Dutch football pundit’s sexual abuse story on live TV sparks national outcry

The Netherlands has been forced again to face questions about attitudes to sexual violence towards women after one of the country’s most famous football pundits appeared to admit live on air to assaulting an unconscious woman with a candle 50 years ago.

Dutch prosecutors opened an investigation after Johan Derksen, 73, made the comments on Tuesday on the talkshow Today Inside, to the amusement of presenter Wilfred Genee and fellow pundit René van der Gijp.

The former player, who is one of the Netherlands’ most famous TV personalities, sought to backtrack on his statement the following day, claiming the candle had only been placed close to the unnamed woman’s legs.

But he has refused to apologise for the remarks, saying only that he had been unclear and had told the story of a drunken night five decades ago “in the wrong tone”.

In response to the outcry, Derksen added: “There is no room for a Johan Derksen in the Netherlands.”

A spokesperson for the Dutch prosectors’ office said the chief prosecutor in the northern Netherlands service had opened an inquiry.

“This research is aimed at establishing the truth of possible criminal behaviour that was discussed in that programme”, they said. “We also call on those involved to tell their story, as far as possible. It is clear that this is highly unacceptable behaviour that transgresses boundaries.

“In addition, the way in which it is talked about in the TV programme is also particularly hurtful. This can deeply affect victims of sexual offences even after a long time.”

The case comes fast on the back of claims of widespread sexual abuse on the Dutch version of The Voice, which has raised questions about attitudes to sexual exploitation and violence towards women in the country.

Two out of three women in the Netherlands reported that they were harassed on Dutch streets in 2021, according to figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Both Today Inside and The Voice Holland are produced by the media company Talpa, run by John de Mol, a founder of the Big Brother franchise.

Talpa had said the presenters would apologise on Thursday for their comments but it was revealed later that Derksen had quit.

Derksen reportedly told reporters: “We were to offer our sincere apologies and then they would to decide to continue the programme. We’re not here to pass an apology exam. Kiss my arse.”

During the programme, which was watched by 600,000 viewers, Derksen had recounted what he later described as a “childhood sin” in 1971, when he would have been 22.

He said: “I was out with the keeper of Veendam, with two ladies. We’re drunk, we’re going to that house and those ladies are so drunk, they puke all over us. Then I remember – and I’m not proud of it, but things like that happen when you’re young – that lady was lying unconscious on one of those couches and there was this big candle and we put it in it and then we left.”

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