Tag: China

The Louis van Gaal show in Asia….

I said it here before and many of you concurred: Louis van Gaal is a wonderful coach. Great tactician. Good training material. Yadda yadda yadda. But he’s also a bit of a wanker. Big Ego. And not capable of not taking himself too seriously… We all said it: we will have some fun with Louis too, on the way to Brazil.

And I once mused….wouldn’t it be great to be a fly on the wall at times?

Well, a journalist of VI, the Dutch football magazine, offered us this perspective. Michel van Egmond gives us his story about what is going on behind the scenes. When Oranje “did” Asia, he was present.

Here it is.

“Bejing is a wonderous city. You can see soldiers guarding something vague on the weirdest spots. People talk in some weird language, with mouth caps for. And eat anything on four legs. Except maybe the table. But the most hallucinating image on that particular morning is offered up not by a Chinaman but a Dutchman. He strolls through the massive door of the Peninsula Hotel and even Chinese taxi drivers push the brake to have a better look. And would you believe it: a middle aged guy, right out of his bed, walks out of the hotel, yawning and scratching his right leg, dressed in orange slippers and an orange robe…

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More interesting than the games Oranje play, are the press conferences Louis gives. The KNVB wants to do their best to show that Louis is not really the grumpy old man we all think he is. But everytime they try and position him differently, he mucks it up and comes across even worse!

How’ bout this one? The KNVB has organised a big suite in the hotel. Nice fruit, saucers with cookies, chocolates and fresh tea and coffee. And a nice Chinese wait person to help with all the necessities. Van Gaal is chatting with press officer Kees Jansma. The media people slowly come into the room. Van Gaal ignores them at first. People go up to him to greet him. Van Gaal would never greet first. As a Radja, he expects people to come to him. He doesn’t say anything but gives short nods. To some he says nothing more than “good afternoon”. Van Gaal doesn’t do visits. Van Gaal does audiences. Like the Pope.

Van Gaal turns around to Jansma and says: “That’s it?”.

Jansma: “I think so.”

Van Gaal seems to think he deserves more journalists. Then he says: “Ok go ahead”.

The first journo says: “Are you happy with the way things are going?”.

Van Gaal: “Yes”.

Awkward silence. The team manager is a master in giving his public the feeling they are not welcome. People always laugh nervously when he makes a joke. Because he is not a stand up comic. His jokes are not funny. People laught to break the ice. Everyone desperately tries to break the ice… And then he picks up and starts to talk. About the program, the preparation, about Wesley Sneijder and more. In a somewhat condenscending tone. But, as we all know, once Van Gaal talks football he doesn’t sell bullshit. He knows what he is talking about. But ouch….suddenly the door opens and a Chinese reporter comes in. Too late.

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Van Gaal: “Well you are too late!” and sits straight up into his chair.

Reporter: “Yes”.

(A day earlier, Van Gaal was late for a practice session with Chinese youngsters. Close to a 100 kids had to wait for the coach, eleven minutes to be precise, due to traffic jams. But this fact didn’t give any cause for self reflection )

Van Gaal acts the gym teacher from the 1950s again: “Too late, means…in my class you can’t come in!”.

Reporter: “Apologies apologies”.

Another question. Does Van Gaal think there is a risk in selecting young players, as they lack consistency and sometimes will have a setback in their performance?

Van Gaal: “Oh, you are trying to talk me into something? I don’t believe that!”

Reporter: “Eh no, I am not trying to talk you into anything… It’s not a suggestion, it is how it is, I believe.”

Van Gaal: “No, you are suggesting things. That young players can’t sustain their level. That is your theory. But I won the CL with kids of 20 year old. So, what you say is bullshit.”

A bit aggressive for a pretty normal question… Another reporter doesn’t want to give up on this topic and supports his colleague… Van Gaal: “And how bout Sneijder then? He doesn’t play at a constant level either. He’s 29 years old! Or Robin van Persie? You must have noticed that he hasn’t scored for a spell at Man United? Has nothing to do with age. That is what you, the media, make up!”

The tone of the meeting starts to make it Monty Pythonesque. Van Gaal is looking for a rift. One reporter asks if Sneijder’s form has anything to do with Sneijder’s lifestyle? Maybe Wesley is living it up too much? Can I ask that, the reporter adds.

Van Gaal: “No! No, you can not ask this. That is not decent. You don’t have any dealings with his personal life. How do you think you are?”

And when another reporters wants to know if Van Gaal can help Sneijder getting fit again, he again is annoyed. “No of course not! I only see him eight times per year and then I can’t even train with him properly. Because if I make Sneijder work too hard, you guys will start to criticise me again!”

Most reporters start to giggle. They can’t stop themselves. Van Gaal rants on: “This has all happened. All of this. And then you guys think you are the coach!”

And he stops talking.


I try: “But why would you care? What does it matter if some newspaper writes you train to hard? You are the team manager?”

Van Gaal: “I don’t care.”

Me: “Well, it seems like you do….”

Van Gaal: “I don’t.”

Me: “No?”

Van Gaal: “No. But I can give my opinion what is in the media?”

Me: “Sure. You can do whatever you want.”

Van Gaal: “Or is it only permitted for you to criticise me but I can’t criticise you?”

Me: “No, I never said that. No please, criticise us!”

Van Gaal: “Oh, so I can?”

Me: “Sure! It’s entertaining!”

Van Gaal: “Oh well, thank you that this is allowed.”

Another reporter heard that Sneijder had “left the meeting when Van Gaal informed him he was no longer skipper”. He wanted to know what that meant? Did Sneijder leave the room or did he leave the trainings camp….?

This is a detail. Louis could have said: “Oh he went to his room.”

But Louis didn’t. This is what Louis did, raising his voice: “Oh you are a piece of work! You are an irritating little chap, aren’t you? Un-be-liev-able… Always taking the negative approach!! He went to his room! Plain and simple.”

Reporter: “I’m just doublechecking the facts.”

Louis: “So why didn’t you ask: did he go to his room?? Why does it have to be “or did he leave the camp?”… No my friend!”

Reporter: “Why are you being so worked up?”

Van Gaal: “I’m not!”

Reporter: “You are very wound up!”

Van Gaal: “No, I simply criticise the question.”

And he is silent again.

Reporter: “Louis, your whole body language and tone…it’s all so condenscending. Is it us? Or do you despise all the media?”

Van Gaal: “There are people in the media I respect.”

Reporter: “But these people are not in this room?”

Van Gaal: “And you are putting words in my mouth again!”

Reporter: “No, it’s a simple question.”

Van Gaal: “Oh you are simply asking questions… A top journalist you are, simply asking some questions. You have to stay sharp man.”

Louis van Gaal

“I am the best!”

Van Gaal is not present when the Oranje squad visits the Forbidden City later. The security people are with the players though. Although Jasper Cillisen and Jens Toornstra and Erik Pieters have nothing to fear from the people there. No one knows them. No one cares. Louis is not coming along. He might not care too much for culture or he is too busy. He was watching the Young Oranje games every night. When that team reached the semi finals in Israel he said: “I am not surprised. I expected them to.”

Nothing in his communication betrays anything that looks like self doubt. And maybe this is why people respond so fiercely to him. Someone who is so tremendously convinced of himself…you don’t see it in Wenger, Capello, Ancelotti, Heynckes or Guardiola. And he is never boring. His press conferences, even after totally boring and irrelevant games, are great. The only thing more fun than a press conference by Louis van Gaal is a press conference by Louis van Gaal in an other language.

Van Gaal believes that the others need to adjust to him. He loves literal translations of Dutch expressions and has baffled many in English, Spanish and German already.

The Barca players never understood him when he said “No Balon Hospital!”. And so he started to explain that concept.

Van Gaal takes himself so seriously that when the Chinese reporters start to ask the most silly questions at the press conference later, he will respond the only way he can: seriously.

Chinese reporter: “Mr Van Gaal, is it true you lost weight?”

Van Gaal raises his eyebrows. Looks at Jansma.

The reporter: “I mean, you look thinner now.”

Van Gaal: “That is correct. I had a hip operation some time back and I lost some kilos.”

Van Gaal was showered with applause after every question in Indonesia. In China, they don’t do that. But there are not critical questions and every reporter wants on the photo with Mr Van Gaal. One even says: “I am a big fan, Mr Van Gaal!”.

Louis acts as if that is normal.

An English journalist gets the last question: “Why would you want to work in the EPL? There is a lot of pressure on coaches in England?”

Van Gaal: “You clearly don’t know how much pressure there is in Holland. Ask your colleagues!”

Then he gets up. And spreads his arms, says “Thank You” and makes a deep bow. Kees Jansma smiles from ear to ear…

The Louis Show is over….”

lvg hitlerIn Germany, the comparisons between Van Gaal and a certain other famous personality were quite poignant…

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Oranje ends season with 2-0 win over China

And thus ends Oranje post-season trip to Asia. With 5 goals, two disappointing performances, a couple of new hares (Cillisen, Tiendalli, Toornstra, Nelom), a new skipper, a warned playmaker and lots and lots of happy Chinese and Indonesian fans.

And 1 million euros for the KNVB.

Louis van Gaal was not unhappy. “The game vs China was actually quite agricultural. I expected a better game as the climate and the pitch were so much better, but it didn’t happen. We missed a lot of chances and somehow couldn’t get our rhythm.”

The Dutch team manager clearly didn’t mind too much. This was partly a holiday trip. Bonding.

The main thing was his ability to deal with Wesley. “This is the last time we meet before we play next season against Portugal and I don’t want to deal with this captaincy issue right before a serious match. Now, I had the chance to explain to Wes.”

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Wes wants to attack LVG for taking his band. RVP and Robben spur him on…

Sneijder took it hard, the message that not only the band would go to RVP but also that LVG would not take Maher AND Sneijder both to the World Cup…. Sneijder apparently left the meeting emotionally to go back to his room… Later that evening he came out and joined the group and accepted LVG’s decision.


I have to say, the statement that Maher and Sneijder can’t both go to the World Cup is silly. I think LVG says it to motivate Sneijder to the max. But why wouldn’t you to take them both if both are in glorious form?? Maher can play on all midfield positions, so it would be foolish to not take him anyway.

Van Persie basked in the sun with his captain band. “As a kid I watched Krol and Koeman as skipper of Oranje and Johan wore the band too of course… I am extremely proud.”

And he remembered his first training under Van Gaal. He came home totally enthusiastic. His wive asked him… How was it? Robin said he was extremely happy. Mr van Gaal has very exciting practice forms. A joy to work under him. But… “You won’t start” is what she said. Correct, was Robin’s answer. He picked Klaas Jan over me. But my chance will come.

And one glorious season for ManU (and a title) later, and Robin is Oranje’s main man.

Van Gaal commented that some players really pleased him and some other disappointed him but he didn’t want to go into which player was in which category.

RVP scored China

RVP is level with Ruud van Nistelrooy and Faas Wilkes on the top scorers list

Holland played without too much inspiration against a very agressive China. I asked our Asia Football expert Carlos and he believes that this is a matter of “not wanting to lose face” for the Chinese. They approach this as a serious game and the Chinese players also know there are Western scouts watching, so they did all they could to stop Holland. When one of them was red carded for a charge on De Guzman, already in the first 20 minutes, the game sort of died out.

By then RVP had already scored from the spot as a result of a foul on Robben. Sneijder came onto the pitch to replace Toornstra in the second half and scored a beauty after a nice build up involving RVP and Robben too. The commentator quiped “why do it easy, when you can do something like that”….


We see RVP and Robben hit the woodwork and Lens, RVP, Robben and co all misses glorious chances.

During the trip, the Dutch players acted as real tourists too of course, visiting some touristy spots and taking photo opps. Ron Vlaar was amazed “It’s quite remarkable, they actually know who I am here…”

And thus ends the Oranje season. With all players told to watch their fitness. With a new Main Man in charge in the dressing room. And with a number of wannabees having had a taste of the Orange…

vlaar en chinezen

Vlaar, Cillisen and De Jong photo-bomb at a Chinese wedding

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Van Gaal drops bomb on news conference

Never a dull moment with Louis van Gaal. We knew it. On the way to Asia for two profitable games in the East, Louis van Gaal implied that the World Cup 2014 will be his last job as team manager Oranje.

Quite a surprising message. Is he being open and frank? Or is he playing games? And if so, with whom? The players? The KNVB? Himself? This blog?

“I started this project, because as a coach I never was able to experience a big tournament like the World Cup. Once we have done the WC2014, it’s done. It’s over. Enough is enough. I am not really team manager material anyway. I enjoy working on a daily basis with the players. Normally, I will retire after this tournament… But…you never know, if a beautiful club from the EPL would want, I might be tempted…”

During the press conference, Van Gaal was questioned about his team selection. The ever quotable Van Gaal said that he selected “the logical squad”. Huntelaar, for instance, was not invited. “I think Robin van Persie is the top dog for number 9. Klaasjan did not have a top season. And I want to see other lads at work. I want to see Ricky van Wolfswinkel play. So Klaas Jan would have had to warm the bench. Why would I do this to him? He is a regular Oranje player and I rather have him go on a nice summer holiday.”

And he went on: “No player is certain of his spot. They all have to perform. Rafael had to go back to Hamburg with an injury. Too bad for him, but I know what he can do. For lads like Toornstra and Nelom, this is a golden opportunity. Erik Pieters too, he had a lot of bad luck. But with Blind now in Israel, Pieters can show me what he has. And we all know Erik is Oranje material!”

Van Gaal admitted he broke his own rule by selecting Pieters and Nelom. Both players have not played too many games with respectively PSV and Feyenoord. “I know, I want players with rhythm, but Erik deserves this to end his season on a high. The lad had his value for us already and had some bad luck. With him and Nelom as well, I have to good options for the full back positions. With my normal defenders in Israel, I can test some things out.”

Miquel Nelom is Feyenoord’s reserve left back, behind Martins Indi. But with Martins Indi playing centrally in Oranje (and potentially leaving Feyenoord), there is a fair chance that Nelom will be Feyenoord’s starting left back next season.

“I have respect for Nelom. He seemed to be doing really well as Feyenoord starting left back and the way he handled the fact that he had to make place for Martins Indi was really good. And every time he had to come on the pitch, he played great and with discipline. This kid has the right mentality, as this is harder than when you are a starter.”

Van Gaal was less positive about Jetro Willems. “Willems is a very talented player, but he hasn’t developed this season. He might even have gone back a bit. He needs to work on his weak points.”

Van Gaal explained that the Asia trip (games vs Indonesia next week Friday and China four days later) is not just about the money. “The circumstances next summer in Brazil will be comparable to the Asia climate circumstances. I want to see how the lads cope. We do have to bring some of the big names to these games, like Van Persie and Sneijder, but most of the players if not all really like this trip. Some, like Heitinga, have roots in Indonesia and basically all of them will be in Indonesia for the first time in their lives. Players do enjoy these trips. The KNVB will also try to find ways to support football in Indonesia, so that might be a win-win for all.”

In November, Oranje will play two more friendlies. “But those will be played close to home. I refuse to travel far during the competition. And I want to play two strong opponents then, so different story.”

Later on, an interview with Wesley Sneijder. The Gala man said on his press conference that he will only travel to Brazil in the 2014 summer when he is fit. “If I am only 80 or even 90%, I will not do it. This year taught me that for me, to be of value to a team, I need to be top fit. It was horrific, my return to football at Gala. I was not fit, the coach subbed me at half time, the fans turned against me… I hate that. So I will work my ass off but when I am not fit, I will not go.”

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