Tag: Kolongo

Ronald Koeman, hero in Rotterdam

We covered and congratulated Ajax on their title win. We will most definitely congratulate a WONDERFUL PEC Zwolle with their bashing of Ajax in De Kuip. It was 5-1 for PEC but it could have been 8-1.

This does link to the topic of today’s post, as Ronald Koeman as Feyenoord coach was opposed to PEC playing European football just by losing a cup final (he said that before the game of course). So, now Ronald can sleep soundly, as PEC deserved it!!

As you will know, the game was seriously disrupted by Ajax fans (!!) throwing fireworks onto the pitch. The theory now is that they did so to ruin Feyenoord’s impeccable pitch! As Ajax supporters have been banned from the Feyenoord temple for years, this was seen as their opportunity to inflict pain to Feyenoord. Well, it worked, as the Feyenoord groundsman was spotted crying when all this happened….

Louis van Gaal decided to wait with announcing his first practice prelim squad until Monday, so we will take the time to look at our Eredivisie Number 2’s coach (and ex player ) Ronald Koeman. No love lost between him and Louis, by the way.

In three years under Ronald Koeman, Feyenoord has made some good progress. Although as a fan and a football connaisseur I personally would not uncork the champagne after this season… But, Koeman is on his way out, and through the front door, as opposed to predecessors Been and Verbeek.

Feyenoord finished second, third and second in three years. The objective of Feyenoord was/is to win the title at least once every three seasons. And they didn’t. And this season should have been that season, of course. (We are a football nation of should haves).

Fred Rutten will now come and give it a go and Rutten is a very decent coach, so who knows. But the question will be: with whom will Rutten have to do this… It seems many international scouts are hovering around this Feyenoord. When the Rotterdam club played PSV in Eindhoven, scouts of Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, Spurs, Man City, AS Roma, Napoli and several German and French clubs were spotted. Some PSV lads were on the short list, for sure, like Wijnaldum and Matavz but the crop was there for Clasie, Janmaat, Kongolo, Martins Indi, De Vrij, Vilhena, Boetius and Pelle.

Martins Indi apparently is still on the list for Everton, while Brendan Rodgers is a fan of De Vrij. Kongolo will definitely be on the Man City / Chelsea short list while Vilhena seems to be the real hot property. Clasie and Janmaat are linked with moves to Italy while Arsenal has shown interest in Janmaat earlier.

Pelle is getting on age wise and has the best options working on his retirement plan with a move to the Middle East or Turkey.

Tech Director Martin van Geel already stated that Feyenoord doesn’t need to sell players, per se, but De Vrij and Janmaat have already announced they won’t be renewing their deals with Feyenoord before the World Cup. Van Geel is quite positive about Feyenoord’s chances renewing Kongolo’s, Vilhena’s and Boetius’ contracts.

Koeman is a football hero in Holland. He played for all three big clubs and therefore can count on sympathy from most people in Holland ( and Groningen of course). And when he moved to Barca he made us proud with his Europa Cup 1 winning strike at Wembley. His role in Oranje made his a true hero with most Dutch fans secretly loving his “wipe the ass gesture” with Thon’s jersey in 1988.

Koeman R thon

As a coach, he didn’t seem to cut it. He did well with Vitesse and Ajax but his somewhat “cover your behind” antics (re: Van Gaal at Ajax) and his sudden exit at PSV made him suspicious. He got fired at Valencia and AZ and the jury seemed to be coming back with a negative verdict. Until Feyenoord.

A conversation with Ronald Koeman:

The 5-1 in De Kuip versus Cambuur was most likely your last home game in The Netherlands as coach?

“Well, that is quite rash. It will be for Feyenoord and it might be my last ever as club coach, but who knows… It will be a special game. I normally am not that sentimental about things but I did feel tingles during that game. It was in the back of my mind…. And we are closing somethings special here. I highly enjoyed my time at Feyenoord, my relationship with the lads. This is quite a unique club.”

What did Feyenoord bring you?

“Happiness. I lost my happiness as a coach. Being fired so unceremoniously at AZ was a big deal for me. I sort of took a hit and then my wife got very ill and I really didn’t wanna go to another country. Feyenoord was perfect for me. I had very good memories of my time here as a player and the moment I got in the club was ideal. I once had to replace Van Gaal at Ajax after he won a title and I had to replace Hiddink at PSV after he won a title so that follow up season is always tough. At Feyenoord, getting some quick wins in the beginning was not that hard and very essential.”

What did you bring Feyenoord?

“I hope that I taught them that they’re not talents anymore. They need to be killers, they needed that mentality. That and some old fashioned bringing up you know. Some values. When I came here, the players were allowed to have lunch at home. And they sometimes trained at 1 pm and the players were free in the morning! Well not with me… I made them come to the club earlier, we’d eat together… I have so many young players and when you let them come at 1 pm, God knows what they do with their morning… Sleep in? Have a pizza? Play games? I needed to bring them in. I needed them to have a decent lunch before training. I also made a clear statement. “Age is not an issue for me. The best man plays. But…if you do play, even if you’re only 18, I expect you to deliver. No hiding behind “but I am still young” arguments.” As a coach of young players, you have to sometimes act as their dad…”

Not all players enjoyed that!

“That is sadly also the case with your children. But when they get older, they’ll understand. I had my fair share of clashes with Sneijder, Van der Vaart and Ibrahimovic as well but they all said since that they learned a lot under my reign.”

Was this Feyenoord group tough?

“Not really and most things we were able to keep indoors. There were some unpleasant situations. I had to strip De Vrij of his band and later Pelle. I had to tell Vilhena off with a penalty, those sorts of things. Can’t keep that indoors, hahaha. But otherwise we did well. I never understood why players have to go out and talk to the media about things they don’t get or don’t like. It’s easy to knock on my door and simply discuss it with me… But that is youth, I guess.”

koeman LVG

Vitesse, Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord. Which club will be your best memory…

“Oooh, that is a difficult one. And a dangerous one to answer as well. I have had so many good memories. Winning the title on the last playing day with PSV, with Ajax I won two titles and we did well in the CL… With Feyenoord though, we had to make do with limited means and although we didn’t win anything, we did win the respect of Rotterdam and we brought pride back to De Kuip. That is probably worth more than silverware, if I think about it…. The Feyenoord feeling goes deeper than anything else. This is the biggest club in Holland. Reaching second spot is not worthy of a celebration but we do feel like a party. And I can understand why.”

When you took over from Mario Been in 2011, it didn’t look too good….

“It didn’t. They had finished 10th. Which is really really bad for Feyenoord. There was not a lot of confidence. Fer and Wijnaldum had just left. But we did alright, we started well and when Guidetti and Bakkal joined us we suddenly had a team that clicked. Some players even made it to the National Team. That season we ended second. Amazing. The next season we lost the complete axes of the team: Vlaar, El Ahmadi, Bakkal and Guidetti gone. What now? But we got Pelle and we reached the third spot. This season, we kept the squad together while Ajax, Twente and PSV had some changes. So I figured: this is the title year. But we ended up not being consistent enough. We conceded too many late goals and we had a horrific start with zero out of three. This gave us a bit of a stressed out attitude from the start. All in all, not winning the title is a disappointment.”

So what is more dominant: the pride of being number 2 and potentially gaining access to the CL or the idea that the title was lost?

“Both I’m sure. Both. This season, we scored more goals than Ajax. That doesn’t happen often. Normally Ajax reaches 100 goals. There is a shift in hierarchy coming. But we forgot to kill off the small games (Den Haag, NEC, RKC, Cambuur, PEC Zwolle) and that has cost us the title.”

So you actually did go for the title?

“Of course! The start of the second season half, we started great against Utrecht. We had to go to Ajax and then Den Haag. We lost without a hope against Ajax and then we lost against ADO too. 6 points in 4 days. I knew, that if we would survive these two games, for instance a draw at Ajax and a win at ADO we would have had our tails up. But, every coach can look back like this. If if if…. But I can’t shake the feeling we could have won it.”

The last 8 games you started to rotate more and play 5-3-2 and you won almost all the games. Why didn’t you start like this?

“I did! Against Zwolle I played with Vormer and Goossens. I wanted more resistance for the others. But we lost three in a row and I needed my strongest team to pick up points. Once we did, I wanted to let that line up settle for a while.”

You wanted competition in the squad?

“It’s all about taking responsibility. Players need to be 100% committed to their job. I’ll give you example. I asked goalie Mulder at a certain point “Twente is our next target, how many points do we need to take them?”. And Mulder, and most of the players, didn’t know! They didn’t know… How is it possible that you don’t know this? So I had to discuss this with them and make them aware.”

kooeman wembley

Guus Hiddink will be the new team manager of Oranje, but many polls said that the Dutch people wanted you.

“Yeah, but the one guy who decides didn’t think so… Ideal for me. Staying in Holland, working with the best players, visiting and watching football all over Europe. But I’m done with it. The KNVB called me last year to ask if I was able to do it. Now they take Hiddink and needed an assistant who would take over from Hiddink. And I was willing to do this. Why not? I have no ego in this, I would love to have done the field coaching and Guus can do the press, hahaha. But they never called and Guus, whom I consider to be a good friend, never ever called me either. Which is something I will check with him. A simple call and a cup coffee would have made all the difference.”

Oranje has dropped significantly, to the 15th spot on the FIFA ranking. Disturbing?

“Oh yes, the signals are there. There is always generations and quality differences in those… I don’t see the quality of Robben, Sneijder, Van Persie, Van der Vaart, with all do respect. And our development is focused on technical and tactical while in England, Spain and Italy is the focus more on mental strength and physical strength. I saw Oranje Under 21 last summer against Italy Under 21 and it was boys vs men…. I personally believe that young talent can only develop well in the bigger competitions. I am sorry to say so, as it would mean the big talents will leave Holland but our development is too limited. They have to play against better opponents.”

You have a number of great talents in your squad. Which one of these do you see becoming important for Oranje?

“Hmmm…it is always hard to say. I think all the players we have, have demonstrated to be of great value as club players in Holland. Period. That is what we know for sure. Whether they can make the step up remains to be seen. One never knows. I played with tremendous young players in my time who never made it. And others who did make it big were not always the ones who excelled in the youth system. I believe someone like Jan Wouters never even played for rep teams in his youth! Or Jaap Stam! Like I said, they all have the basic skills. The foundation is there. The technical skill of some of these guys is phenomenal, but they need a balance in all their skills. So, mentality, tactical smarts, coaching, reading the game, etc. I think Clasie, Boetius, Vilhena, De Vrij, Martins Indi and Kongolo have all this and will need to further develop, week in week out. Clasie needs to be able to read the game better and become more dominant. He will need some of Sneijder’s venom. De Vrij and Martins Indi need to become tougher and shrewder. Meaner, maybe even! Boetius is still young and somewhat naive. But he will probably keep on developing. Vilhena can be a bit unchoachable at times…. I think Janmaat has shown over the years to be ready for a next step. He is very consistent. But, to take the right step is very important. Club culture, what coach will you work with….what is the vision of the club, what players do they have… Etc.”

But all in all, this World Cup, Oranje won’t be highly successful in your view?

I didn’t say that. I think we have potential. We don’t have to lose against Spain. And we need to be smart in the group. Draw against Spain is a good result, for instance, but we’ll be dependent on what Spain does vs Chile. Or Australia for that matter. It will be a bit of a lottery, sadly. I think Van Gaal is smart enough to have the lads peak at the right moment but I do think he needs to fix the Strootman absence. That is not just a matter of putting another name on the team sheet. I think Sneijder’s lack of fitness and Strootman’s absence calls for another, more conservative, approach. Once we survive the group, anything is possible. At the end of the day, two teams reach the finals and a lucky draw can mean that some of the big contenders get beaten by other nations… We’ll see. I won’t place a lot of money on Holland, though, hahahaha.”

Do you miss the ex-players in the KNVB development programs?

“These guys all work in at their former clubs. The KNVB has teachers on the payroll, not coaches or ex players.”

So, what is the next step for you?

“I am intrigued to take on a higher level. I would love to work in the Premier League, for instance, but I won’t be rigid about this. I’ll entertain the options. We have some requests here and there and we’ll start talking after the competition is over.”

ronald koeman en guus hiddink

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Some good, some bad… Hup Holland Hup!!

Interesting times. A wise man taught me, that if one door closes, another door opens up. Sometimes more than one….

And I have seen this happening many times. We can see how Kevin Strootman’s injury is one of those doors closing for us. And we can all moan and whine and feel a victim. But this picture will make most people happy.


And why not? It gives a new dynamic to the whole team and the whole debate. Louis van Gaal said Strootman was one of the three players certain to go to Brazil and probably certain to start. Don’t get me wrong, I’d play Strootman as a starter too. But he is not Cruyff or Messi. And he would have had a long season in the Serie A. And it is not like sans Stroot we are rubbish.

If we are rubbish, we would be with Forza Kevin as well.

The dynamics will change. And maybe LVG will be forced to rethink a couple of things.

The San Marco analogy of 1988 ( Marco not fit, started on bench, won us the trophy) might well work for players like Van Ginkel and Huntelaar. Or Van der Vaart and Sneijder. Who knows? Sometimes, having played 55+ games and won a lot of trophies with club doesn’t mean one can repeat this in the Summer with the national team. Look at Messi’s performance in 2010, for instance….

There are many scenarios here. LVG might decide to go 4-4-2. He will probably never announce it but it will clearly look 4-4-2 when executed. This will happen if KJ Huntelaar keeps on impressing.

Klaas Jan and Robin on top. Robben, De Jong, Van Ginkel and a fourth midfielder (Blind??? Klaassen??? Lens?? Wijnaldum??) in midfield.

And some guys at the back.

Strootman’s absence might have impact on this as well. If Stroot – who is a physical powerhouse – gets replaced by a lesser iron man (Clasie? Wijnaldum? Klaassen?) we might see Sneijder bypassed in order to restore balance.

Don’t forget: most successful midfields these days ( Liverpool, Bayern, Arsenal, Real, Juve, PSG) consist of players who can run AND tackle AND pass AND score. Whereas Holland seems to think in terms of “we need one guy to tackle, one to run and one to make the play”.

Marco van Ginkel is back. The Chelsea midfielder is officially not longer injured. He is part of the Under21 Chelsea squad and will most likely get some benchwarming time and maybe even minutes in the first team in the coming weeks. He is keen. “I have worked very hard and Chelsea has worked hard with me on a daily basis. I literally was the first player in and the last one out every day. It was tough but good.” Asked if he dreams of the World Cup. “Everybody dreams of the World Cup, so why not me. But I have to be realistic. I need to start making some minutes on the pitch for Chelsea first.”

Robin van Persie was in a bit of a pickle. The Rotterdam born striker is known to be a bit disappointed with the Moyes approach at ManU and somehow the magic seems to be gone. No real chance on reaching CL football via the EPL anymore and if it hadn’t been for RVP’s hattrick, the CL of this season was history too. Robin did take a knock in yesterday’s game but it doesn’t seem to interfere with his WC chances. But what will he do, coming summer? He is 32 years old next season. And Like Sneijder and Robben, Robin wants to win the Champions League. He might do so with Man United this summer, but if not, he will surely not win it next year. He has a clause allowing him to leave, but where to? Real Madrid? Bayern Munich? And if he indeed is considering a move like this, will we see a repeat of the performance he gave off pitch in 2012? When he refused to speak to the media? As they might have asked about his future at Arsenal? Today, Robin is the team skipper and Van Gaal will not allow his captain not to talk to the media….


But as Robin’s career is on its way to autumn, his successor might have been discovered already. Ricardo Kishna of Ajax is toted the new Van Persie by many. His length, his winger-style (Robin started as a left winger at Feyenoord) and certainly his arrogance and cockiness (RVP was not as PC as he has become under Wenger and Sir Alex).

Kishna impressed in his first Classic against Feyenoord when he tricked Martins Indi and Janmaat as if they didn’t existed and was key in Ajax victory. Daryl Janmaat was spouting venom at the Ajax talent after the game. “That kid Kishna…what’s wrong with him. This is his second game at Ajax 1 and he is moving around with little gestures and things as if he’s C Ronaldo?? Who does he think he is? When we got onto the pitch for the second half, he strolled lazily onto the field. He is a weirdo.”

Kishna laughed the matter away in his recent interview with VI. “I was happy with my game against Feyenoord. I did hear from my mates that Janmaat said something negative about me, hahaha. I had to laugh about it. It probably means I played well and he couldn’t get a grip on me.” The 19 year old is seen as a super talent. Everyone can see that. But most people – incl Frank and Ronald de Boer – are somewhat concerned about his attitude. Some call it bravado or flair. Some call it arrogance and provoking. “I enjoyed the Feyenoord game. That entourage, the atmosphere is just brilliant. I don’t value what Janmaat said. I am not an annoying guy. I don’t do silly things. I focus on my game. I would never make a foul on purpose or anything.” Fons Groenendijk, Kishna’s coach at Ajax 2: “Kishna has something special. Something ungraspable. He has what you only see very rarely. That pure and utter class… And most of it, he is born with. It’s talent. His ball touch, his speed and in particular his first touch. Exceptional. And we can all claim we taught him, as coach, but it’s nonsense. This is natural. A gift.” But he didn’t get it all for free. The ADO Den Haag developed talent couldn’t play for two years ( between 16 and 18 years) as he had marrowbone issues and he had two heavy knee injuries. When Kishna went from the Ajax youth to Ajax 2 he was disappointed. He wanted to move straight into Ajax 1. His coach, Groenendijk, taught him to earn that. “I needed to remind him that the only way Frank de Boer would pick him, if when he would show that he was eager. By working harder than anyone.”

And last week, in his first interview with VI, he was able to tell the world what his ambition is. “I want to become the best player in the world. I have big dreams and no one will stop me.”

We are doing well in the young talent department. To have players like Blind, Clasie, De Vrij, Martins Indi, Veltman, Klaassen, Boetius, Promes in the national squad is already quite something. But the European Top is also around the corner for Vilhena and Kongolo. Terence Kongolo’s little brother Rodney already made the step to Man City. The two youngsters + JP Boetius, all three under management with Stellar Group, are said to be on the radar at several European top teams. This summer, according to rumour, the Feyenoor trio might already make their move.

Fey 3

Feyenoord is not waiting for all their talent to run off and they are about to sign the “American Messi”, the 15 year old Wan Kuzain, who was on trial in Rotterdam earlier.

From the American Messi to the Dutch Messi. Rafael van der Vaart. Impressive in the qualifications games of Oranje, but now too slow, too fat and too injured?

“It drives me mad at times. People ask you wherever they can, and the kids sometimes don’t get it either. In my car, these media people sometimes chase me as if I’m Princes Diana. I ask them friendly to leave me be, but what I can do?”

Van der Vaart had always time for fans and media (and our blog) but when it doesn’t well or when a player is injured, it sometimes is hard to please all. “Its part of the game, but sometimes it goes too far. And when the results are like this, fans and supporters can become hard to deal with. We were yelled at, cursed at, threatened… As skipper, I have to interact wit them but you can’t win. I remember seeing Marco van Basten…. One of the greatest ever. He is an Ajax legend, but the Ajax supporters really made his life miserable. He quit. That was sad for him and I can only sympathise. No one wants to perform badly.”

And then people ask him whether he made a mistake to return to HSV? “Well it crosses your mind, yes. But what can I do? I am here now. We will need to fight our way out of this. Even when big name icons start to criticise you, you can only respond with your feet, on the pitch. And listen: we did play horrible! We started well under Bert but something went awry.”

Van der Vaart needs to have the ball a lot, in order for a team to get some result from him. In recent games, Van der Vaart was making sliding tackles. It didn’t look good. “I know… but I needed to help the team. But I also realise, once I have to be the one making block tackles, something is going wrong. We didn’t see the ball and then we concede a goal and the whole thing falls apart….”

And all this with the World Cup only months away. “Well, yes…it crosses your mind. But I think the coach knows what I can and cannot do. I think I was important for Oranje, even recently. And if I make sure I regain fitness and form, I will have a chance. There are never guarantees. You have to show it yourself.” Van der Vaart had serious difficulties with being a benchwarmer at the Euro2012. Will the current World Cup need potentially be a repeat of that?

“Eh no. I never said I didn’t accept a role on the bench. My problem was more that Bert had picked his team before the Euros no matter what I or others did. There simply was no room to play yourself into the team. My beef with Bert was that he promised everyone would get a chance and that didn’t happen. With Mr Van Gaal, I think and I know it is different. He will say what he does and he will do what he says.”

Was it hard to play under Van Marwijk again, at HSV? “Not at all. We are close, actually. Bert is a very very good coach and an honest and good man. But he picked a strategy for the Euros and it failed. Once we were at the point where we needed to change it, it was too late. We were all – incl myself – on the wrong track. Tactically in particular. We were not longer a team. Then it doesn’t matter how much skill you have. It simply fell apart.”

raf hsv

Van der Vaart was the model the KNVB used to show the new WC-jersey. Interesting choice, a player who isn’t certain of a starting berth at his club. “Ah well, I really think I will make the WC squad. That is my ultimate goal. Playing for Oranje is the highest honour and a joy. And I think we can surprise in Brazil. We have a young but super eager and talented team. And we all want the same thing. I think something could evolve, you know?”

Your 6th tournament, potentially. Where will it end? “Well, I still have one more big jump in me. I am not ready yet. And then I might just play a couple of years Jupiler League. I don’t play for fame or fortune. I play because I love the game. I might play in the amateurs with my dad in the same team… That would be cool!”

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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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