Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Well I Never Knew That": Rafael van der Vaart - From Humble Beginnings

(c) Amanda van Mulligen
In September last year, Dutch footballer Rafael van der Vaart made a move to Premiership football in England from Real Madrid after losing a regular place in the Spanish side. The move to Tottenham Hotspur was met with excitement from the English press.

A few weeks ago I watched an interview with the Dutchman on Football Focus on a Saturday on the BBC. He talked about his youth growing up living in a caravan in Heemskerk. And that is where he learned to play football, using empty beer bottles as goal posts. He says now that he realises that his lifestyle growing up was different but he covets it all the same. He was talent spotted at the age of 10 and subsequently joined the Ajax Academy. The rest, as they say is history.

This interesting fact about this international football star had passed me by. Now a quick look on the internet and the English press was full of it at the time of his transfer.

What is also interesting is the fact that his mother is Spanish. She moved to Holland when she was 6 so by rights he could have also chosen to play for the Spanish national team. Luckily for Holland he chose to play for his birth country.

He is reminded of his humble beginning every time he heads 'home' as he passes the caravan where the van der Vaart family used to live on the way to his parents' house - the one he bought for them when he made a name for himself in the footballing world.

Having cost Spurs £8,000,000 and played in a World Cup Final last year, he certainly has come a long way from the life he started in a caravan north of the Dutch capital city. No wonder his mantra is 'believe'.

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