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21st Jun 2024

Fan who imitated Ruud Gullit in blackface says he is giving up the costume

Harry Warner

Ruud Gullit costume

“The last thing I want to do is upset people.”

One of the three Dutch football fans that have caused controversy for using blackface to imitate Ruud Gullit at Euro 2024 has said he will stop dressing up as the legendary Dutch footballer.

Bart van de Ven from the Netherlands has dressed up as the iconic Dutch footballer in multiple international tournaments since 2008, but has decided now to retire his ‘Rasta Ruud’ outfit.

Van de Ven said he was “shocked” by the response to photographs of himself and two friends at the match against Poland that went viral on social media after wearing the costume for the first time since 2014.

He said that the backlash “set him thinking” and made him think: “Maybe I made a mistake or it’s a blind spot.”

He explained that he wants to avoid a “certain unpleasant association” in the future, adding that “the last thing I want to do is hurt people and that’s why I’ve decided to stop.”

Van de Ven said he had planned to wear the ‘Rasta Ruud’ outfit as a DJ at fan discos during Euro 2024 and donate his income to the Princess Maxima Centrum, a hospital specialising in children’s cancer.

He equally acknowledged the positive reception he has had from others.

The Dutchman said: “I’ve had a lot of really nice responses as well, but clearly there is a group who feel differently.

“I have to respect that and listen to it. The last thing I want is for people to have a certain unpleasant association with my act.”

The man at the centre of this controversy Ruud Gullit was quoted a couple of days ago on the issue as feeling “honoured” to be impersonated by the Dutch fans.

Nathan Ake also gave his thoughts about the controversy on the eve of the Netherlands’ huge clash with France, coming to the defence of the three fans.

A Dutch reporter asked the Manchester City defender what he thinks about “the woke community” that did not agree with the trio of fans imitating Ruud Gullit.

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

Blackface in the Netherlands has been a contentious issue during the last decade, notably concerning the Christmas tradition of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), a white person in blackface who hands out presents with Sinterklaas (St Nicholas) on December 5.

Many places have introduced “sooty Petes” with soot-marked faces in the last ten years to avoid the divisive issue.

Nathan Ake and the Netherlands take on France tonight in their second group D match at 8pm on BBC One.