Tag: Michels

Feyenoord 1970, the start of the Golden Oranje Era

Thanks for the link, JB!

As a Feyenoord man, I love this piece.

In the late 1960s, Feyenoord was considered to be one of the strongest and richest clubs in Europe. The Feyenoord Kuip Stadium was (and soon will be again) the most impressive venue in Europe and under master coach Ernst Happel, Feyenoord was the first Dutch club to win significant silverware with top notch players like Ove Kindvall, Wim Jansen, Coen Moulijn, Rinus Israel and Willem van Hanegem.

Here is the article by  of The Hard Tackle (.com).

When one talks of Dutch football in the early 70′s, many people unleash a sonnet, announcing the perfection and innovation and dominance of Ajax, Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff. Most people would dismiss of it as an ‘April Fool’s Day joke’ , when they are told that the first Dutch team to win the European Cup is surprisingly, not Ajax – which is a very common and very wide misconception. It was actually the club Ajax would’ve liked least to have taken this honour, their fiercest rivals in an enmity that runs deep into both clubs’ history and has taken root in the very identity of both cities: Feyenoord Rotterdam.

With the win juxtaposed between Ajax’s loss to Milan and Ajax’s win over Panathinaikos, this Feyenoord team has hardly ever been given its due credit for the 1970 triumph, en route to which, they emerged victorious against the team that had brushed Ajax aside the previous year – Milan and in the finals, a Celtic team that had 7 of the ‘Lisbon Lions’.


Ove Kindvall just scored the winner in the EC1 finals…

If Ajax had their talisman and stand-out player in Johan Cruyff, Feyenoord had theirs in the mercurial Wim van Hanegem; many Feyenoord fans would still contest and argue for hours on end that van Hanegem was a better player than Cruyff! Considered one of the best passers that the game has seen, van Hanegem was a central midfielder, with nowhere near as much flashiness or speed that Cruyff had, but if anything in footballing context could be perceived as being mellifluous, it would’ve been van Hanegem’s ability to control the tempo of the game, as if he held a metaphorical metronome. When a youth footballer at Velox SC (a club which was merged into FC Utrecht in 1970), Wim was described as being ‘too fat, too slow’ and it did show a bit, with the Breskens-born midfielder always carrying himself in a bent posture and having a penchant for passes that seemed like they were overplayed for his teammate but would curve or ‘bend’ into them, making a mockery out of the defender. While a young Ajax team were starting to announce themselves on the European stage with the fog match in 1966, van Hanegem was progressing at new club Xerxes and interestingly, caught the eye of the Ajax chairman at the time, van Praag who recommended the young midfielder to Michels. The manager dismissed van Hanegem, calling him one-dimensional and too old-fashioned a player. Michels would go on to eat his words, and would later mould his Netherlands team around the seemingly one-dimensional midfielder, even though he was 30 at the time. Meanwhile, van Hanegem did not leave the Persian-named club for the Greek-named one and Feyenoord pounced on him.

Adding to the trivia, it was also actually a Rinus (with a very Jewish surname) who played a crucial role in handing Feyenoord European glory, – Rinus Israel. Forming a solid partnership with Theo Laseroms, IJzeren Rinus (Iron Rinus) was sweeper and captain and was described by one of his opponents as being ‘the most intimidating, imposing presence you had ever felt in defence.’ At leftback was Theo van Duivenbode, a former Ajax player who had been forced to their arch rivals as Michels had persisted with the much younger Ruud Krol.


Coentje with the Cup

And up on the left wing, was Coen Moulijn – Feyenoord’s answer to both Ajax’s Piet Keizer and Sjaak Swart. Moulijn was Mr Feyenoord, a boy who had grown up kicking balls against a factory wall in the streets of Rotterdam, a boy whose playing style as a man embodied the spirit of Rotterdam and its manual and experential spirit, especially post-World War II. In Feyenoord’s 2-1 win over the indomitable Real Madrid side of the 60′s, Moulijn was the game-changer and the Madrid defence had to resort to tackling him from behind as the only means to stop the left winger from blazing down his flank, putting in crosses with accuracy like an experienced hunstman, wielding his archery equipment and splitting his own arrows on the bull’s eye. When he passed on in 2011, Feyenoord’s all-time top scorer, Cor van der Gijp described him as Overmars and Van t’ Schip put together, or more relatably, ‘..like Robben and Beckham in one body.’

But the man who put it all together, was the man that is remembered now as one of the best coaches of all-time, Austrian Ernst Happel. His team typified him as a person and a former player, strong-willed, physical, big but technically adept. In the final, Celtic went with a 4-2-4 and Happel implemented his 4-3-3. Having always believed that, ‘the games always unfolds from the midfield’, Happel’s 3-man linchpin of Jansen, fellow Austrian Hasil and van Hanegem proved to be the key element in overcoming a much more experienced Celtic side. The 3v2 situation in midfield while Feyenoord defended meant that Jansen could always clean up and retrieve the loose ball, having been relieved of man-marking duties. Moreover, Moulijn would drop back to cover the space between Celtic fullback David Hay and arguably their most influential player, Jimmy Johnstone, such that the balls played to the right winger would be intercepted to distributed to van Hanegem who would look up to try and find Swede Kindvall, who would eventually score the winner for Feyenoord in extra time, after a long ball from Israel was fumbled by Celtic’s greatest ever captain Billy ‘Cesar’ McNeill (on watching replays, he seemed to have handled the ball) and it rebounded right onto Kindvall’s face, but the Swede held his composure and quickly lifted it over the advancing keeper, making it 2-1 to Feyenoord.


Feyenoord would go on to lift both the Eredivisie and the Intercontinental Cup the next season, but were the victims of a shock elimination in the first round of the European Cup, which saw Ajax ensure that the Cup would remain in the waterlogged, low-lying Netherlands. Most of the Feyenoord players from the European champion team of 1970 spent almost the entirety of their careers in the Netherlands and were unlucky to be playing in the same era as perhaps arguably, the greatest club side of the 20th century. Cruyff walked away with the Best Player award in 1974, but he would have not been as good as he was without van Hanegem – even when pushing 31 – was providing him with world-class service, without Jansen winning the ball back in tight positions to be distributed to the likes of Cruyff and Rep. And perhaps, that offers the Feyenoord paradox of the 70′s – they were very good, but Ajax simply had more poetic fluidity, begging to be written about in them, as well as the tactical intuition to revolutionise the sport, like never before. Since 1964-65 til 1973-74, Feyenoord won the Eredivisie 4 times, and finished only 2 points behind Ajax at their very peak in 1972-73.


The inevitability of legacy means that when asked about Dutch football in the 70′s, people will still hold on to the cynosural holy trinity of Ajax, Michels and Cruyff as well as the concept of Total Football. But hopefully, from now, the name of Feyenoord will float upstream from the river of Lethe, and it will peek into the minds of a few – just a small, shy glance, reminding them that they were indeed the Dutch team that set the ball rolling, claiming the highest honour in European football in fashion worth admiration, in fashion worth remembering.


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Johan Cruyff and Oranje

A question that always intrigues in pubs or on the beach or when watching a game of football. “Who was/is the greatest?”. It depends on your criteria I suppose, but most people would agree that if one takes into a account the impact a player had on the tactical side of the game, both during and after his active career, none other than JC will top the list.

Messi might have more tricks and speed, Pele might have won more trophies and Maradona had the bravado, maestro Cruyff had it all: speed, trickery, goals, trophies, leadership, and above all: brains.

He understands the game like no one else. “Football is a simple game, but it is very difficult to play it simple”. His total football style, developed with Rinus Michels and perfect by JC as a coach was adopted as Ajax’ housestyle and further developed by the likes of Co Adriaanse and Louis van Gaal.

Cruyff and Van Gaal have further incluenced many great clubs, such as Barcelona, Feyenoord. Bayern Munich and many great coaches such as Rijkaard, Guardiola, Brendan Rogers, Mourinho and Michael Laudrup.

Asked about the impact of football, Cruyff is adamant: “Football is an international language. You can put a guy from Senegal, the US, Russia, Finland, New Zealand, Holland and Brazil together in a room and bring up music, or science or politics and they will have difficulty getting somewhere. They need communications to determine their roles or their aims. Give them two goals, a field and a ball and they can play football together without speaking.” He believes football is the great equaliser. “In athletics, if you can spring very fast, you can be the hero. If you can’t, you basically are out. In basketball, being tall really helps. Being small will make it very hard. In football, you can always get better. You can always have a role. And if you are not that good at it, you can become a goalie….” Or a referee, if you really suck.

jc franz

In terms of tactics, Cruyff has always been radically simple. “In order to score goals you need the ball. So, it’s key to have players who can repossess the ball. To score a goal, it helps if you are close to the box of the opponent. So if you put pressure on their defence as soon as possible, you can repossess the ball and immediately be dangerous. This also means the forwards will do the first defending. They always complain at first. Until they realise everyone needs to work less hard due to this pressure game. Otherwise you keep on going from box to box. Absorbing pressure, sitting deep until you have the ball and you need to bridge 50 meters or more.”

When Oranje played Spain in the WC finals 2010, JC gave his support to Spain. Because they played more JC-style football. “I never intended to say I supported Spain over Holland. It was not a nationalistic thing for me. People criticised me, but I don’t view football as a nationalistic issue. It’s a game. Two teams. The one who plays the style I like is the the team I support. Normally, it is Holland. But we did not play Total Football in South Africa and I understand totally why. Bert van Marwijk didn’t have the quality in his squad to do so. As a coach, you work with what you have. In particular with national teams.”

He goes on: “In baseball, players are mentioned by their role. He is a pitcher or catcher or third baseman. Here it is a bit more vague: a defender. A midfielder. But Beckham is totally different from Nigel de Jong. Both midfielders. People compare Messi with C Ronaldo. Stupid. They are very different. Both top class, but different.”

He sees the current Oranje as a good step back to the Total Football of the 1970s. “A lot of people complain about Oranje. But it is not easy for a small country to have top notch players for every tournament. You need to phase a generation out and phase a new one in. Our youngsters are quite talented. And we have some top notch older players. I like what Louis van Gaal does with the newbies in the team. But tactically, he is not capable of executing the game like he would want it. The problem with Oranje today is the build up. Look at Barca. The ball goes really quick from defence to midfield. Same with Bayern. This is where you want the ball to be. Not in your defence. Our midfielders come to the ball with their back to the opponent’s goal. That is hard for them. Opening up is a risk. So  there are some crucial things that need to be changed. A quicker build up pass, with good quality and better positioning by the midfield. This will allow the midfield to utlise the runs by the forwards and put pressure on the opponent. The problem against France was clear. After Strootman left the pitch, our midfield was outmuscled.”

And here is the big issue Oranje faces. We have big names in the front line, with Robben and Robin. We have one big name left in midfield (Nigel de Jong) although Wes and Raf still have the reputation. But we lack the big names in the back.

Cruyff remembers the 1974 prep for the World Cup. “We were shabby in the run up to the World Cup. Most people in Holland thought we best stay home. We missed top defenders, all central defenders, like Aad Mansveld, Epi Drost, Barry Hulshoff, Rinus Israel, Theo Laseroms… Michels was going mad and only two weeks before the start, he picked the team. Jongbloed came in as sweeper/goalie. Rijsbergen was a young rookie at Feyenoord, but tough as nails. And Arie Haan was put in the libero spot. The rest is history.”


In 1988, Rinus Michels had similar issues. Rijkaard played defensive midfielder for AC Milan – and good too – but was instructed to support the defence (and did this good too). The former Ajax man was / is the ultimate modern defender. Tough, tall, good header, great passer, cool-calm-collected and tactically astute. The Rijkaard “type” was born.

Today, we don’t seem to be able to find that type of player. Who can play central defender when needed and midfielder when in possession. And we tried to find him. Marco van Basten and Bert van Marwijk tried out different lads, from Evander Sno to Hedwiges Maduro to Orlando Engelaar. For different reasons, it didn’t work out. Strootman could have been a contender for the role but we won’t know for another 9 months.

Martins Indi has the potential, but is still to inconsistent. Terence Kolongo is a top talent but very inexperienced, while Kyle Ebecilio has promise too, but the ex Feyenoord / ex Arsenal man also has not a lot of big games under his belt.

As Cruyff said: the material you have will determine what you can do. There are many question marks still in the squad. How is Lens coping in Ukraine? Which talent on the wings will show longevity? How will Wes and Raf stay strong? And which central defenders are able to impress Van Gaal for a series of games?

Earlier on, I said that Vlaar is a solid defender for a team playing relegation football. A classic, English defender. Tall, strong, slow and robust. Looking at the current Oranje squad, maybe it is ok to have players used to relegation football.

Ajax Images Heritage collection.

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What happened to the Class of '88 ?

The Class of ’88 will always be personified by players like Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit. Rinus Michels made one big change after the first game ( 0-1 against the USSR) and kept his faith in his line up. A number of players in that squad were never used. Players like Wim Koevermans, Wilbert Suvrijn, Joop Hiele and Hendrie Kruzen, for instance.

Sjaak Troost, Feyenoord defender, looks back as we check what happened to the 1988 heroes.

Troost was the tall and quick defender in Johan Cruyff’s champion team of 1983 and a product of the Feyenoord youth development (like players like Mario Been, Stanley Brard and Joop Hiele).

Instead of listening to Gullit or Van Basten (again!!) we will listen to the story of a benchwarmer.

Sjaak Troost: “It was an amazing experience of course, but I wouldn’t say it was the high point of my career. I can’t really feel satisfaction as it was really tough not to play. I couldn’t have that ultimate joy, you know. When we did the canal boat ride I downed half a bottle of champagne so I suddenly did feel as if I scored that Van Basten goal in the finals, haha.”

troost toen

Sjaak in the 1988 jersey

In the months leading up to the tournament, Troost’s chances were good. The right full back had a super year in 1983/84 and made his debut for Oranje in 1987 against Belgium. Half a year later he played his third cap for Oranje on Wembley, against England. “That was my highpoint in Oranje. Playing on holy ground, against Gary Lineker. I played center back. Lineker did score the first goal, but I played a good game. And I remember thinking: this is the highest a player can go. I did play massive venues with Feyenoord, but Wembley…. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The entrance, those two pillars. We had butlers serving tea at half time. And that pitch… The Feyenoord groundsman would shoot you if you’d go on the grass in Rotterdam, but in Wembley it seemed as if the Royal Crown was hidden in it. It was like a carpet, truly. That evening, I played myself into the Oranje squad for the Euros. I walked off the pitch after the game and Michels gave me a pat on the back. That was the biggest compliment you could get, haha.”

Troost had a good relationship with Rinus Michels. “He would invite me at his house. Whenever I called him for a problem or a question, he would say, in that characteristic voice: “Well… I guess you will need to drop in then….”. He gave me jersey number 3. I thought I was a starter in Germany. Rijkaard had had a tough year, walking out of Ajax and moving to Zaragoza. He got number 17. But man, Rijkaard was a better player than me and he did wonderfully. What can I say?”

The 1988 starters are still very positive about the subs. The substitutes kept the starters sharp by training on the edge. But apart from that, there was no dissent. “It was a homogenous group, for sure. Including the material guy. It was just a good bunch. We were not the most skilled players, I think. We did not have players of the calibre of Koeman, Vanenburg or Gullit on the bench. There was a quality gap, other than today with all those youngsters. But I think we were the best players, because of our mentality. What was funny, was that the B-team beat the A-team most of the times at practice. But Michels would never change anything, other than that one time. And whenever the starters had played, they got to take it easy, but Michels would work the B-team like dogs. But still, there was never any complaint.”

“Adrie van Tiggelen was my roommate. A rival, for sure, but a good mate. I had one issue. I couldn’t sleep in the afternoon. Arnold Muhren and Frank Rijkaard, both great lads, could put their heads down for only ten minutes and sleep! Van Tiggelen slept whenever his feet touched the bed. Impressive. I already had my own business back then (Troost is publisher of magazine  Friends in Business) and I would grab the phone, sit on the toilet and call customers, haha. It worked perfectly, as the customers all said “But…aren’t you in trainings camp with Oranje??”. And I would say “Yes, but this is so important for me” and they all said yes, hahaha.”

sjaak nu

Sjaak now

Just before the finals against the USSR, the squad went to a Whitney Houston concert. Marco van Basten and I were smokers but you couldn’t in the hall. So we slipped out via some exit door before the gig and found a room backstage with fruit and ashtrays and what not. So we sat there and smoked, until the doors swung open and Whitney strolled in with her posse. The bodyguards looked savagely at us and sort of pushed us out, hahaha.”

Troost’s fourth international against Bulgaria in De Kuip before the tournament was also his last cap…. “Feyenoord allowed me to come back a bit later that summer, but I didn’t act differently. That is not something you have to try in Rotterdam, hahaha. I never really bothered too much with successes. Or failures for that matter. And I had my string of disappointments. I could write a book about that. Feyenoord had some difficult years after 1988. The football world was good to me. I enjoyed it, but I enjoy myself much more in business. I am probably more happy in that role than as a player. And more healthy too, both important things to me. I could go to Ajax after the Euro. I am sure I would have played more caps as an Ajax player. Ajax won the Europa Cup in 1991… But my Feyenoord feeling didn’t allow me to do it. I could earn twice as much, but I wouldn’t be happy. Everytime I sat as sub on the bench for Feyenoord, I read the squad selection sheet and it said “Sjaak Troost – Feyenoord”… That made me proud. I’m a Feyenoord lad. My Euro jersey is in the Feyenoord museum. That is me, I guess…”



From the back: left to right.

Monne de Wit runs a physiotherapy practice and a fitness center

Gerrit Steenhuizen, material man, died in 2010.

Nol de Ruiter, assistant coach, is still scout for FC Utrecht.

Rinus Michels died in 2005 in Belgium ( 77 years old)

Bert van Lingen, assistant coach, also assisted Dick Advocaat at Oranje, Belgium and Russia. He lives in France.

Guus de Haan, physio, is retired.

Ronald Koeman is currently coach of Feyenoord (third season).

John Bosman is currently assistant coach of Jong Ajax.

Wim Kieft is football analyst on TV for Sport1.

Wilber Suvrijn lives in France and used to be antique dealer and player manager. He is currently dedicating his time to managing his daughter, a huge tennis talent.

Joop Hiele resigned as Feyenoord’s keeper academy manager and focuses on his company in NLP.

Hans van Breukelen is in the Board of Directors of PSV and does motivational workshops, public talks and workshops.

Hendrie Kruzen was assistant coach at Heracles Almelo and moves this summer to Vitesse Arnhem with Peter Bosz

Frank Rijkaard is on a sabbatical after his exit in Saudi Arabia.

Sjaak Troost has a company in Sales Promotions.

Wim Koevermans is national team manager of India

Ruud Gullit coached Chelsea, Newcastle, Young Oranje, Feyenoord, LA Galaxy and Grozny and is currently tv analist.

Marco van Basten was national team manager and is now coach of Heerenveen

Adrie van Tiggelen is coach of amateur top class team RVVH.

Berry van Aerle is scout at PSV.

Jan Wouters is head coach of FC Utrecht

Aron WInter is ambassador of his hometown Lelystad and used to be head coach of Toronto FC

Arnold Muhren was youth coach at Ajax for a long spell and currently does football clinics and presentations.

John van ‘t Schip worked with Van Basten at Oranje and Ajax and coached FC Twente,  Melbourne Heart and Chicas Mexico. He is currently inbetween jobs.

Geral Vanenburg like Suvrijn manages his talented tennis daughter.

Erwin Koeman is head coach of RKC Waalwijk.

The star of the team, Marco van Basten: started the Euros as benchwarmer, after an underwhelming season in Milan (injuries). Marco became the top scorer of the tournament with 5 goals. These would end up being the only ones he’d score at a big tournament. He didn’t score in 1990 and he had a penalty opportunity against Denmark in 1992 which he missed. He did assist Bergkamp in scoring a beauty against Germany and Marco scored an onside goal which was ruled offside.

But, the former EDO, UVV and Elinkwijk amateur became the European Footballer of the Year thrice and once the World Footballer of the Year. He won the golden boot in Holland four times in a row and twice in the Serie A. He won three titles with Ajax, three National Cups and one European Cup II. He won the title in Italy three times and two European Cup Is. He also won the World Cup and the Super Cup. Due to injuries, Marco only played 58 internationals and scored 24 times.

voetballet_vanBasten_Troost_BW_1Football ballet between Van Basten and Troost, smoke partners…

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The 1990 World Cup Debacle revisited

The gap between skipper and coach….

In the interview with Gullit, he made some comments about the 1990 World Cup.

Some of you seem to be ignorant about the whole run up to that tournament. Here is a post I published some years ago on the topic.

So here goes, by popular demand… What happened at (or rather: before) the WC1990.

Well, it all started in 1988 of course. Van Basten & Co stunned the world. With Michels moving up from manager to federation official, former Feyenoord coach Thijs Libregts took the reigns. The ex-Excelsior and Feyenoord player had quite a reputation as a coach. Arrogant and authoritarian, he had a title to his name, but no one thought he actually won it… He was Feyenoord’s coach when Cruyff decided to avenge his departure at Ajax and JC (and Gullit, Houtman, Hoekstra and Jeliazkov) won Feyenoord the title. Libregts was a suave operator, wearing the right suits and hairdo. But he was also a bit crass, with careless slip of the tongues… Like “Gullit is lazy, that’s what you get with those blacks…”.

Gullit, Rijkaard and Van Basten were a force in these days. The Milan trio ruled. But so did one Ronald Koeman, Jan Wouters and Ajax captain John van ‘t Schip. And positivo Hans van Breukelen was a voice to be reckoned with as well. The big guns decided they didn’t want cold Libregts. They wanted to win the World Cup and they pleaded with the KNVB to replace the unpopular Thijs by a coach they respected. Someone like JC for instance.


Libregts as Cruyff’s coach at Feyenoord

At some point during qualifying for the WC1990 (which we intended to win) revolted. Gullit led the players to a vote of no confidence and Libregts was told to go. But who would have to lead Oranje to the title? The players got to vote.

KNVB honcho Rinus Michels chose the side of his players and a ballot was made. All players voted and the top three was: on number 3: Aad de Mos. The former Ajax and KV Mechelen coach is a tactical wizard and a kid from the street, who spoke the players’ language. Wim Kieft and Ronald Koeman (having had some negative experiences with Cruyff who made them leave Ajax) picked De Mos. Leo Beenhakker came in at number 2, with a tad more votes than Haagse Aadsje. Leo is well liked by most. He can work on players’ confidence and seemed ideal for a short stint. Although everyone remembered how Beenhakker failed to coach Oranje to a big tournament in the mid 1980s (Mexico WC 1986, with the dreaded late header by George Grun). JC topped the list, of course. The Milan and Ajax clan in particular (Witschge, Winter, Schip, Van Basten, Gullit, Rijkaard (despite Frank’s falling out with JC at Ajax). And JC was game.

But Rinus Michels showed his true colors. He looked at the list and thought…hmmm…Johan…Can’t have him winning the WC and putting my EC trophy in the shadows… And Rinus vetoed JC’s appointment, giving the job to his mate Don Leo in the meantime.

Can’t remember what Rinus said to justify this, but it was along the lines of “Leo is more experienced, Johan is an inexperienced coach. He never did the course. And Johan will cause problems with the KNVB, because Johan is expensive and he wants to pick his own staff. It’s not good to pick Johan.”

Later, off the record, he even called Johan Cruyff a psychopath…

The players were livid. The one-time schmooch-fest between Gullit and Michels was over. And before that WC1990 had started,  a true trench-guerilla war began. Michels wrote columns in the Telegraaf (Amsterdam-based newspaper) and he leaked inside stuff to the press. Gullit wrote columns in the AD, the Rotterdam based rival of Michel’s on-the-side employer. A war began, resulting in the KNVB forbidding players to write columns.

So, the scene was set. Beenhakker – the fool – accepted the job and should have known he couldn’t win. And then, as they have done many many many times before, the KNVB in all their wisdom came up with their tournament preparation scheme… How they fucked up, again! In 1994 they would highly, dramatically underestimate the weather in the US for the WC (Gullit was adamant that the summer would be too much for a normal prep and – influenced by the Milan scientists – begged for a special approach… When people told him he should stick to kicking footballs, the dreadlocked one decided to withdraw from the Dutch team… We all know the result of that group phase…).

breuk pissig

A scene from the game vs Germany. Van Breukelen going apeshit on Voller. Both Voller and Rijkaard would be red-carded


Anyway, the KNVB decided to book a monastery type castle in the middle of nowhere in Yugoslavia…

These top players, who had tough seasons with their clubs, were looking forward to fun and chilling out. To clear the heads for this WC. Some beach volley ball, a nice town nearby for the wives and girlfriends, maybe a golf-resort…. But they got medieval circumstances… Isolation and a full on training scheme…

Something broke in that period. The players were miserable, and some players started to rebel (again), breaking out of their prison and going haywire.

The performances were abysmal in this WC. Gullit and Van Basten weren’t able to deliver. Was it fatigue? Injuries (Van Basten’s right ankle was already in shambles)? Was it the Beenhakker thing? Van ‘t Schip and Wouters were the danger men for Holland, Kieft had a good spell, Rijkaard was solid, but it wasn’t enough. At one point, Leo Beenhakker left the dressing room with what seemed to be a black eye. Rumors started how Van Basten punched him out, but Don Leo said “he’d bumped into to something”… Marco’s fist? Other stories related how Van Basten had thrown an ashtray to Leo’s head. Whatever it was, we’ll never know.

Don Leo sighed that “75% of what happened behind closed doors will never be revealed” but when asked about this much later, he claims he never said it. Players now balk at that quote, saying they can’t imagine what Leo had been smoking…

“We just didn’t have it. It didn’t gel. Gullit, Van Basten, Koeman…they all seemed tired. It’s one of those things…”

The first knock out game against Germany was a classic. Oranje could have won that, there were some good chances (Wouters, Winter, Schip) but the Germans scored twice and we only once. That sums it up. Although Rijkaard scored twice against Rudi Voller of course . But that didn’t result in us winning, it only resulted in both men being sent off.

Rinus shouldn’t have screwed the players over. And maybe the players should have gone on strike.

mich libr

Director Michels with team manager Libregts. Who thought he would lead Oranje to Sicily


Maybe, they should have said: look, we’re the 3 from Milan. We won European cups, we won the EC in 1988, we have tremendously skilled players and we’re eager. We only need one thing: a coach we respect. Give us JC! If not, we won’t go.

That never happened. They went with Don Leo and stayed too long isolated from the world in some horrible camp. The spirit was broken. The mind wasn’t fresh. The legs refused to listen.

No gold and glory, only humiliation and mysterious insinuations of mythical proportions…

This is a 14 minute clip of the highlights of the Germany game. Before the Germans scored, we could have been 2 goals up….

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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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Van Gaal revisited?

So, apparently all the other candidates said no. Hiddink was number 1, supposedly and with Cruyff public plea for Rijkaard, one has to expect him to be in the top of the wishlist too. Co Adriaanse was never a real candidate, apparently, and Ruud Gullit was most likely never seen as a serious option.

Louis van Gaal has all the right ticks behind his name, according to some. Experience…? Check. Success as coach? Check. Understands Dutch school football? Check. Dutch nationality? Check!

What the experts at the KNVB overlooked, unfortunately, is Louis’ track record as national coach… No results. Not really effective as figure head. And although the players never speak negatively about him as a club coach, he definitely pissed off the media and the supporters.

His “experience” also shows that he hardly ever leaves a club the normal way. Sure, Ajax 1995 and AZ 2010 were two situations where the expectation levels were low. He was the underdog. But every time he was presented with fanfare and champagne, every time we actually expected him to perform: he imploded. He can’t handle criticism, he can’t handle a board or management looking over his shoulder and he doesn’t know how to look in the mirror.

Louis’ ego has always been the problem.

So while our Oranje team seems to buckle under the pressure of players’ egos, the KNVB decided to put some extra weight on.

Did we forget the two Portugal games, in the 2002 qualifications? Wasn’t it Louis’ ego that helped the Portuguese snatch the key points against us?

And wasn’t it his sensational ego that prompted him to organise a press conference to blame the media about his disastrous results?

And the current KNVB management feels it’s time to give Louis a second chance?


Why not give him the U21s first?

Back in the day: Rinus Michels, Hans Kraay sr and a young but grumpy Van Gaal

“The Dutch team manager needs to be an ambassador for Dutch football.” Apparently the KNVB has reasons to believe Van Gaal has learned from his many mistakes in the past. Based on what exactly?

When Van Gaal got the job in August 2000, he actually promised the nation the World Cup. In those days, he also was the technical director at the KNVB. He basically fired himself? Or he gave himself a resignation letter…

KNVB manager Henk Kesler said: “We know who we put in power,” back then. His successor Bert van Oostveen says something similar now. “A tremendous amount of experience, very dedicated, very driven…” But, this time not a 6 year deal but merely a two year contract, until the 2014 World Cup.

With Van Gaal, we have the return of the last team manager who failed to qualify for a World Cup. Leo Beenhakker was his predecessor.

Holland played 14 internationals under Van Gaal, of which 10 in the World Cup qualification. Right after the Euro2000, Holland drew against Ireland, 2-2, and lost at home in De Kuip against Portugal, as a result of two incidents. One, the infamous line up change, with right back Reiziger as left full back. “He can do that,” Van Gaal said, who missed all his left backs as a result of injuries. Reiziger made a crucial mistake, offering the Portuguese the 0-1. When some idiot blew a whistle, some time later, Davids stopped playing, allowing Figo to steal the ball and prepare the 0-2.

Holland was able to take revenge in Portugal and was 0-2 up when Van Gaal decided to bring more attackers, with only 10 minutes to go. This lack of balance in the team resulted in Portugal equalising. A play off against Ireland was supposed to get us our ticket, but despite big opportunities for Kluivert and Zenden, Ireland won it: 1-0.

Holland didn’t qualify and Louis resigned. Louis played 14, won 8, lost 2 and drew four times.

Van Gaal forgets to win in Portugal: 2-2. The end is nigh…

Danny Blind will be Louis’ assistant. The former Ajax and Oranje libero worked with Van Gaal at Ajax and shares his football vision. When Blind supported Van Gaal’s return to Ajax, Cruyff and Co decided Blind had to leave Ajax.

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