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   Monday, 13 January, 2003, 12:12 GMT
Darts' future is orange
Raymond Barneveld celebrates his third Embassy world title
Barneveld looks to the heavens after his wonderful win

To the list of Dutch sporting heroes like Fanny Blankers-Koen, Johan Cruyff and Pieter van den Hoogenband can be added a new name.

Raymond Barneveld might not have the flat stomach or chiselled cheekbones of his illustrious predecessors, but after his third Embassy World Darts title no-one in Holland is complaining.

Barneveld's homeland has gone darts-crazy.

Raymond Barneveld celebrates his third Embassy world title
Barney goes bananas as the title is sealed
With football in its midwinter break, the nation's sporting focus has been on events at the Lakeside Country Club in Frimley Green.

It is estimated that a quarter of the entire Dutch population watched Barneveld's 6-3 triumph over Ritchie Davies on Sunday night.

And just as the success of Cruyff's generation of Total Footballers in the 1970s inspired a new crop of Dutch youngsters and led to the European Championship win of 1988, so Barneveld's achievements promise to take darts to new heights.

Barneveld was working as a postman when he won his first Embassy crown back in 1998.

That win sparked off huge interest in the game in Holland, made him a national hero and allowed him to hang up his postal sack and turn pro.

His second title win, in 1999, was watched by a Dutch television audience of four million - and even more tuned in this weekend.

"Since that time, darts has become more and more popular in Holland, " Barneveld told the BBC in the wake of his hat-trick win.

"I spoke to my manager and he said it would be mad when we get home. The football season in Holland is in its winter break, so people are watching darts instead.

Dutch darts fans celebrate Barneveld's win
Dutch fans at Lakeside celebrate Barneveld's win
"In a normal tournament like the Open Amsterdam there used to be between 300 to 400 entrants - but now there are about 1,000 for a ranking tournament."

Barneveld is so popular in his native country that he is unable to walk the streets of his home town, The Hague, without being mobbed.

Frimley Green was over-run by his supporters, decked out in orange T-shirts and waving orange flags.

Even British darts fans joined in the celebrations, while England's former world champion Ted "The Count" Hankey could be seen wandering around in a Holland scarf after his first-round loss.

Breaking of a new dawn

Barneveld's victory has deeper significance for the world of darts.

When taken together with Canadian John Part's win at the PDC World Championships earlier this month, it represents a new, cosmopolitan chapter in the history of the great game.

For the first time in many years, neither world title is held by a player from the British Isles.

The explosion of interest in darts in Holland leads many critics to predict a new orange invasion of British darts over the next few years.

With Barneveld's compatriot Mieke de Boer the brightest young talent in the women's game, that invasion may already be well underway.

Embassy World Darts Championship

Barneveld's title

Photo galleries

Bobby's Kingdom

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Official website
Links to more World Darts Championship 2003 stories are at the foot of the page.


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