Monday, November 29, 1999

Holland, SA caught in a diplomatic row

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Johannesburg, June 18 -- At a tournament traditionally known to blend borders and forge friendships, Mirthe Nieuwpoort and Barbara Castelein find themselves at the centre of an international row. The Dutch women were given 10,000 rand bails each from a dedicated WC court at the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court on Wednesday. They have to appear in court again on June 22. This was after being caught wearing a body-hugging orange dress that had a logo of a Dutch beer company that isn't a FIFA World Cup sponsor. Dutch foreign minister, Maxime Verhagen, has already spoken to the South African ambassador, Peter Goosen, and told him that "charges of and the arrest of these two women were disproportionate and not correct", according to the spokesman for the Netherlands embassy, quoted by The Star daily in Johannesburg on Thursday. "If South Africa and FIFA want to tackle a company over illegal advertising, they should take legal action against the company and not against two ordinary citizens who walked around in orange outfits," Verhagen said. The women are facing charges of ambush marketing, flouting South Africa's Merchandise Marks Act of 1941. Only the two Dutch women were arrested from among the 36 who wore that dress to Monday's Holland-Denmark game. The Dutch ambassador to South Africa, Robe de Vos, said the embassy has asked the police to explain the arrests.

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