Willem van Hanegem: “In all honesty. I am not a big Kuyt fan. I find him too artificially positive in his interviews. He seems to build an image of ideal son in law. The people’s player. His football style is also not mine… But man oh man, what was he good and what was he important again for Oranje. I tip my hat.”
Johan Cruyff: “This Dutch team does not play Total Football. They have forsaken the way we developed football and how internationally we got to be revered. But something has come in the place of that creativity and dominance. And by golly, it works. It is direct and effective and it is built on passion and team spirit. Robben might be the star, Sneijder might be the tragic hero who has sacrificed himself…but the symbol of this team is Dirk Kuyt.”
And I could easily add Tiju to this list of quotable people but in all honesty, to list Tiju with De Kromme and JC would be a bit much, even for me…
But even Tiju finally sees the light. Dirk Kuyt is a phenomenon.
I said it here a couple of times already in the past. Every good generation of talent will be accompanied by one or two players that were totally ignored by the talent scouts in the youth system. Typical examples are Jaap Stam (made it to PSV when he was 23 years old and finally got the eye of the expert) and Jerryl Hasselbaink. Dirk Kuyt is also a player who took a long time to find a club in pro football (FC Utrecht) to give him a chance. He was signed as a pinch hitter, as he was not really productive as a striker for amateur club Quick Boys. When he went to play for Utrecht, the people who knew him said “he’ll never make it there…just not talented enough”. He did well for Utrecht and caught the eye of Feyenoord after beating the Rotterdam club in the Cup Final and scoring. When he made the step to Feyenoord for 1 mio euros, people said “he’ll never make it there, he is simply not good enough”. With Salo Kalou as his striking partner, he became a fan favorite quickly and he became top scorer for Feyenoord in 2005 with 29 goals. A career high. When Liverpool came, a season later, Kuyt made the jump for an undisclosed fee. The experts: “He’ll never make it at Liverpool, he’s not good enough.” As a striker, he actually didn’t make it. He lacked the speed and the touch in the confined spaces but his coach Benitez loved his work ethics and drive and decided to use him outwide in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
He would receive cult hero status in Liverpool as well, partly due to his work ethics partly due to his relationship and respect for the fans. He’d be at Anfield for 5 years and when it was time for Dirk to move on, Feyenoord allegedly wanted him back, initially, but later reneged on their offer as “Kuyt was getting on in age and was maybe not as good anymore”. Dirk felt snubbed and signed for Fenerbahce in Turkey, where he would play practically all games and win the Turkish title.
Overall Nice Guy: talking with little girl before the Mexico game
Dirk was selected for Oranje by Marco van Basten when he took over in September 2004 from Advocaat. He played his first Oranje game vs Liechtenstein, which was San Marco’s first game as coach. Van Basten dropped Kluivert and Makaay and decided to bring fresh blood into the team. He played 11 of the 12 qualification games for the WC2006 but lost his spot to Robin van Persie at the World Cup. He did play as a sub in the first game and was given the nod in the knock out game against Portugal over Van Nistelrooy, as the latter had clashed with coach Van Basten. Kuyt played an unlucky game in the striker role, missing a major chance to equalise in a game that became infamous for the number of yellow and red cards.
Kuyt did play as a starter under Van Basten at the 2008 Euros assisting two goals and scoring one. Kuyt played wide on midfield with Rafa van der Vaart and Sneijder in 2008. Kuyt started in all games in 2010 under Van Marwijk at the World Cup scoring against Denmark and assisting against Brazil and Uruguay.
Kuyt lost his spot under Van Marwijk in the 2012 Euros, with Robben played wide right and Afellay preferred on the left of the pitch. Van Gaal took over and Kuyt was surprisingly made vice captain, although he hardly played any minutes in the qualification games. Despite his success in Turkey, many people wrote him off for the World Cup. Only Van Gaal seemed to be convinced he would need the battler in Brazil and as per usual, Van Gaal seems to be right.
Dirk’s wife Gertrude is a down-to-Earth person like her hubby and she famously kept on working as a nurse while Kuyt had his run of fame and fortune. They founded the Dirk Kuyt foundation and are actively involved in supporting disadvantaged children in the developing countries.
Dirk with wife Gertrude (and kids)
Dirk has always been an underrated player, as my earlier comments attest. He is always seen as “the hard worker”. But Kuyt is more. He is a believer. He knows that with the right attitude you can perform magic. Not the magic of Robben or Van Persie. But Kuyt magic. Making things happen. Impacting the flow of the game. As Rene van der Gijp said recently: after the victory over Mexico and Oranje was back in Rio, Dirk grabbed a sponge and started to wash the players’ bus. That is Kuyt. Never complaining. If Van Gaal would say to Lens, Huntelaar or Van Persie “I want you to play right back!” they would probably repond with “Me? Why not him!”… Dirk says “Sure. Tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” He is very smart tactically. His positioning is pretty good. His match technique is pretty good too. He might not be able to do the Edgar Davids / Memphis Depay style trickery, or the flowing dribbles like Robben or sensational first time volleys like Van Persie, but his touch is solid. And his pass and move game above average. He can tackle, shoot, head a ball… He can do it all relatively well. And he will never let you down. So here is a guy who can play left back, left midfield, striker and right back all in the same 90 minutes.
Dirk with Mr BossMan
He earned his 100rd cap against Mexico and it meant a lot for him. Because it was exactly seven years ago on the day when his dad and biggest mate and fan died and Dirk became the 7th Dutch player to reach this milestone (behind Frank de Boer, Cocu, Van der Sar, Van der Vaart, Sneijder and Gio van Bronckhorst). He does have a record however. Because players like Sneijder and Van der Vaart reached the Oranje squad quite predictably before their 20st birthday. Dirk Kuyt was already 24 years old in 2004 when Van Basten invited him to the squad. He made his debut with Romano Dennenboom and Dave van den Bergh. Who?? So he received the 100 caps within ten years and played for Oranje on 5 major tournaments. And right before the Mexico match he summed it up: “I always had to convince others of my qualities. But I never had to convince myself….”. Kuyt was again the motor of the team. During the last drink break he clenched his fist. Holland was 1-0 down and he screamed “Come on! We can still turn this around!!”. And they did.
Dirk with kids
Lots of people would love to know his secret. How can a 34 year old be so fit and strong. Well, most of it is simply genes. Kuyt is born in a family of fishermen. Generation after generation. A tough job for sure. And before he left for Utrecht, Dirkie was also working on the trawlers. But he also deployed a team of medical experts around him. Not unlike Ron Vlaar by the way. When Dirk joined Utrecht, he had a bit of a beergut, believe it or not. He met Leo Echteld at Utrecht, who also worked with Seedorf, Davids and Kluivert. Echteld would remain Dirk’s physio. He also met magnetist Henk de Gier at Feyenoord, who is specialised in stress management. And we mean literally, taking tension out of the body and muscles. De Gier assists top athletes and artists and was key in Dirk’s processing of his dad’s death in 2007. “I call him always, wherever I am, before a match. Just checking in. It works for me,” says Kuyt. Thirdly, Dirk works with haptonome Peter van den Beld, who works with Kuyt’s body and lastly there is Hammerman Jan Jan. This orthomanual therapist works in Rotterdam and Dirk sees him three times a year for a check up. “He uses a hammer, hence the name, and he does a check up to verify if all is still balanced in the body, and capable of pulling the weight. I’ve learned that all is connected. I get a lot of knocks and when you walk differently because your ankle hurts, you can easily disrupt a thigh muscle in your other leg…” Being experienced helps too. He played the most minutes for Fener this season and was the first player from outside of Holland to join the squad. “I learned that by making mistakes. Back in 2006, I just played the Champions League finals with Liverpool and decided to take a break before coming to the squad sessions. The result was: Robin van Persie was fitter than me and Van Basten picked him over me, while I had played all qualification games. That was a big learning experience for me. I need to always be busy and active.”
Dirk with girlfriend