The 28 year old is born in Joure, Friesland. Pronounced “Jower”, so his nickname is: The Tower of Joure. Yes!
I had prepped Road to Qatar posts for Flekken and Cillesen, considering these two would make the cut. But they didn’t.
This tall, lanky, somewhat lacklustre goalie who played only 51 Eredivisie games for Go Ahead Eagles and SC Heerenveen and never one single match in a rep team for Oranje ended up surpassing the two experienced goalies and made it to Oranje #1.
What a story. If Noppert learned one thing, it is that nothing is impossible.
It’s 2020, and dad Noppert asks his son to come round for a chat. His deal at 2nd tier club FC Dordrecht is coming to an end. Due to injuries, the tall goalie didn’t make an impression. Andries’ dad Fokko suggested that his son probably should start thinking about another career. Police officer maybe? But Andries didn’t want to hear it. He invested in another rehabilitiation session and with his resilience, his patience and a bit of luck, he ended up becoming the most amazing keeper story in the history of Dutch goalkeeping. Because today, Van Gaal decided that Noppert is the best goalkeeper of the Nation.
And Noppert goes from surprise to surprise. He’s now in a hotel room in Qatar so big he needs directions to find the toilet (his words) and had to call reception to find out how he could close the drapes at night. Oh, we do this via a remote control, electronically, Mr Noppert. They don’t have those hotels in Heerenveen, it seems.
In Joure, Noppert started to play football as a outfield player. “He was a rough player, like a tank. So much energy. He would simply go for the ball, no matter what.” This mentality meant that the youth coaches felt he would be great as a keeper. “He was tall already and fearless,” says his dad, who is also 2 meters tall.
When he is 10 years old, SC Heerenveen comes along and the youth coaches saw something interesting. “He was the only kid who wasn’t impressed to be here, or who wasn’t nervours. He came across as a sponge, was keen to learn about everything.”
“He also was active as a gymnast and despite his lengthy frame, he was very agile and lightfooted. Usually, tall guys can have coordination issues, but not Andries. He was very good with his footwork and movement.”
When keepers trainer Van der Sleen moves to Breda to work at NAC, Noppert wants to go too. Heerenveen offers the youngster a contract but Noppert is keen on an adventure with his coach. The goalie would not make a mark in Breda and NAC gets relegated.
In the 2nd tier, Noppert doesn’t make a name for himself as a goalie, but as a practical joker. One of his fave tricks was to park cars of team mates on very tough spots in the surrounding nature. “There was this hill, it was not easy to get your car on there, or off, and we would take someone’s keys and take his car and park it up there. If they came back from the physio or whatever, we would say “hey mate, isn’t that your car up there? How did it get there? Hahahaha”.
More typical football dressing room humor ensues. The worst one: not flushing the toilets. The coach would be driven to madness and Noppert and his mates would be having more than a casual laugh.
It’s 2017 and Italian side Foggia is looking for another goalie. Somehow, Noppert is their man. He’s 23 years old wen he moves to the South of Italy. Breda wasn’t good to him, but Italy was worse. Different coaches, no playing time, a lot of criticism and threats from fans and dealing with the local mafia. At one point, his car was stolen and offered back to him to buy. His dad: “Andries doesn’t speak Italian and didn’t speak English too well and then you end up there. Madness, things happened there you would never see in The Netherlands. But, I think it made him stronger.”
Noppert returns to Holland after two seasons. His girlfriend Sarena is grateful. Life in Foggia wasn’t too good for her. The 24 year old can sign a deal with FC Dordrecht. Coach Claudio Braga offers him a starting berth and he plays a very strong game against NEC, the first match of the season. At training, the goalie gets a heavy knee injury. Another major set back. Due to Covid, Noppert can’t travel to his physio and builds a home gym to deal with his recovery. But his Dordrecht contract expires and the tower is going to have another tough conversation with his dad and wife, who try to convince him to stop dreaming. Noppert refuses to give up.
It would take six months since his recovery for another club to contact him. Go Ahead Eagles just lost two goalies due to injuries and need a back up. Warner Hahn is also brought in and the tall Frysian loses out against the former Feyenoord talent. His Go Ahead coach Van Wonderen: “Lets just say that Andries didn’t make it hard for me to pick Hahn.”
Van Wonderen: “He made mistakes, but he also had the most miraculous saves! I noticed he was at peace with being second keeper. He lacked sharpness and hunger. I made him aware. I triggered him. And when Hahn was going through a bad spell, I gave Andries his chance. He took it.”
He had an impressive half season and now suddenly clubs were queueing up for him. FC Utrecht, Heracles, Cambuur, they all wanted him now, but Andries’ heart went out to his first love, SC Heerenveen.
He wanted to be closer to his family, now Noppert and wife have a child, and he is finally able to play football in front of his old mates, who usually go and watch Heerenveen play.
At Go Ahead Eagles, the fans started to chant “Noppert in Oranje!!” and it was seen as a silly joke. No one knew that only a year later the injury-prone towering goalie would actually be on Van Gaal’s radar.
When he got the first invite for Oranje, he received a phone call from his old youth coach. In typical Noppert style, he told his old coach: “Can you believe it? They all fell for it!”