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maandag 28 september 2015

Father and Son

I believe I have seen almost everything when it comes to the soccer world. I have celebrated successes, been defeated, cried and laughed even more. I got to meet extraordinary people. I got to help in the development of amazingly talented young people, but I’ve also seen them fail due to influences in their environment, media-attention and money. I’ve seen and experienced how strongly the media can create an image of people in the soccer sector. Sometimes based on nothing more than rumours and gossip.
With this blog I will regularly provide you with feedback and insight in this particular world. I will share my personal experiences or give my opinion on current events. Sometimes this will be from the perspective of a trainer, sometimes from my own perspective, and sometimes from the perspective of the headcoach. The way I see society and business will definitely be included.

This weekend I witnessed the twenty-second national championship of PSV. It is always fun to see a team become champion. But PSV has a special meaning to me: the club of the city where I was born and raised, and also my former employer of course. I have worked there as Director of the Youth Academy. This championship was particularly special because my son Rai is one of the players of this successful team.

I went to the game on time so I wouldn’t miss anything of this special night. It is always so great to enter the building and be warmly welcomed by so many acquaintances. Men like Ron Verkerk and Mart van de Heuvel, who have worked at this club for many years and have worked with so many people. It means a lot to me to know that those people still welcome me after all these years. In the business lounge I ran into a few colleagues: Ernie Brandts and Berry van Aerle, real PSV celebrities.
When they announced the squad and I heard my son’s name, I felt invincible. At this game, although as a substitute, he was present. A normal boy from Brabant, who has just started his 10th season at PSV, and his first year in the selection. Less than twenty years old and he gets to experience all of this: on the field, where it all happens!

At this very moment my memory takes me back to his youth. As a little boy he wanted only one thing, which was to play soccer. For a father that is obviously great: a child that shares your one true passion for soccer. During my time as an amateur trainer he already went with me, often together with my eldest daughter, to watch games of the A youth, and the games on Saturday.
I took hem everywhere. When I entered the soccer business in 1998 this became more frequent. I went to watch even more games and was busy with my passion full time. Together on the road we would be talking extensively about soccer. On the way there mostly about his own game or the game of my team, and on the way back about the game we just had seen together. He regularly surprised me with insights. He was constantly wondering, “Why does the player choose this precise action, and why doesn’t he make a different choice?”.

When the match is about to start, I spot him on the field. From the place I’m sitting I’ve got a clear view and I can see that he is looking for me. Our eyes meet for a split second but that is more than enough for me and for him to continue daydreaming.
I can still see him standing there as a six year old, wearing a shirt of the Dutch national soccer team. Loudly singing along to the Dutch anthem. I can still see him playing his first match with the youth of RKSV Schijndel. Full of enthusiasm and with great ambition, that was already very visible.
I remember the switch to SVN Landgraaf where he stood out because he was able to determine the matches. His first training session at Roda JC, where he first got in touch with criticism because people thought he got the opportunity at Roda JC because his father was the Head Coach. He turned this around and worked hard to show them that his opportunity was well deserved. First Germany was interested. Then the message arrived from PSV. If he wanted to come and play soccer there!!

He didn’t hesitate at all. This was his dream: the long journey to the top was about to begin. Many hours of training, many hours alone in the bus to Eindhoven, many activities cancelled because it didn’t fit in his weekly schedule. For him it was school, training, eating and sleeping. He sacrificed a lot. He had to learn how to handle criticism, and prejudices of people who thought he was playing at PSV because I, his father, worked there.
From the B youth on his career began to take off. He became European champion with the Dutch squad under 17. He won the cup as captain of the A youth of PSV. He went on training camp to Korea with PSV. He even scored a goal at the farewell game of Ji Sung Park. Eventually he made his competition debut with the A selection of PSV. A European debut too. And now he has got the chance to become national champion of Holland.

The referee whistles and the match begins. My daydream is suddenly over and I’m completely focussed on the game and the amazing ambiance in the stadium.

This experience was very special and I fully realize that not all fathers have this privilege. It’s amazing to know your child is making the most of his talents to develop a wonderful career. Both he and I know very well that he needs to make steps in his development. He knows that development has priority and not income. He still has a long way to go. On his own.

Rai is no longer the son of Wiljan Vloet, as many have said. No… Wiljan Vloet is now the father of Rai Vloet, player at Dutch national champion PSV 2014-2015.

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