Tag: Ebecilio

Oranje talents dream of the World Cup

Most Oranje fans would want any competition to stop now to make sure players like Robben and Huntelaar and Nigel de Jong won’t get injured… With Strootman out and Van Persie on the brink of being out ( sources claim that his injury might take longer than 6 weeks) any more bad luck amongst the mainstays would mean disaster.

This is not how the young talents look at it. And we do have a couple. With Strootman out and with Van Gaal opting for the 4-3-3 he is working with (wingers, penetrative midfielders, attacking full backs) a number of youngsters are aware they might be playing the World Cup this summer (albeit short….).

Davy Klaassen can’t stop smiling. He’s 21 years old and asked to come and model the new Oranje away jersey with his peers Joel Veltman (Ajax) and JP Boetius (Feyenoord). Klaassen smiles when he is confronted with skipper Van Persie’s kind words about him. In the game vs Barcelona, young Klaassen had the wherewithal to keep Barca at bay in the dying minutes and play like a veteran.”I read what he said in the newspaper. You then realise that these guys are watching me play like I am watching them. It hit me suddenly and it felt great.” Van Persie said he had enjoyed watching Klaassen playing for time. “Well, I did get a lot of positive responses to that but that was probably mainly because it was against Barca.”


Davy Klaassen

And with the mention of Barca, the discussion goes to the Real Madrid – Barcelona clash of last weekend. Klaassen: “Seeing that game did not give me any incentive to leave Ajax very soon. Man, that was such high level! I actually believe you should leave the Eredivisie at the moment where you feel you are at your top and you cannot grow anymore. Like how Sneijder and Ibrahimovic and Kuyt left.” Jean-Paul Boetius agrees. “Davy is right. And I think your gut feeling will tell you too. I have had my fair share of offers from abroad but I wanted to break into the first team of Feyenoord first. And make myself important for the team.”

Klaassen: “Playing CL or with Oranje is really a different level. It goes so much quicker. And I noticed that the energy drains away when you need to adjust to this. It’s massive. I think I can handle the level, but playing a World Cup is not the same thing. It’s at least three massive games in a short time span, maybe more. And then all the pressure. And playing top nations, right? There are no shabby teams there. And I have learned from the Barca game that if you have a plan and stick to it, it can work.” Boetius adds quickly: “Don’t forget one Lionel Messi didn’t play…’ Klaassen: “True. That is a big difference indeed.”

Klaassen knows the team manager is a fan and his call up for Oranje gives him the feeling that he might get lucky (with Strootman not fit). Boetius dreams of the World Cup too. “Mr Van Gaal has some options of course. Memphis Depay is a very good left winger. We played together in the youth Oranje teams. He as left winger, me on the right. I will do all I can these coming weeks and let’s hope it’s enough.

Klaassen will first party a bit with Ajax and the Eredivisie Shield. The fourth in a row. Has Boetius congratulated Klaassen already? The Feyenoord winger: “Listen, the Ajax of these past weeks is not the same Ajax as at the time of that Barca game. It feels like they’ll make it exciting again. And Feyenoord will want to finish as high as possible.” Klaassen: “Ah, yes, you’ll go for the second spot. Nice…”


Stefano Denswil

But there is more. Stefano Denswil (20) made his debut for Ajax in November 2012 but is still not a regular starter for Ajax. The central defender is quite a complete defender, with his length, speed and athlethecism. But he is still young and too kind. “I need to become more of a killer. I have worked with Jaap Stam and Frank de Boer on my defensive skills. It’s hard to go from Ajax youth to the Ajax 1 team. The difference is huge. The resistance at Ajax 1 is much higher. You saw that how we won many games easily in Europe in the youth CL ( Ajax lost against Inter Milan in the finals but beat the likes of Barca and Liverpool with aplomb). I am not happy yet and I think the coach shows this with his choice of starters. It’s as simple as that. De Boer always says: as a defender, you can never let both the man and the ball go past. If the ball goes past, the man stays. That mentality I have to learn.”

Karim Rekik is the PSV central defender this season. Developed at Feyenoord and now under contract with Manchester City. “I had a good talk at the start of the season with Man City. They wanted me to stay and I would be able to play 5 to 10 games in the first team. Mainly League Cup and lesser important games. I needed more games, so I decided to go for a loan spell. I preferred Holland because of the open play, the focus on youth and the Dutch style. I only needed one conversation with Mr Cocu to know that PSV would be the right team. Their vision but also the fact that they signed Jeff Bruma, Adam Maher and had Wijnaldum and Jetro already…”


Karim Rekik

Denswil: “This is my 13th season at Ajax. I started when I was seven. I was slowly prepared to play in Ajax 1 but the change is big. As Ajax youth player, you can hardly do any wrong. You win most games and you are Ajax, you know? But the supporters can be harsh re: the Ajax first team. Winning 1-0 at home is not good enough. At least three goals, is what they want. And I know, I used to be on the stands when Ajax played, hahahaha. I was one of them….”

Rekik has trained with big names, like Kompany, Toure, Balotelli… Isn’t that a big step back, playing for PSV? “Well, at PSV I train under Phillip Cocu. Quite a legend too, I think. But sure, the practices at Man City were unreal. These guys you mention, Tevez, Silva, Aguero… It’s top top notch. And I had Mancini as coach. He was quite a good forward but he knew exactly how to defend as well. He taught me about Italian defending, hahaha. We played pretty intense defenive games. He would let us defend with a string between us. And if the ball was played to the left, the whole defensive 6 (4 defenders + 2 midfielders) were supposed to move as one. Keeping distance but not too much and not too little… Really tough. And these type of sessions we don’t do in Holland. But… in Holland I get to play and in Manchester it was mostly practice.”

Kyle Ebecilio has a Feyenoord background like Rekik and Boetius but moved to Arsenal when he was 16 years old. “I don’t really regret that step. It was amazing. I played with Alex Song, Van Persie, Fabregas, Sanga…. Every day a master class. The pace was so high, unbelievable. I realised this was to be my year. I felt it was time for me to become an Arsenal 1 player. But in the talent team they kept on playing me as a winger, or a wide player. And I’m not. I am midfielder, a real midfielder. That didn’t feel good. There was some interest, PSV, Anderlecht, Twente… I spoke with the clubs but the talk with Alfred Schreuder of Twente was just amazing. He knew everything about me and told me what he wanted to do with me. I was sold from the get go.”

Is the level in Holland much lower than abroad? Ebecilio: “Well yes. It is….it is slower. Not lower. I believe it seems a bit less good because clubs go for youth now. You see many youthful squads and they can be a tad naive still .”


Kyle Ebecilio

Karim Rekik: “I think the pace is a bit slower but I also believe our current generation talents is really good. We can easily tag along because of our development. Also, in Holland the coaches expect you to take responsibility and show leadership. I think it helps your confidence if you are made important and it probably looks like we are playing with more experience then we actually have, hahaha.”

Tonny Vilhena, the Feyenoord midfielder (18 years young) chips in: “I think we play a little bit too naive compared to the more seasoned players. I played against Van Bommel last year. The trainer told me I could make him crazy by constantly running away from him. Make him work. His legs being a bit older than mine. But he is so smart. He would constantly move in such a way that I would bump into him and he would get a free kick. He would pace the game down, play the referee and get me out of my balance. And I remember thinking “man that guy is so smart….” You can learn from opponents in the field as well. But the number of Van Bommel’s in the Dutch eredivisie is decreasing of course….”

Vilhena can look back on a Superb Year. “I am not complaining. I am still only 18 years old and I do feel like a regular for Feyenoord now. That gives me some rest in my head. I have played 50 Eredivisie games already, I was at the EC with the Young Oranje and played Spain in Israel and I have made my debut for the big Oranje. I am quite happy.”

Kyle Ebecilio feels like his peak is yet to come. “I got a lot of confidence from the coaches but I didn’t start too well. Too much loose balls, too much little mistakes. I need to simply sacrifice myself for the team and work like a beast. That is my game. I seem to be important for Twente now, but I am also aware that this is because of Wout Brama’s injury. Wout is returning now, so who knows what the coaches will do.”

Vilhena remembers the moment well, when Ebecilio told his mates he’d move to Arsenal. “We lost Karim and Kyle. Karim went to Man City. Kyle to Arsenal and Nathan went later to Chelsea. JP and myself had the opportunity too but we both decided to break here. Somehow it feels better for me to play a number of years in Feyenoord 1. I am a Feyenoord lad and they put all their energy in my development. I am happy here, so I decided this. Karim and Kyle did their thing and that worked out well. There is not one way to reach the top.”


Tonny Vilhena

How do you deal with the expectations at the highest level? Rekik: “The expectations were always there, also at Feyenoord and Man City. But not comparable to playing in a first team. We had a bad series before Xmas and the fans really suffered. I believe it is your task, your responsibility as a player to deal with that. The external pressure was enormous. After our loss against Feyenoord our bus was attacked. I needed to get out and talk to them. I wanted to know what they thought and what they needed to get off their chest… I think my bond with the supporters got stronger there….”

And do you dream of the World Cup? Rekik: “If I have to be honest, I would be disappointed if I wouldn’t be part of it. I think I can handle it.I was invited earlier by Mr Van Gaal and had to say no due to injury. I think he will keep on checking me out and I believe I can deliver. So I will focus on that.” Vilhena: “Of course. If you have played for Oranje once, you do know you are close and you want to be part of it. But, I am young still. And there are many great Dutch midfielders, so….”. Ebecilio: “I want to be part of it, but I have quite some competition on my spot. I think I better focus on the Olympics….”. Denswil: “Van Gaal once said he wanted to select me but didn’t because Young Oranje needed me for a key game. That gives me confidence. That was a strong signal. I know need to show Van Gaal that he needs to pick me, but I’m not the only candidate, I know.”

boetiusJean Paul Boetius

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Feyenoord Bloodbrothers

From left to right: Tonny Vilhena, Terence Kongolo, JP Boetius, Anass Achahbar

The Feyenoord youngsters keep on impressing. Last week, they beat PSV, this week the win over NEC prompted former Team Manager Bert van Marwijk to quip “Boetius is the best winger playing in Holland at the moment”… Asked if he was advising his successor he said “no no, of course not… but Feyenoord does make a strong impression. Great talents, good fighting spirit, fit… and they enjoy their football.”

Time to check out the youngsters.

“We are so used to winning titles. For us, it’s normal.” Not your average claim of a Feyenoord player. The last time the Rotterdam club snatched a title was in 1999. Bert van Marwijk managed to add a European trophy to the mix in 2002 but that was about it.

But the current up and comers at Feyenoord have the experience. Since Feyenoord scraped the bottom of the piggybank, the youth development team became creative. Cruyff adept Wim Jansen recruited his son in law Stanley Brard – another JC protege – and together they injected their views into the youth academy. This is now going on for more than 8 years and the results are finger lickin’ good… With Wijnaldum, Fer and Castaignos as examples generating healthy profits for Feyenoord, the supply line keeps on going.

This season, youngsters like Boetius, Vilhena and Achahbar have impressed while Kolongo (injured) and early exiters Rekik (Man City) and Ebecilio (Arsenal) are still with the gang in spirit.

Youth coach Erwin Pinas remembers it well. “The 1994 generation was sensational. Feyenoord always attracted top talents. These guys however play together since the early stages. And I assure you, they will all make it to the Dutch senior National Team.”

As per normal, the 4 Feyenoord lads are sitting together, talking loud and with their hands and feet as well. “We have been talking about football together for 10 years or so,” Terence Kolongo says.

All four Feyenoord players ( Boetius, Kolongo, Vilhena and Achahbar) were selected while very young. They started playing at 5 and were asked to play for Feyenoord when 6 years old. Tonny Vilhena: “I actually am a year younger then them but the coaches always wanted me to play with them.”

The four make it clear they consider themselves family. Achahbar: “I never had friends outside of football. My team mates were my mates. My team mates are family, really.” And Jean-Paul Boetius adds: “I hear stories of others and how they develop on the streets and learn stuff, you know. Well, we learned it at trainings camp, I suppose.”

Anass Achahbar: “I think we are all kept a bit shorter on the leash by Feyenoord and our parents. I am thankful to my parents for that now, but when I was younger I sometimes hated it. But kids like us, if we would be let loose, we could get deranged you know?”

The support they give each other goes further than just in gaining life experiences. Kongolo: “I made my debut when they weren’t in the squad. I was pretty nervous. There was no one for me to sit with. Whenever I play with one of them, I am never nervous.”

The lads are very positive about the Academy. Vilhena: “Anass is working with Roy Makaay now and with Gio van Bronckhorst. Obviously, you get better and better like that.” Achahbar adds: “I worked with John Lammers in the youth, the former NAC striker. He taught me much, to use my body properly, to keep an eye out for the third man…”

Boetius: “I think we are all boss over the ball. We can do most if not all with it. And that gives us confidence on the pitch. When I made my debut, it all went flowing. And I knew I was ready and my development had worked.”

Anass Achahbar remembers Cor Adriaanse in the B1 youth team. “He was fair but tough. I used to dribble too much. He would sub me and say I would never make it like this. “There is no time and space to dribble in the top” he’d say.” Kongolo adds: “He made us play on black shoes. All the other guys, the Ajax and PSV lads, played on colourful shoes. He wouldn’t allow us. “First you learn how to play, you have to earn these shoes” hahaha.”

About their debuts.

Achahbar: “When I heard that Kelvin Leerdam woulnd’t renew his deal with Feyenoord, I realised Tonny Vilhena would get a chance. Tonny is a special player. Mark my words…”

Vilhena: “For Anass, it’s always harder. A midfielder or defender can grow into the team. A striker needs to be there. Feyenoord expects strikers to score goals. Whenever you have Guidetti in front of you or now Pelle, you simply need to build patience. But you saw his goal against Prague? Anass will make it.”

Kolongo: “I think we all know now that a starting spot in the first team is an option. It’s possible. We have proven that.”

Boetius: “I think people will say that we have always been talented and that its normal for us to make it, but apart from our talent, we have all worked very hard. Always. We are winners, not just great talents. But once you are on the pitch, it doesn’t matter if you are a newbie or a veteran. It’s about your effectivity. I wasn’t nervous against Ajax, because I have played against these guys in the youth, you know? Why would I be nervous?”

About winning…

Kongolo: (Asking his mates) “What didnt’ we win? We won everything… Title, cup, Super Cup, European title… Winning is part of our DNA…”

Boetius: “It’s true, at Feyenoord winning becomes second nature. In the youth system, I mean. Whenever we lost, I was in tears. And we created a strong mentality.”

Vilhena: “Last year I was asked to come to trainings camp in winter. And I had a 50-50 tackle on El Ahmadi, who was one of the leaders of the team. But I couldn’t back down. So we were head to head, yelling at each other. But it was a ball to be won… So when I was asked to join the squad at the start of this season, and Karim was still with Feyenoord, I immediately looked him up and shook his hand. I do have respect for the older players, but not when we are opponents in a game.”

The big jump to a tougher competition…

Achahbar: “I think we all had the chance to leave at a specific time. But I was clear: I want to show my skills in a packed De Kuip, in Feyenoord 1.”

Boetius: “Kyle Ebecilio and Karim Rekik chose to go. Can you imagine, if they were still part of this squad? Feyenoord would have an almost all self-developed team…”

Kongolo: “There are more roads leading to Rome and they took the foreign route. We still talk everyday. Sms, or skype… I know Tonny Vilhena didnt want to go yet. He had the chance too. Like we all did. But it does feel like we lost family.”

Vilhena: “I didn’t want to go. My goal from when I was six was to play in this jersey in a full De Kuip. I wouldn’t leave before having realised a starting spot. But I do miss the lads.”

Achahbar: “I was pissed off at Karim when he told he’d go to City. We were together every day. Our fathers were mates… I think we will get the chance later. We will stay for that. Karim and Kyle felt they had to do it then. But, according to the scout reports, we will one day all play together in England, haha.”

Kyle Ebicilio in London…

Ebecilio was 16 years old in the summer of 2010… Oranje was going for gold in South Africa and Oranje under 17 would win gold in 2011.
Ebicilio: ” I have the photo books and look through them regularly. Gets a smile on my face. It was so cool to win a big trophy and see the faces of all your best mates on the pitch with you. I was voted best player of the tournament and Tonny Vilhena was joint top scorer with me… Very cool…

But the whole Ebecilio family bar his sister Sam, decided to move to England in that summer. “It was a tough decision. I didn’t just make that on a whim. I had sleepless nights. I had to tell my brothers… It was hard. But Arsenal had presented itself to me with such an enticing pitch… I had to go. And my mates, they understood.”

Kyle is really Anglicised, if that is the word. He drives on the left side of the road and his little brother can’t read Dutch anymore. He goes on: “The development I got at Feyenoord was amazing and I am really thankful, but I think Arsenal is giving me more now. Physically, I am stronger, smarter too. I think differently about football I guess. But I can see that things are going really well in Rotterdam. When I was there, I had to deal with Leo Beenhakker. There was a different philosophy. It wasn’t certain that I would get a look in. Now, with Van Geel and Koeman, Feyenoord is truly exciting again.”

Ebecilio played one game in Arsenal 1. A friendly against Southampton. “For me, it’s about the practice now. The games will come, I hope. Being on the same training pitch as Van Persie and Nasri… I played with Fabregas, Vermaelen, Alex Song, Emmanuel Eboue… Believe me, that has made me better. And Van Persie was always talking to me, about things. Same as Song and Vermaelen, they are all focused on you making yourself into a success. Arsene Wenger is not very talkative but he sees everything. He told me recently that I surprised him positively with my development. But not a lot of people see it, hehehe. But he does, and that is key.”

Ebecilio’s deal is ending soon, but Arsenal wants to renew. “I do too, I love it here, but I do want to make some minutes now. I need to play games now…”

Karim Rekik in Manchester then…

Karim and family rent a home from Man United defender Jonny Evans. His neighbour is a former Man United business manager. “This city breaths football. There is always some gathering. Recently I saw Karim El Ahmadi (Birmingham) and Oussaidi (Liverpool) who love to hang out in Manchester.” The Feyenoord defender had a smorgasbord of clubs wanting to sign him and when he knew he wanted to leave Feyenoord, he visited them all. “Atletico Madrid offered us a house with a pool, Chelsea mapped out this whole plan and at Juventus I felt like a movie star. President Agnelli even came to shake my hand at dinner.” But Juventus ended up number 2 on the list. Because Man City was able to impress the youngster most. “At City, they had this map they took out. With all my games of the last two seasons. They had followed me well, they knew my game, my strengths, my weaknesses… They told me exactly how they’d work with me. I was overwhelmed.”

Rekik was disappointed in Feyenoord. “When I was there, Beenhakker was in charge. He is old-school. I went in to talk to him about my future. And I never meant money, I meant my development, my chances. He basically gave me a new contract and said “take it or leave it.” I didn’t feel the love, you know? He also said “I can get you to practice with the first team but if that doesn’t work out, we’ll drop you into Excelsior.” That is not how I manage my own career…. So Man City it was.”

The Rekik family settled in well. Dad Mo works at the club and helps new foreign players settle in. Mum Judith is a volunteer at the club while 10 year old Omar is said to be a huge talent in the Under -12 of Man City.

The Rekiks have a strong bond with the Ebecilios in London. “Kyle is my brother, but so are the lads in Rotterdam. If you would ask me what I’d miss about Holland, it is basically them.”

Karim is the leader of the pack. The skipper of all the teams too. “I have been captain from when I can remember. Don’t know why or how that came about. Probably my position in the field and my extraverted personality. But I have been collecting a lot of trophies and did a lot of speeches, haha.

He recently got a pro contract at Man City. He is there for another five years. Assistant manager David Platt told him the plan. “I will go to another club on loan now, for half a year and next season I will fight for a starting spot.” Rekik can’t stop talking about training with the big boys. “I thoroughly enjoy that. The ball caressing Silva, the power of Tevez, the focus of Kompany… I take it all in.”

Balotelli’s name conjures a smile on his face. “I liked him. He was a nice guy, a very nice guy. I think he has a good heart, but he can lose the plot a little, hehehe.”

Rekik has the future. He knows it. “Mancini told me recently he would have played me against Man United if Clichy would still have been sick. He has all the faith in me. I know the guys in Rotterdam are playing as starters now, and that is fab, but my time will come too. And once that happens, we will start winning trophies together again too, hahaha.”

Because the lads all end their dreaming with Oranje.

Vilhena: “To play World Cup in orange together, is my dream.”
Boetius: “It will happen.”
Kongolo: “Make Holland World Champ.”
Achahbar: “We did it once before, why not at senior level?”
Rekik: “The six of us in Oranje, I know it will happen.”
Ebecilio: “And then we will win gold, because we are used to winning.”

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