. However, the controversy surrounding the Gullit cosplayers somewhat marred the occasion.

The practice of ‘blackfacing’ – when someone paints their face darker to resemble a black person – has been present for around two centuries and is viewed as racist and highly offensive to many people.

It’s particularly the subject of controversy in the Netherlands due to the nation’s Christmas character ‘Zwarte Piet’, which translates to ‘Black Pete’.

He is commonly portrayed by white actors in blackface who wear red lipstick and a curly afro-style wig.

Netherlands fans dressed up as Ruud Gullit. (Image: Getty)

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The tradition faces annual criticism en masse among Dutch citizens and even sparks protests for representing a racist throwback to the colonial era.

So, the presence of supporters performing a similar practice in the stands of the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg, albeit to pay respect to Gullit, wasn’t received well.

However, Ake has hit back at their critics, reminding those who are unhappy that Gullit himself has insisted he appreciates the tributes.

“I don’t see a problem. Can I be honest here? These topics are getting out of hand, we should be allowing things like this to happen,” Ake explained during a recent press conference.

He added: “Ruud Gullit already said he finds it an honor too. Let’s stop making a problem out of things like this.”

The Netherlands face France in a blockbuster Group D clash tonight, knowing they would retain top spot with at least a draw.

Poland and Austria clash earlier in the evening, and a stalemate in that encounter would mean either the Netherlands or France could secure progression with a win.