‘Where were you when Beckham scored from the half-way line?’
‘Where were you when Germany beat Brazil 7-1?‘
‘Where were you when Zidane headbutted Materazzi?’
Football fans ask the question a lot, where were you when…? Iconic moments, both good and bad, not only become important enough to live long in the memory, but have such a lasting impact that they connect to a time in our lives and render the date unforgettable.
13th October 2015 – I remember exactly where I was.
On holiday in Almelo with a group of my friends, we were in a local pub watching the game. I didn’t have to worry about being recognised, it had been years since that had happened. We sat and we drank, and we watched our beloved Oranje fail to qualify for Euro 2016. By the time that fateful night rolled around, our unbelievably poor campaign had meant it was out of our hands; we needed to beat Czech Republic and hope that Iceland could beat Turkey. They couldn’t, but it didn’t matter, as we lost to the Czech’s anyway. A 3-2 defeat to a side who had 10 men for more than a half wasn’t good enough – not even close.
I sank into my chair and finished my drink, as a familiar feeling washed over me for the first time in a long, long time. The pub was silent; everybody was disappointed but not surprised, which I think made the tension in the air feel worse. The Dutch weren’t going to be at the Euros for the first time since 1984, a fact made more unbelievable by the fact it happened just two years after we had finished third at the World Cup in Brazil.
I couldn’t sleep that night, my mind was full of memories from the mid-nineties, of failures I had been a part of. Of course, I hadn’t ever been a part of the senior squad, I fell just short of that. I had though been part of the Dutch Under 21 squad that failed to qualify for the U-21 Championships in 1994 and 1996, and when we finally qualified in 1998 I missed it through injury! In a small way I felt I knew what the players were going through, and I felt no Dutchman should ever feel that way when pulling on the iconic orange shirt. Was there any small way I could help?
When the Dutch also failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2018, it was another embarrassment for our nation. My mind went back to Germany in the early 2000’s, and how they rebuilt after their lowest low. I was upset, hurt, and I wanted to do something. My career went drastically downhill after my injury in 98, so my name had zero pull. I did still have some friends at the Dutch FA though, so I reached out. They agreed to put me onto a course to get my coaching badges, and after years of hard graft, I finally have my Continental Pro License and I’m ready to get started in my new career as a manager. Of course everybody who goes into management dreams of the biggest jobs and competitions, and I’m no different. Would I love to guide the Dutch to their much needed revival? Definitely. Life doesn’t work like that though, and I need to pay my dues like everyone else. Besides, Euro 2020 was at least a step in the right direction. What I can realistically hope to achieve though, is putting practices into place to help develop talent – somewhere.
There is one area where my name does still have a little bit of pull, my home town of Edam. Yes, the cheese place. I’m known by some around my local area as ‘de voetballer’, the footballer. I played 15 times for the Dutch U21’s and made a handful of fleeting appearances in the Eredivisie in 1997, so a few locals cling to that as if I’m some kind of celebrity. Usually I’d like to avoid any kind of recognition, but as a newly qualified, unemployed manager, being able to show up at my local club and use my face as a CV is pretty handy.
Worked like a charm.
My name is Dan Heijsman, and I want to make a difference.