From saying “ball” to signing a professional contract

Being only at the start of my sporting career I can only tell you where this journey has taken me so far. Having ‘ball’ be your first word as a baby makes it seem as if a sporting career was somewhat set-in stone from the beginning.

I started playing football aged 5 at the local football club near my house. The youth teams in Holland, for those of you who are unaware, used to be categorized in age by letters. You started in the mini F’s, working your way up to F’s and then onto the D’s, C’s, B’s and A’s. They recently changed this system to the under 10, under 11 etc age categories. Making switches to different amateur teams due to school and later proximity to home as well as playing at a higher level I made the switch to ADO Den Haag in the B2/ u16’s. 

When I started playing football I had to get used to the Dutch way of things. I was quiet, shy and not used to this direct and sometimes intimidating approach that the Dutch had. Having been raised in a German household by my parents and attending a British school, this way of life was distant to me as I also did not have very many Dutch friends. However, the different influences helped me make friends and I am still in contact with people from each of my clubs. I started my career as a winger and striker as I loved scoring goals, however, it was never the right position for me, and I quickly made the switch to midfield which is still my preferred position.

I often get the question, “are you sure you are going to make it?” And to those people I also say “yes, I believe in myself and even though circumstances may not always be ideal I believe that I can do it”. I was in fact scouted by ADO Den Haag and Sparta Rotterdam back in 2009, but after several training sessions and matches I was not accepted. Back then I did not follow the Dutch league and didn’t really understand the whole concept of the leagues and competitions. I just enjoyed playing and wanted to have fun. However, I took an interest in ADO and the Dutch league and realized that I did not only want to be one of the kids that just say they want to play professionally but I actually wanted to play professionally. And on the 24th of May 2019 I signed my first professional contract with ADO Den Haag. 

In the past 7 years that I have been at ADO I have experienced many great and exciting things, as highlights the times that I sat on the bench during the first team’s league games, but circumstances did not allow for my debut to happen yet. Throughout this whole period, I made many sacrifices and choices that were fully focused on my football. I went from school, to training, then home to eat and finish off homework and then to bed. Therefore, I had no free time in that sense to meet up with friends or go to parties. When I did have some time in the evenings I usually spent them watching football or playing Call of Duty with my friends. The older you get the earlier the training sessions start, which for me meant that I had to leave school earlier. This did cause a few hiccups in my education as I had to finish off a lot of work at home after days where we sometimes had three training sessions. I would be tired and fell behind in certain classes. However, I knew that I was putting everything on the line for my dream and the dream I knew I could reach. For some of you these sacrifices may seem meager but putting everything on a world which is so uncertain and something that millions of people strive towards could be seen as a big risk.

The COVID-19 crisis has, of course, meant big changes for everyone and for my sporting career too. I have, due to this crisis, not been able to showcase and present my skills to the first team manager and have been basically ‘only’ training every week without playing any matches. This has made the mental aspects even more strenuous than they already were, as motivating to train every day without having the game as an end goal for the weekend causes you to be caught in a cycle which I hope will soon be broken.

What I want to finish off by saying is that no matter what your dream is, go for it. Don’t stop at the smallest complication and make the best out of the situations and opportunities you get, however, if it doesn’t work the first time, it could work the second, third, fourth or fifth time, so never stop trying.