Tag: Kieft

Cruyff: no striker in the box!

H all, a personal note before I start this JC article… I will be traveling in the coming month as one of my dear family members in Europe will need support :-(. I will be posting less regularly, but will do my best to keep the good stuff coming.

May I ask you to have a look at the donation options on the site? Traveling to Europe is pretty expensive these days ;-).

JC: “You can only rotate when one position is not taken. That position needs to be the central striker.”

It was the time of Denis Law, the agile Scot who scored 237 goals for Man United. The times of the golden left of Gigi Riva, scoring one goal per match for the Italians or Der Bomber, Gerd Muller, scoring 500 goals for Bayern Munich! It was the early 70s, a great time for goal scorers. Strikers who only needed one or two touches to tap a ball in. The Dutch had a number of them: Dick van Dijk, Ruud Geels, Willy van der Kuylen, Dick Nanninga…

There were three types of strikers: the mercurial fast ones (Rene van de Kerkhof), the player with the thunder in the thighs (Willy van der Kuylen) and the tall lighthouse target man (Dick Nanninga). Ideally, you had one striker who had this all (Haaland).

And, a striker was always your most advanced man and he was judged on goals.

Cruyff came onto the field as a strange #9. He was never in the point. And he still scored goal after goal after goal. Between 1966 and 1972 he would never score less than 33 goals per season. But the real impact of JC was not as a goal getter of course. His biggest impact was the fact that as a #9, he was hardly ever to be found in that most advanced position.

Johan Cruyff led the line in a way that other players could flourish in the areas vacated by him. The two-footed dribble king was to be found everywhere else. As the playmaker, or as libero, or coming from the left. He called himself, the “playing central striker”. Cruyff’s ability to be that wandering striker made him crucial for the execution of Oranje’s Total Football. Oranje would play people off the pitch with any player able to play on any position. Right wingers became strikers, right full backs ended up as left winger and the central striker became the deep lying playmaker. It was all being done.

Finding the space was sacred. No one was playing on the position as laid out on the line up board in the dressing room! Cruyff would start in the #9 role but would immediately drift away. He went wherever he felt like it. “A little wander here, a little movement there, playing along a bit and then explode into action.”

Watching Feyenoord, Ajax and Oranje play in the early 70s is really fun. Opponents have no idea how to deal with it. Man markers would follow JC across the pitch and ended up leaving huge holes in their defence. Or they simply allowed JC the freedom of the pitch, which is never a good idea against someone with his dribbling skills.

Cruyff’s teams always dominated the ball. There were always ample players around the ball. Ajax and Oranje dominated in that middle zone, which is still sacred in football tactics. The maestro’s partnership with Rep, Rensenbrink and Neeskens in 1974 was phenomenal. These three could score at will helped by the open spaces left by Cruyff.

The legendary #14 explains it in 1977: “There are people who believe I should play in midfield. They don’t get it. The remarkable thing about our football is: everyone is on the move, always. And it starts with me. I start as a striker but leave that space, which starts the big rondo. The defenders of the opponent are now in trouble. Because we come at them from various angles. If they mark me, others will get more space. If they don’t mark me, well… bring it on. They end up always having one defender too few.”

The traditional #9 got replaced by the False 9. The traditional 9 was told: stay high up the pitch, hold on to the ball, go deep and mainly: score. The False 9 is a high playing playmaker, who is focused on the team rotation and performance.

When Cruyff quit his active career, it seemed the false 9 disappeared too. Strikers like Nanninga, of Kees Kist or Peter Houtman and later Wim Kieft brought Oranje back to the traditional 9. Only when Cruyff returned to Barcelona in 1988 was the False 9 back. The Dream Team.

In 1989, Michael Laudrup was seen as one of the most elegant players in football but it wouldn’t happen for him in Italy. He used to play left winger or #10. Stoichkov was Barca’s #9 but Cruyff put the explosive Romanian on the wing and placed Laudrup in the striker role.

Cruyff was obsessed with creating triangles, and we’re not talking about the musical version of it. With Ronald Koeman as libero, Guardiola as defensive mid, attacking midfielder Bakero and striker Laudrup he had a spine in his team which could pass themselves out of danger. Barca’s dream team resembles the Tiqui-Taca team of Guardiola decennia later.

It was Guardiola who used the best player ever ™ as the false striker in his team. The birth day of the Star of Superstar was May 9, 2009. In Pep’s first season, Barca was four points adrift from Real Madrid. On day 34, El Classico was on the program and the pressure on Guardiola was immense. Barca missed the title two seasons in a row now and the 2-2 at Valencia on the 33rd playing day added to the pressure. And so, Guardiola called Messi, the night before the game. Could Leo maybe drop in for a bit?

At 10.30 pm, the 21 year old Lionel Messi enters Pep’s office. Marti Perarnau, the author of “Pep Confidential” explains the situation as such: “The 21 year old enters and Pep shows him a video. He freezes the video and shows Messi the space on the pitch. He wants Messi to work in these spaces. He calls it “the Messi Zone”. And he tells Messi: “I want you to start from the wing, as per normal. But when I signal you, I want you to dart through the middle. And when Xavi or Iniesta have the ball, you go. Straight ahead, and you’ll be face to face with Casillas.”

Pep didn’t tell anyone about this. He only told his assistant Vilanova the day before the match. Xavi and Iniesta were told during the warming up. What followed was a master class of football, with a 2-6 win at the Bernabeu for Barca. Samuel Eto’o suddenly played on the right wing and Messi would drift in and out of the zone where the older and massive Madrid defence would be. Xavi would later comment: “Pep changed the whole plan. With Messi as false 9, with Henry and Eto’o in the half spaces, forcing the defenders to decide. Leo, Andres and I could dominate in this way. It was one of the best games in my career.”

Barca would win the the triple that year. In the CL finals v Man United, he used the same trick. Eto’o started centrally but after 10 minutes he switched with Messi, who would win the finals for Barca with a header!

For quite some time, the false 9 was ignored or even forgotten by the rest of the football world. Through the decennia we have seen amazing #9s, from Papin to Zlatan, from Van Nistelrooy to Benzema, from Lewandowski to Peter Crouch, from Raul to Shearer and from Berbatov to Henke Larsson… But in 2022, we do see shifts. The “playing central striker” would be a good moniker maybe? At Liverpool, their #9 ( Firmino) usually plays in service of the danger men on the wings (Salah and Mane). At Cheslea, Lukaku warms the bench often while wandering Havartz is often preferred. At City we see different false 9s all the time, from Phil Foden to Sterling to De Bruyne.

Cruyff was ahead of his time, as we all know. Every modern team these days, is looking for a type of Cruyff striker. A player who can let the team play better by being absent.

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Ricky Testa: the one that got away….

In the early 1980s, Utrecht was a hotbed for football talent. The likes of Vanenburg, Van Loen, Godee and Marco van Basten all hailed from the same area, where they played numerous games with and against each other on amateur level, before the big clubs came to swoop them up.

In Amsterdam, talents like Rijkaard, Van ’t Schip, Kieft, Bosman and Gullit made name, while Rotterdam followed with the likes of Mario Been, Danny Blind, Rene Eijer and Rene van der Gijp.

Most if not all of them reached the top. Playmaker John van Loen had to endure a growth spurt and was converted into a striker. Playmaker Edwin Godee did play for Ajax and several rep teams but lacked the quality to reach the senior Oranje team.

One player got away, as they say. Ricky Testa La Muta, best buds with Marco van Basten, made different choices. And disappeared in obscurity. This is his story.

Ricky now

Ricky now, coaching Elinkwijk

Testa la Muta is considered a phenomenon in Utrecht. In the 1990s, the striker was the main man in the top amateur team Holland, of Utrecht. Coached by none other than Willem van Hanegem, the amateur team won the Dutch amateur title twice in a row, with attractive football. While elsewhere in The Netherlands, his friend Marco van Basten was feverishly working on regaining fitness from a long time lingering ankle issue. Marco was not even 30 years old and faced having to go into retirement. After years of suffering and pain, he decided to call it a day. San Marco would relocate from Milan into the anonymity of Monte Carlo and struggled through a dark period of his life. His friend Ricky was by his side whenever Marco needed him. The flamboyant striker with Italian roots never made it to the big stage, to the surprise of many football experts.

Their lives seemed to run along a synchrone thread. Van Basten became the best in the world, Testa La Muta disappeared from the spotlights. The striker with Italian roots: “We played in the A junior team of Elinkwijk. What a fantastic team we had. Edwin Godee was our captain. Ajax scouts came and picked Marco and Edwin. They overlooked me. I was struggling with a knee injury, an injury which back then took a year to deal with. Today’s it’s different. But, Ajax wanted the best and fittest, and I was not part of that group. I would have played for FC Utrecht, but they did not have a youth academy, so that didn’t work. Feyenoord was an option but it was too far away for me to consider. And guess what, a couple of years ago I met Aad de Mos. I politely introduced myself and he looked at me with a question in his eyes. He told me that Ajax was ready to sign me as well. They were following me. So I wondered what happened? Why didn’t they? And by Golly, De Mos simply couldn’t remember why it never happened… Such is life.”


In the Elinkwijk youth, Marco is standing next to the goalie, Ricky sits front row far right

Testa La Muta remembers it all well and was actually counting on a logical move to Amsterdam. “We had such amazing players. I played for a small amateur club when I was younger. We won everything. Until we faced Sterrenwijk. A certain Gerald Vanenburg was their key player. We lost 6-1. Vanenburg scored all six goals, I scored for our team, hahahaha. I remember my dad telling everyone: I thought my son was a good player with promise, but that little Vanenburg… that is a boy wonder!”

I then made a move to Elinkwijk. Gerald played there as well that season, as did Edwin Godee. They were so incredibly good, in midfield. I was the striker and life was relatively easy for me there. We were all part of the Utrecht youth plan. They dd not have a youth academy at the local FC, but this youth plan made sure they kept track of talents. It didn’t work though. The best talents were swooped up by other clubs before FC Utrecht could offer them a deal.”

“Our main competitor in the city was UVV. Marco was their striker and John van Loen was the playmaker, behind Marco. John had a growth spurt later in his youth and had difficulties maintaining his quality. He did become a very good striker of course. The matches between Elinkwijk – UVV were like Feyenoord-Ajax. They really mattered. Half the city thought Marco was the best, the other half thought Vanenburg was the best. By then, we all played rep football for Oranje and we knew each other well.”

vaantje 2

Gerald “Vaantje” Vanenburg: magician

The youngster would all develop a strong bond. But Ricky and Marco became really close. “We were all a bit macho in these days. It was cool to hang out with the best. We were good, I tell you, but Gerald Vanenburg was extra ordinary. When he was 8 years old, you could already see that. His touch, his skills, his passing, vision, his dribbles… Unbelievable. He was the Maradona of Holland, really. We all thought Gerald would be the world class super star, and with Marco you felt, he’ll make it to the Eredivisie.”

Van Basten himself thought differently. “That is the weird thing. Marco always said he would be the best of the world. And he wasn’t kidding! He had so much confidence. He also told me numerous times he would become rich. Hell, he even had a statement written on his wall in his bedroom: “I am the Best!”. Funny, coz I thought I was the best, actually, hahahaha.”

Ricky keeps on talking: “We were competitive and the same in many ways. We were both very good ping pong players too, we both played competition. We also both did diving from the high tower, you know? Saltos and that sort of thing. The difference was with school though. Marco was good at learning and his parents really motivated him to do well. I was different. I was a street urchin. But once Marco was on the streets, he was a little prick too, hahaha.”

Marco was introduced to Italy by his own parents, as the Van Bastens would go to Italy for holidays every year. But at the Testa La Muta family, his passion for Italy was further developed. “Marco came from a typical Dutch background. 6 pm dinner was served. At our house, dinner was all the time. Always people around, food aplenty, Marco loved hanging out with us.”

Ricky’s dad was one of the first “guest workers” in Holland. From Sicily. He worked in a factory in Holland and met Ricky’s would be mum there.

In the year that Van Basten, Vanenburg and Godee went to Ajax, a friend of Ricky’s dad decided to help Ricky with his career. The infamous football agent Apollonius Konijnenburg was at a friendly between Helmond Sport- Genoa. Ricky’s family friend was at the game, with Ricky, Marco, Gerald and Godee. That made an impression on Konijnenburg, who obviously knew the Ajax talents.


Edwin Godee

And as Ricky was part Italian, it meant that he could play in Italy as an Italian. In those days, Italian clubs could only play two non-Italian players. This is what they all thought…

Konijnenburg had some players in Italy already. Jan Peters at Genoa, Michel van de Korput at Torino… He told Ricky “I’ll get you a practice game or two.” Konijnenburg was quite the charismatic wheeler and dealer. Swagger, spoke Italian. Ricky: “He was a fun guy, within 2 weeks I was in Italy. He arranged games at Genoa and Napoli. I was 17 years old and still a kid. Konijnenburg picked me up in his flash Mercedes and we drove to the airport. And I realised: I’m going to Italy with an old guy I don’t even know, hahaha. But he was a fun guy at least.”

“Don’t forget, it’s 1982. Italy just won the World Cup and spirits were high. They put me up in a 5 star hotel on the coast. I was there with Trevor Francis, who lived their as well. He played for Torino. Anyway, I was still suffering a bit from a knee operation I had had… But I played some friendlies and I did pretty good. The coach said: yep, I want him. So they offered me a so-called B contract. When I was back in Holland, in Utrecht, I got cold feet. I had to live in some camp for youth players. I was going out in Utrecht that weekend with my mates, the girls started to notice me and all that and I decided not to go. Also, I ended up not being an Italian for the foreigners rule. I had to be there and play for two seasons before they would see me as an Italian. That was it. I didn’t sign.”


Ricky playing for Pro Patria

“I played for Elinkwijk one season and was signed by FC Utrecht, and played in their C-team. At the same time, my girlfriend got pregnant… It all happened at the same time. I also worked part time in Amsterdam and it all became too much. I was losing interest in football, the fun disappeared and I never broke into the first team of FC Utrecht. I left to play for Volendam, also not a a success and returned to the amateurs of Elinkwijk.”

When Marco van Basten was writing history with Ajax and the Dutch NT, Ricky was in a football hole. He thought his dream was done. Until Konijnenburg called, out of the blue. If he was still interested in playing in Italy. This would be for a club in the Serie C. Pro Patria. He was 22 years old and he realised this would be his last chance. The deal was quite good. “It was a big step, I was a dad and all that, but the club was keen: they got me a home, a car and 50k annual salary. Not bad for those times. The coach wanted me also because of my friendship with Marco and Gerald Vanenburg. The coach invited me to come to this little chateau on the Lake Maggiore, it was paradise. I thought: yep, I’m doing it. Next thing I know, I’m in a trainings camp for four weeks. Four weeks! I thought I went crazy, hahaha.”

Konijnenburg was also instrumental in bringing Gullit and Van Basten to Italy. AC Milan of course. Testa La Muta: “I didn’t even know where Pro Patria played hahaha, but I learned it was close to Milan. And I thought, wow… I need to let Marco know!”


Pro Patria playing a friendly pre-season game vs AC Milan: Marco far right, Ricky next to him

Ricky got a message through to Van Basten and he appeared to live close to him. “When I told him my apartment wasn’t finished, he immediately said: come and live with us! I have a huge home! So I lived with my girlfriend and our little one with Marco and Liesbeth for a spell. Man, did we laugh a lot, we didn’t know what was happening. Marco was a millionaire in one hit, in this Hollywood home. He drove a Lancia Turbo…so here we were, two street kids from Utrecht. Marco also had his Dutch car still, so he threw me the keys to the Lancia. Good times… I’d take the Lancia to the club and found that the owner of Pro Patria drove the same car, haha. Marco and Ruud would come look me up at Pro Patria and I’d hang with them at Milanello. They were like Gods these two. And at one point, Ruud’s mate Rene van der Gijp came to visit as well. We all had lunch at Milanello. All the Italian players drank water, but Ruud and Marco were allowed to drink Coca Cola. Rene asked me where I played: I said Pro Patria. And he said: What is that? The local music band?… Everyone in stitches of course…”

gijp gullit young

Van der Gijp and Gullit: buddies…

“But it was good. We won games and we lost. When we won, I was the hero. I was quite popular and ate for free whenever we did well, but boy, if we lost… if we lost two in a row, people would throw tomatoes at us, or rocks even!”

Playing in the Serie C was not what Ricky imagined. “Marco got injured and spent a year back in Holland. I was playing in Serie C and even though these guys were all full pro and Pro Patria used to be a Serie A club, the level was terrible. It was rough and violent. They kicked at everything that moved. Not my cup of tea. I played there one season and was able to move to clubs in the Serie A or B but I still had one year to go in the Serie C for my football status as an Italian. I couldn’t do it.”

Ricky does not look back in anger. “I was there with my girl and my little child, it was not the right life for us. If I had been alone, maybe… But the stress when they played at home. They all had white faces and were really stressed if they lost at home. The whole town would be in mourning. So they had pills and doping and injections and shit in the dressing room, the coach didn’t sleep, the chairman was sweating like a pig, it was not healthy.”


Ricky and Marco off the pitch

Marco van Basten had the right personality to survive that jungle. “If I would have stayed another season, I might have made it to a good big club as well. Why not. Wim Kieft scored one goal in his Pisa season and got a transfer to Torino. I know I was good enough, but it simply didn’t work out. And I’m not sorry about my decisions. I played at the amateurs in The Netherlands until I was 33 years old. I won everything you can win, at amateur level.  I am now coaching in Holland at Elinkwijk and I can walk the streets and go to a cafe. Marco will always have those spotlights on him and he’s cool with that. I prefer it this way. He hasn’t changed though. He doesn’t like the attention but he can live with it. He’s still as pigheaded as ever, hahaha, always wants to debate everything and he knows exactly what he wants and doesn’t want… With Marco, there is no middle of the road…”

Marco van Basten: “We were close mates when we played together. Competitive, but mates. We had Cruyff as our idol, and Ricky had this amazing poster in his room of Johan. I wanted it, so I would always try and use that as the prize in any game we played. Table tennis, cards, football, hahaha. I always said I was the best, but he did too! We both believed it. When we both ended up in Italy, we became close again. When I left Utrecht for Ajax, we didn’t have much time together, but Liesbeth and I had this big mansion in Italy and Ricky was basically our permanent house guest. We’d eat together and we’d watch each other games. He was a very good player, but forced to make his way to the top via lower levels. Sad, it didn’t happen, that he couldn’t execute what his brain saw…”

Marco is now Chief Innovation Officer at FIFA.

Ricky is head coach at his youth amateur club Elinkwijk

Edwin Godee has gone into business

Gerald Vanenburg was football coach but is currently manager of his talented daughter (tennis)

John van Loen is assistant coach at FC Utrecht

Source: This article was taken from the VI Special Edition “Italy” which was co-edited by Marco van Basten. Expect more cool Italy-related stories (Sneijder, Ruud Krol, San Marco, Stefan de Vrij)

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1988 anti-hero, Berry van Aerle

Berry with skipper Gullit (with cup) and Ronald Koeman

The Class of 1988 had some sensational players. Known all over the world. Some. They became cosmopolitan superstars. Ruud Gullit’s face and hairdo are known over the globe. San Marco lived in Milan, lived in Monaco, has coached the Dutch team… And icon. Frank Rijkaard is still living the high life.

There is that category of world class players who moved to the highest echelons in their field, without becoming moviestars. We’re talking the likes of Ronald Koeman ( Barcelona) and Jan Wouters (Bayern Munich) for instance, Hans van Breukelen and Aron Winter (Lazio).

Adrie van Tiggelen, John van ‘t Schip, Gerald Vanenburg, Erwin Koeman, John Bosman, Wim Kieft, they all become valuable players at mid-level European teams. Kieft had a great career at PSV after his Italian adventure while Van Tiggelen became invaluable for Anderlecht.

One player never really set the world on fire. Although he played every minute of that Euro. And won numerous titles with PSV. And won the European Cup I.

And while almost all others became coach at some stage (most still are), this lad remained in football but for a long time as unpaid supporter coordinator. Not the coolest job, compared to Marco’s national team manager role or Van Breukelen’s management position at Utrecht.

We are talking about anti-hero Van Aerle. The simple rural kid from Brabant. “I’m simply Berry”.

Oh how he was the butt of many a joke. They made him pay contribution at PSV. When he was winning the European Cup! Some more worldly chaps ( Kieft? Lerby? Gerets? Breuk?) told him that they found out he had never paid his club membership fee. The poor Van Aerle was in shock and raced to the admin with his wallet in hand to pay his membership fee hahahahaha….

We know everything about San Marco, Ruud Gullit, de Breuk, Vaantje, but what do we know about Van Aerle?

Was he in the team because he was so funny? So handsome? So great a card player? No! He was in the team because he was an awesome defender. A block of granite. A rock. And fast. Strong. Tenacious. Relentless. And his biggest strength was that he knew exactly what his weakness was.

The NRC Handelsblad published this article, which I will harvest and use for your pleasure.


Berry with the cup

Van Aerle is all no nonsense. No frills. He wakes up on the morning of June 25, 1988. In the room he shares with Wim Kieft. A small room, this time. In the rooms he visited earlier in the year ( in Istanbul, Vienna, Bordeaux, Madrid and Stuttgart) it was possible to play keepie-up. Well, not for Berry so much. As he was never able to play keepie up. But Marco and Gerald could play keepie-up. Not in this room. There is the knock on the door. Michels likes discipline. 9 am breakfast time.

Berry is a simple lad. No superstition. No women underwear. No rituals. The jersey number means nothing to him and the spot in the dressing room? He can’t be bothered.

The only time he could be bothered was when PSV came to scout him in Helmond. He somehow fumbled his words and coach Jan Reker thought he was a left winger instead of right back. Reker shrugged his shoulders and put turbo Berry on the left flank. The speedy Van Aerle was sick of nerves but scored twice.


Van Aerle’s dad works at Philips (naturally) and sells flowers on Saturdays to be able to buy Berry his boots. When he makes his debut at PSV he starts out well, but when PSV snatches up Eric Gerets, the young back is benched and later loaned out to FC Antwerp. Van Aerle has a top season there and PSV demands him back. Van Aerle actually refuses to go. He loves it in Belgium. Mocking, the little back returns to start a successful period in Eindhoven. He plays in midfield in the 87/88 season, in front of Gerets, and wins the treble. The third club ever to do so. National Cup, title and Europa Cup 1.

In his debut for Oranje in 1987, he breaks out twice on the right flank to cross twice on Gullit who scores twice against Poland. Nice.

Van Aerle remembers the preparation for the Euro1988 as “troubled”. The PSV players all arrived late at the training camp, due to the European finals. Van Basten had injuries in his face ( cheek bone, brow, ankel) as a result of a “friendly” between Milan and Real Madrid. Frank Rijkaard was still at Zaragoza in Spain and Gullit was exhausted after his Milan season. Jan Wouters was injured.

But we all know what happened next. Berry did feel responsible for the USSR goal in the first game, but San Marco and Lady Luck helped Oranje reach the finals, to play the USSR again.

Michels had the players sitting in a U shape. He sat in front of them. They talked briefly about the tactical topics for this match. A tighter team, 2 players up front. 8 players playing closer together. Assistant coach Nol de Ruiter talked through the set pieces. And gave relevant info on the opponent.

Michels would then walk past all players to look ‘m in the eye and convey some words. When he stood in front of Berry, he called him “Barry” (Berry was used to that) and merely looked him in the eye. Berry didn’t need more.

Before the tournament, the players had given Michels an expensive watch, as the coach would retire after this stint. Michels told the players: “Guys, if you lose this finals, I will hand you back the watch.”

Berry now

Berry now

The players go back to their room after having had their lunch. Berry lies on his bed, to listen to his favorite band, the Golden Earring, playing his favorite song: Radar Love. Live. The 17 minute version…

In the Munich Stadium, Berry inspects the field. The two right flanks. He is impressed with the Oranje fans on the stands. In the dressing room, he slips on the jersey. It is a very smooth material, this time. Most people don’t like this particular Oranje jersey.

Van ‘t Schip said: “We look like gold fish. But as long as we are winning, we will wear it.”

Van Aerle likes the shirt. It’s the Dutch colours, it’s the Dutch shirt. Ergo: it’s beautiful.

Van Aerle listens to the national anthem. He doesn’t sing. Gullit is standing next to him and Gullit does sing it. Loud. Van Aerle adores his skipper. The Amsterdam born and bred who played in Rotterdam and Eindhoven. Never for Ajax. Gullit keeps the group together, Gullit deals with the media and the football association. And more than anything, Gullit “manages” the dynamics between the city boys (Bassie, Schippie, Rijkaard, Wouters, Vaantje, Breuk) and the rural kids ( Suvrijn, Van Aerle, Van Tiggelen)…

The game starts and the normally so cool and collected Berry started badly. Let a ball slip under his foot, and like his mates, he loses possession to easily. USSR is stronger, again, and plays attacking football, putting Holland on the backfoot.

Then, the 31st minute. Erwin Koeman corner kick. The ball is cleared, back at Koeman. The Russians open up the off side trap, but it fails. The ball is swung in from Koeman’s left, Van Basten flicks on and Gullit heads, no SMACKS the ball behind Dassaev (nickname The Iron Curtain). The game changes. Oranje get more confident. And the game becomes more aggressive.

In the second half, Van Aerle gets a yellow. He still doesn’t know why. He is the most rightsided guy in the Dutch wall and most likely the ref feels the players are stalling. Van Aerle wants to have a go at the ref but remembers De Ruiter’s words: this ref doesn’t like being talked to. So Berry swallows his frustration.

54th minute. The Russians come forward yet again, but Van Tiggelen moves in front of the defence and intercepts. A simple pass on Muhren. Whose pass is overhit. Michels is captured by another camera, mumbling “what the hell…” to De Ruiter. But the infamous ankle, the Van Basten ankle, taped in… Taped fixed to the boot almost. The ankle that will stop Van Basten’s career before his 30st birthday, that ankle lifts the foot…. And he hits the ball. While Dassaev makes a step forward, expecting a cross… And the roar from the stands is deafening.

aerle action

One of the few action pics of Berry. Most photographers focused on the more charismatic Gullit and Van Basten

Van Aerle sees Vanenburg with a hand in front of his open mouth. Van Basten runs victorious towards Van Aerle’s right flank. Berry wants to grab Bassie’s jersey but misses him. Rijkaard catches Marco, followed by Wouters. Van Aerle and Vaantje arrive together. Wouters says something, but Van Aerle can’t hear him. When Bassie replies: “I don’t know, I don’t know…” he can deduce what the midfielder wanted to know…

When the USSR is able to come back into it, it’s Van Breukelen who adds heroics to the already heroic day. After 90 minutes, finally, Oranje has its trophy. Michels, loser in the same venue in 1974, can retire.

Van Aerle was never “the first” or “the one”. Van Aerle is Buzz Aldrin. He was the second player to congratulate San Marco against West Germany.


He was the second to come onto the field in the finals, Michels was not lifted on his shoulders at the end of the campaign and the cup was not between his legs on that famous “This is a good bunch” photo but between Wouters’ legs, right next to him.

He was also the second to go up to the stands, behind Gullit, to collect his medal and the cup. When Gullit raised the cup, the stadium exploded. And when Gullit turned around, the cup moved smoothly into Berry’s hands. Right at the moment most photographers were ready after applauding the Dutch captain. And so, it was Berry’s finest moment. Raising the cup next to skipper and friend Gullit.

Berry van Aerle was European Champion.


After the EC, Berry played 24 more international games for Holland. He also won 3 more league titles with PSV. In 1994, he left PSV and played one more season for Helmond Sport in the Jupiler League, allowing him to ride his bike to games. A bad knee ended his career at 33 years of age. After playing football he became a mailman in his hometown. He seemed to be the only Generation 88 player not to do anything in football, until PSV asked him to come and do supporter coordination in 2001. Since 2008, Van Aerle operates as scout for PSV.

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It was 25 yrs ago today, Oranje taught the world to play

Most Oranje supporters simply have to be masochistic. Playing brilliant football (sometimes) and hardly ever winning the prize.

Over the last 7 years, we have covered all the upsets, the highs, the magical, the drama and we will keep on doing this for years to come….

Hopefully amidst future tournaments where we can harvest some silverware too. I for one, am not one of those supporters who secretly enjoy being the “loser”. Even if I am a Feyenoord fan….

So, 1988.

As most of you know, I lived in Holland back then and I was pretty convinced we would do well. As I am always convinced we will do well.
As you know, a broken clock is correct twice a day :-).

I remember the lead up to the Tournament really well. Rinus Michels in charge. Ajax was doing really well. Johan Cruyff had won the 1987 Europa Cup II with Ajax (Van Basten scoring) and Ajax played the finals yet again, this time against Mechelen. Mechelen, with Erwin Koeman, won it this time, but Ajax had a strong side with Jan Wouters, John van ‘t Schip, John Bosman, Arnold Muhren and Aron Winter. Danny Blind was the right back in those days.

AC Milan had the “three of Milan” and although Marco was injured and struggling to be the starting striker in Milan, we all knew that these three were exceptional. PSV had just won the Europa Cup 1, with Koeman, Wim Kieft, Hans van Breukelen, Berry van Aerle and Gerald Vanenburg. Adri van Tiggelen played for the grand Anderlecht side in Belgium and Dutch football was doing really well.

But, Oranje missed out on the three big tournaments before 1988 and the last tournament we played ( 1980 in Italy) was a bit of downer.

Some people didn’t expect much from this young team and when Michels clearly didn’t know how to start the tournament, lots of fans lost faith. Marco van Basten was hardly used by Michels as a result of his injuries and when he was fit he missed the decided against Belgium as a result of a suspension.

So, Michels wanted to start with Bosman as center striker ( a very cool finisher in the box… A sort of Huntelaar, for the young ones under us). And John van’t Schip played on the left wing (he played right wing or midfield at Ajax), but Schippie was perfect two-footed and was able to cross from the left with his left. Gullit and Vanenburg competed for the right wing, and Gullit was the type of player some coaches didn’t know where to put. At PSV he even played central defender, while in Milan he was one of the two forwards in a 4-2-2 system.

Arnold Muhren and Jan Wouters played in midfield with Vanenburg on the right, behind Gullit.

Not a very well balanced team.

And future superstar San Marco van Basten was not amused. He felt fresh. He was fit. And super motivated. But Michels almost didn’t select him. Kieft and Gilhaus were a lethal duo at PSV. Bosman was a killer. Piet de Boer of KV Mechelen just scored the winner in the ECII finals. Michels had options. But he did pick Van Basten and gave him the number 12.

The ambitious striker was livid. How could he not get the support from the Ajax legend? And he went to his close friend, surrogate father and former coach Johan Cruyff to vent his anger. And to tell him he would gracefully thank Michels but no thanks. I am not benchwarm material.


Marco van Basten

Here goes….

But Cruyff told him to shut up, to pack his bag and go. There was no pressure on Bassie and JC knew that Michels would be using him in the tournament. “Be patient, await your chance and take the opportunity when you can”.

The rest is history. Oranje lost against the USSR in the first group game. The 4-3-3 Michels concocted didn’t work. So he changed it for the England game. The team needed more balance.


So Erwin Koeman came in to support 37 year old strategist Muhren and Bassie came in to play with Gullit in a 4-4-2 set up. Bosman and Schippie took the bench.

A hattrick against England, a freak Kieft goal (off side) against feisty Ireland and a true battle in Hamburg vs West Germany and before we knew it, Oranje got a second chance against the USSR in the finals.

In the Olympic Stadium in Munich, with yours truly sitting right behind Dasaev when “that moment” occurred….

It’s 1-0 (Gullit’s only goal of the tournament, the Oranje skipper was walking on his gums…) and pressure from the Russians. Van Tiggelen breaks out, passes the ball to Muhren who wants to reach Van Basten but he overhits the ball. Van Basten has three options… Option 1: control the ball and wait for midfielders to come closer…with a couple of defenders on his toes… Option 2: pass the ball with one touch to the penalty spot where Gullit should be. Van Basten took option 3.

Now this goal made history. It’s one of the best goals ever! It is certainly the best goal ever scored at an EC.

Muhren: “I felt I overhit the kick. I was trying to launch him in space, but I overdid. He could only do one thing, or so I thought. Take it down and start the build up again.”

Van Basten: “You don’t think about this. The ball comes, I saw a defender closing me down, I felt I was fairly isolated. What do you do? You don’t think, you simply do. It works only in practice normally and it wasn’t against some shabby goalie either.”

Jan The Blogman: “I was sitting behind the goal with some other Oranje supporters and when the ball was in the air you could tell by Marco’s body movement that he was going to hit it. And we all stood up, arms raised up in the air because we could see in our minds’ eye that yes, there was a small chance he would score from there. And he did.”

Now the freaky thing is, that the AD Newspaper traced something really cool.

Oranje practiced before the EC 1988 against an amateur club. They won that match 8-1, but the amateurs scored as well. And the way they scored might have inspired Marco….

Take a look at this! His name is Michel Dreis.

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