More than twenty years ago, I got off a plane in Vancouver and an hour later, I found myself on a football pitch. It was during the days of Gullit, Van Basten and Rijkaard, and I was going to show those Canadians how to play. Things didn’t go quite according to plan.
I was right winger and had dreamed up the most beautiful actions, but I didn’t get a single ball in ninety minutes. All my teammates did, was shoot the ball in the direction of the opponent’s goal. Regardless whether they were right-back, centre-back or goalie. Whether it concerned a goal kick, or a free kick on their own half of the field. They just wanted to get the ball straight in the other team’s goal.
Combination play, a one-two, a pass from the end line – all things they’d never heard of. They were actually playing some sort of American Football, just without using their hands. There I was – totally jet lagged, trying to play wide and waiting to get that one ball. I was going to drive that left-back crazy and then deliver an amazing pass to the head of the centre-forward. But that one ball never came…
No idea whether the Canadian growers ever played football, but they also seem to go straight to their goal. When it comes to selling their products, they don’t get 86 different parties involved, they just sit down and negotiate with the garden centre or retailer from around the corner. When produce is shipped further afield, they might go through a wholesaler, and every now and again they make use of an auction.
It’s not like Canadian growers have much of a choice. They have to go straight to the end customer. The auction only plays a small role and there aren’t too many traders with a huge and widespread customer network, like in the Netherlands.
I’m not judging the Canadians for how they distribute their plants and flowers. I do know however, that Dutch growers are very interested in the way things are done in this North-American country. I’ll be spending the coming week in Ontario, together with a group of growers from the Dutch Westland region. We’ll be visiting Canadian growers. Our mission? Learning from the Canadian way of selling. It’s the third group that’s going over to Canada, in a relatively short time. The fourth one will follow shortly.
Because Canada is hot. Who knows – the ‘Canadian Way’ might be the future for how things are going to be done in the floricultural industry in the Netherlands in a few years time. Will our growers be negotiating with the end customers, too? Will the role that our auction plays in the distribution of plants and flowers diminish as well? And how does an auction function, when only 10% of growers’ turnover is realised through the auction?
These are all questions that we’re hoping to find answers to in the coming week. With 19 company visits and a visit to the Ontario Flower Growers Co-operative in Mississauga, that shouldn’t be a problem.
And how that football match ended? Unfortunately, my team lost. I played another match three days later. I was the number ten and I told my teammates to please, please, pass that ball to me. I got it three times and drove my direct opponent mad. The fourth time, he kicked the hell out of me. I spent the rest of my holiday on crutches.
No, Canadians don’t know how to play football. Neither do the Dutch, by the way.